Phil Woosnam, commissioner of the North American Soccer League, announced yesterday the Washington Diplomats and four other franchises did not post the required $150,000 performance bond due at midnight Tuesday, thereby terminating membership in the league effective Sept. 27.
Atlanta, California and Calgary announced their resignations from the league. Lamar Hunt and Bill McNutt, co-owners of the Dallas Tornado, have entered into a partnership with Charles Serednesky, owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and will not field a team in Dallas. Various assets of the Tornado franchise, including player contracts and draft choices, will be transferred to the Rowdies.
In effect, Duncan Hill, part owner and general manager of the Diplomats, has been given until Sept. 27 to sell the team, post the performance bond or fold the club. Duncan and his father Jimmy, the principal owner, lost at least $1 million this season and reportedly have debts approaching $2 million.
A source said yesterday the league is beginning an involuntary termination process against Washington. The Diplomats, by not posting bond, will incur a fine of $10,000 a day until they make the bond payment; a $250,000 fine for not playing during the indoor season, and a $150,000 fine for not having posted bond by Sept. 1. But the league probably will waive any fine if the Diplomats find a new owner.
According to league sources, none of the 21 teams that operated this season made money.
"For the past 12 months, it has been the opinion of the majority of the owners that the NASL membership should be reduced to 16 clubs," Woosnam said in a half-page statement. "A plan was devised in the fall of 1980 to accomplish that goal, but it did not receive the necessary unanimous support of the owners in order to be implemented. The posting of bonds by 16 clubs, however, has, in effect, accomplished the same end."
In what apparently is a contradiction, Woosnam acknowledged the league is being restructured to 16 clubs, but said each of the five terminating clubs has the right to negotiate the sale of its franchise and present such potential new ownership to the league owners in a NASL meeting in Toronto on Sept. 27, the day after the Soccer Bowl.
Duncan Hill was not available for comment yesterday. He reportedly was meeting with a Texas businessman, who first expressed interest in buying the club on Tuesday.
It was learned from sources in Detroit that Sonny Van Arnum, a limited partner who is also owner of Detroit's franchise in the American Soccer League, is trying to buy the Dips and wants to pay the performance bond as soon as possible.
"The Washington Diplomat franchise had been negotiating for several weeks for the sale of the franchise, but has not yet finalized an agreement," the commissioner's statement read. "These negotiations are continuing at the present time."
The Diplomats moved to Washington from Detroit on Feb. 27, after Madison Square Garden folded its more successful Diplomat franchise last Dec. 8. Although the league has been criticized for allowing the unstable Detroit club to move here so hurriedly, many league owners and Woosnam consider Washington to be potentially one of the four or five best soccer markets in the country.
This Diplomat franchise averaged 12,200 a game in attendance at RFK Stadium. It finished with a 15-17 record for third place in the Eastern Division and did not qualify for the 15-team playoffs.