Duncan Hill, a former owner and general manager of the defunct Washington Diplomats, blames others for the collapse of the soccer team, complains that he was undercapitalized and let down by financiers, and apparently has no plans to pay off his company's debts.
Hill's father Jimmy, principal owner and the most prominent figure in the collapse of the Diplomats, is unavailable for interviews and refers inquiries to his son.
Jimmy Hill is a big name in British soccer. He is chairman of the well-known Coventry City Football Club and a soccer pundit on a popular BBC television program, "Match of the Day." His reputation has not been affected by the Washington disaster. Asked to comment on Jimmy Hill and the Diplomats, a spokesman for the British Football Association said, "Mr. Hill is a private individual and the matter has nothing whatsoever to do with us."
Duncan Hill has made a guarded statement about the Washington experience on behalf of himself and his father, but evades all direct questions.
"For me to explain the truth of the situation in Washington would mean making accusations about other people," he said.
"It is obvious that the soccer people of Washington need a scapegoat to explain the failure of Washington to establish itself as a permanent base for soccer, and we are that scapegoat.
"We have no wish to defend ourselves by inevitably slandering other people," he added.
"I won't name names, but two very rich people expressed strong interest in investing," he said. "That's why we moved to Washington in the first place."
Why did it all go wrong?
"Let's face it. We were about $15 million underfinanced," he said. "It takes an awful lot of money to launch a soccer team."
Duncan Hill will make general statements on the phone, returning calls made to him via his father's office, but he declines to say where he can be reached directly, insisting that he is "on the move" and "about to go abroad."
Asked if he had any plans to pay his Washington debts, Hill said it was his understanding that when a company went bankrupt, its creditors were paid off with what could be raised from the remaining assets. "I suppose that's what happens in the States, too," he said.
Would he come back to the United States and try again?
"It's extremely unlikely that I will become involved in American soccer in the foreseeable future," he replied. "I"m very, very disappointed."
The Hills' family company, the prestigious "World Sports Academy," made big money in a contract to introduce soccer in Saudi Arabia and invested a lot in the Washington Diplomats.
Hill said that he and his father both lost a lot of their money in the venture. "I'm not bitter," he said. "You learn something from every experience. In this case, no one has benefited; everyone's lost out."
Hill left the United States in late September, abandoning the Diplomat franchise two days before its scheduled termination. It was the second professional soccer team to close within a year in Washington.
World Sports Academy lost $1 million in its enterprises in the United States, Hill said. It now faces debts of up to $1.7 million in Washington and Detroit, where the franchise was based from 1977 to 1980.
One of the Hills' troubles came from Dutch soccer star Johan Cruyff, who signed for the Diplomats less than two months after undergoing a groin operation, and played only three entire games while earning a half-year's salary of $175,000.
But another trouble came, apparently, from investors who did not produce all they had promised.
One of the problems faced by the Hills was the difficulty of establishing soccer as a viable business enterprise in the United States.
"Yes, soccer does have a future in America as far as I am concerned," Hill said. "I hope it's successful. But it's a long-term picture."
Meanwhile, presumably trying to recoup part of his lost Saudi Arabian fortune, Jimmy Hill explains the intricacies of soccer to British television viewers every week.
"What really browns us off is that there he is on television every Saturday night, pontificating about the game," said former Diplomat player Paul Cannell of Newcastle, England. "And yet, look what a mess his own football team got into. He and his son have left us in the lurch. Some players didn't even get their air fare home."