Huyghue: UFL plans to play, pay


United Football League commissioner Michael Huyghue confirmed Thursday that the financially troubled organization will kick off its third season in August as scheduled and that its creditors will be paid.

Huyghue said the UFL lost $45 million to $50 million in 2010 -- after sustaining losses of $32 million during its inaugural 2009 season -- and owes approximately $6 million to creditors. Among those owed money are the Locomotives players, who have yet to receive their $20,000 bonuses for winning the UFL title game Nov. 27.

"The owners have appropriated the money to pay the existing $6 million in expendables," Huyghue said during a break in league meetings at the Locomotives' Pilot Road practice facility. "We anticipate paying everyone within the next two weeks."

That's welcome news to Jeff Mackel, a former Locomotives media relations director who is owed about $5,600 in back salary. Mackel has grown frustrated with his inability to settle with the UFL after his contract was not renewed in December.

"It has put me in a difficult situation," Mackel said. "I'm pretty much through my savings. I've got bills piling up. I e-mailed Michael Huyghue and he told me that the league was having some financial problems but he would take it up with accounting.

"I'm not a disgruntled ex-employee who's looking to cause trouble. I just wish they'd honor my contract so I can do what I need to do and move on."

Las Vegas team owner Bill Hambrecht said part of the problem was with the UFL's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters, which oversaw the dispersal of funds.

"You didn't know who was owed what," Hambrecht said. "But that's all changed. Now the teams will directly pay their bills."

The checks sent out by the Locomotives will now bear Jim Fassel's signature. Fassel was named Locomotives president Thursday in addition to his duties as coach and general manager.

Fassel has already met with Daren Libonati to negotiate a new lease for his team to play at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Locomotives were charged $100,000 last season to play four home games there and practice at an adjacent field.

UNLV is one of the UFL's numerous creditors. The school has not been paid for the Locomotives' use of Sam Boyd Stadium on Nov. 2 for their home finale last season.

"We are waiting for final payment," said Libonati, the president of Justice Entertainment, which books events for UNLV's athletic facilities. "But I'm not worried about getting paid. We went through the same thing last year. We didn't get paid what was still owed until March."

Faced with mounting losses, the league briefly considered suspending operations for this year, Huyghue said. But the owners decided to stay the course, sensing an opportunity for increased national visibility should the NFL fail to strike a new labor deal and suffer a work stoppage.

"We could be the only game in town," Hambrecht said. "It's potentially a great opportunity for us to showcase our product."

The UFL's five teams -- Las Vegas, Hartford, Sacramento, Omaha and Virginia, which replaces Florida -- are expected to play an eight-game schedule over 10 weeks, just like last season. The only difference is the season will start the first week of August instead of early September.

Huyghue said the key to turning things around financially will be a revised business model that calls for a reduction in costs, an increase in TV revenue and corporate sponsorships and identifying new investors for possible expansion in 2012 and beyond.

"The owners are still probably going to lose $7 million each this year," Huyghue said. "But they are prepared for that and they're committed to seeing this venture through."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

 

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