The owners of the Washington Diplomats, Faced with losses of more than $500,000 for a second straight year, may decide to sell the club this October, according to informed sources.
Team president Steve Danzansky confirmed that the Dips have "suffered heavy financial losses this year," but said stories that San Juan Racing, Inc. which owns the club will sell, "are speculation and rumor at this point."
Danzansky's father, Joseph Danzansky, is the president of Giant Foods and a member of the board of directors of SJR. Many people in the North American Soccer League think the Danzanskys are the logical ones to buy the team should it be sold.
"We're not thinking about that right now," Steve Danzansky said. "Right now we just want to encourage SJR to stay in this because we think there's a future. We believe in this thing. Otherwise we wouldn't be involved."
The Dips, who probably will play Portland there in the first round of the NASL playoffs a week from Wednesday, face the Lancers in Rochester tonight at 8.
The Lancers still are struggling to capture a wild card berth in the playoffs and will be seeking revenge following Saturday's 4-3 Washington win at RFK Stadium.
That game, which was little more than a street brawl for much of the second, half, angered the Lancers, who blew a 3-1 lead, then lost when one of their players headed the ball into his own net.
Two key Dips were injured during a 2-1 loss at Rochester last year and Coach Gordon Bradley is concerned that another physical game tonight may leave his team limping going into Wednesday's final home game, with cosmos.
A year ago the Dips drew 31,000 fans when the Cosmos came to town with Pele. This year the crowd is not expected to exceed 25,000, fitting the pattern of decreased attendance at home games this season.
Decreased attendance is one of SJR's concerns. No one in the organization can figure out why, in an area where youth soccer has grown tremendously the last five years, there is not more interest in the professional team.
The board of directors of SJR, whose holdings include a race track in San Juan and several radio stations, will meet in October in New York and will decide then whether to keep the club. Danzansky said he had no idea what the decision would be.
"There are a lot of factors involved," he said. "A lot depends on how their other investments, the track, radio stations, and other (enterprises) have been doing.
"They'll have to sit down and look at the pluses and minuses and come to a business decision. It won't be based on emotion, just business."
Danzanky often has said he badly wants Washington to have a soccer team, but he would not comment on whether he and his father would buy the team if that was the only way to keep it here.
Recently, the Dips cut back sharply the number of compimentary tickets they have distributed. Sources claim the reason for this is that the Danzansky want to guage fan interest to help them determine whether buying the club would be a worthwhile investment.
"It was a conscious decision made by John Carbray (team general manager), my dad and me," Danzansky said. "But the reason we did it was two-fold. First, you upset your season ticket holers when you give out lots of 'comps' and season ticket holders are the guts of any franchise. Second, we did want to see what kind of base we had to help us prepare for next season."
Danzansky admits he is "baffled" by the Dips' fuller attendance this season. The club is 16-11 and has played well most of the year.
In the three years it has owned the Dips, SJR has greatly increased the team's budget, at Danzansky's request.
The club moved in 1977 W. T. from Woodson High School to the much bigger RFK Stadium and last fall the board authorized a bigger budget so the club could recruit quality players and improve on its 10-16 record.
"Our expenses were higher this season," Danzansky said, "but we've seen an improvement of the product, we have a much better team. And our paid attendance has doubled, which is certainly a step in the right direction."
But with deficits of more than $1 million in two years SJR may not think small victories offset heavy financial losses.
It was the elder Danzansky who tried to purchase the San Diego Padres in 1973 in order to bring baseball back to Washington. During the past year he has been much more active in running of Dips, apparently in an attempt to determine if soccer can make it in Washington.
The bewilderment within the organization over the club's poor attendance is perhaps best summed up by the fact that Danzansky and Carbray seem to disagree on just what the team needs most in order to draw.
Danzansky said this week he thought the Dips might need a super-star in order to attract fans. Carbray had said earlier that anyone who was not Pele or a Backenbauer would not affect attendance significantly.
"We want the team to remain in Washington, that's obvious," Danzansky said. "We're going to do everything we can to keep SJR interested and to keep the Dips here."