A decision to bring wealthy new major partners to the Washington Diplomats soccer franchise will "almost definitely be made in the next two weeks," General Manager Duncan Hill said yesterday.
Dips' limited Partner Gary Lemmen said last night, "We would consider selling the whole thing if the price is right. I would definitely look at selling my 28 percent. But right now, we just need more investors."
Lemmen, speaking from his home in the Detriot suburbs, said the current owners are negotiating a $3 million deal with two or three possible new investors that would make it possible for the franchise to make money or break even for the next three or four years.
Lemmen also said the new partner(s) would be wealthy enough to help the club bring in the world-class talent he said the team needs to step up into the same class as the defending champion Cosmos.
The principal owner, Coventry City (England) Soccer Inc., headed by Jimmy Hill and his son Duncan, faces potentially heavy losses this season. Hill and Lemmen said yesterday that the team would not lose as much as $1 million, as earlier reported.
"We've been looking for another partner all along," Hill said. "We've wanted a big partner -- somebody in the area with quite a lot of money who likes soccer."
Hill said he couldn't name the parties the club is negotiating with because "they've said if their names are mentioned prematurely, the whole thing could be called off."
Hill told The Washington Post last night that a published report about his efforts to sell the team was "heavily misrepresentative.
"I didn't say I would sell the team." Hill said. "Sell means get rid of, lock, stock and barrel. I said -- and have said from the beginning of the season -- that we are looking for very wealthy investors. There is a big difference between new owners and new investors. The article questioned the stability of the franchise.
"This has caused a lot of turmoil and embarrassment. Some of the players are upset. People have been calling me from all over the country. I didn't ever say we'd outright sell the team. There isn't enough money on the table for us to consider that."
The Dips have been in financial trouble from the beginning of the season, largely because of poor attendance. Discounting two games with the defending champion Cosmos that drew 64,000, the Dips have averaged only 9,200 for the other nine home dates. The club is expecting about 15,000 for this afternoon's 2:30 game for second-place with Montreal at RFK Stadium.
In another separate and confusing development, Peter Baralic, whom the Dips sold to the Tulsa Roughnecks 10 days ago, has returned to the club and probably will start today, according to Hill.
But Tulsa General Manager Noel Lemon said last night that Baralic will remain on the Roughneck roster and that if Washington plays him, Montreal will have grounds to protest the game.
The Dips sent Baralic, the team captain and fourth-leading scorer, to Tulsa for approximately $100,000, to help pay for John Cruyff and make room for the talented Dutchman in the midfield.
The deal was contingent on Baralic reporting to Tulsa. After waiting 10 days for Baralic to arrive, Lemon said in a telephone conversation yesterday, "Baralic will never play here."
Knowing that, Hill and Dip Coach Ken Furphy met with Baralic yesterday afternoon. "It's obvious he wants to play in Washington," Hill said. "He's back on the squad. Peter said he would return to Yugoslavia before he would report to Tulsa."
Tulsa couldn't sell or trade Baralic because the NASL's player transaction deadline was July 7.