Former Washington Redskins George Starke and Mark Moseley are trying to form a group of investors to buy the franchise rights to the Washington Commandos and keep the Arena Football league team here next season.
The Commandos, who finished their first season Thursday night, are the only one of Arena Football's four teams without an ownership agreement for next season. League president Jim Foster said he might move the team if local investors are not found by next fall, although the Commandos averaged 11,525 fans at their three home games this season. The limited ownership rights cost about $2.5 million.
Both Moseley and Starke said their talks with Foster and with potential investors were preliminary, but Moseley sounded optimistic.
"We think that the two of us would carry a lot of credibility, and we know what's expected from the players," Moseley said. "I know a number of people who have shown an interest. I don't think this is the kind of thing like the NFL that will make a tremendous amount of money, but I do think there will be a little return. I don't think there's going to be a tremendous loss like there was with the USFL."
Foster met yesterday morning with Starke, a former Redskins lineman and the Commandos' director of player development. Foster asked Starke to head a group that would buy the rights to the Commandos and gave him names of potential investors. Starke said he plans to begin contacting potential investors next week, and said he didn't know how likely it is he would form a group.
Moseley, the former Redskins kicker, says his interest in the Commandos is recent. He attended Thursday night's game, in which Washington beat first-place Pittsburgh, 52-31, to finish the season 2-4, and said he was impressed by the fans. "I was really surprised," he said. "I thought it was a mixture of football and wrestling fans out there. I think because the game is so close to the field that the fans were really into the game."
Starke agreed. "In this market, where almost no one can see a Redskins game unless someone dies and gives them the tickets, it's good that you can see a real football game -- and this is real football," he said. "As a matter of fact, a lot of Redskins themselves liked it. A lot of them were there."
Foster said he originally thought Washington would be the toughest market to draw fans in. After Washington beat Pittsburgh, he sounded somewhat baffled at the crowd of 10,866. "This is Thursday night," he said. "It's 100 degrees outside. It's not a great night to play."
Said Commandos lineman Jon Roehlk, "The fans have been great, and they have made things exciting. When your team is 1-4, it's hard to ask them to do that."
But even with the team drawing well above the preseason estimated break-even point of 9,500, "We don't know if the Commandos are going to be the Commandos or whether they're even going to be in Washington," said Coach Bob Harrison. "I would like to be with this team in Washington, but we just don't know yet."