Phil Woosnam, the commissioner of the North American Soccer League, said today that he was "embarrassed" by the dissolution of the Washington Diplomats and by the way the team's chief officer, Duncan Hill, apparently left the country without informing anyone of his departure.
"I still haven't had a chance to confirm that Duncan is actually gone," Woosnam said this morning. "But from what I hear, he is and if so that is embarrassing for us and it's too bad for Washington."
Woosnam said he still held out hope that the NASL will operate a franchise in Washington in 1982 but admitted there were no wealthy investors on the horizon.
"The mood of the league is such that it will take an ideal situation for expansion to be approved, not only this year but for the next few years," Woosnam said. "But I still have complete faith in the Washington market because it had nothing to do with the problems there this year. If a group came to our meetings next month (Oct. 19-22) with a proposal, we would listen quite seriously."
Almost no one connected with the league expects that to happen, however. Most expect a 15- or 16-team league in 1982.
One year ago, when the Soccer Bowl festivities were held in Washington, the league had 24 flourishing franchises and Washington was one of its glamour cities. Since then, one Washington franchise has gone out of business and another is on the verge of doing so.
Many in the league are blaming Woosnam for Washington's second embarrassment because the commissioner pushed for the Detroit move to Washington last February. The vote approving the move, however, was 20-1, only Toronto's Clive Toye sticking to his belief that Washington would be better off waiting until 1982, with the league putting a stable franchise in RFK Stadium.
"We've now got two unhappy cities as a result of that vote," Woosnam said. "That certainly wasn't our intent, but that's the way it worked out."
There are also many sticky legal questions concerning the Washington franchise. The Hills apparently left Washington with about $1.7 million in debts and a good deal of back pay owed to players and office staff.
"The league has been jolted, no question about it," Woosnam said. "I think a lot of people began assuming the last few years that crowds would continue to increase and they let down. Now, we all know how important community relations are. There's still a lot of missionary work to be done."