The New York Cosmos have named Erik Stover as the club’s Chief Operating Officer, responsible for managing “all facets of the operation on and off the field.” The Cosmos are planning to field a team in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2013. This is the first in what’s expected to be a number of front office announcements from the Cosmos, along with the appointment of a coach and the eventual signing of players. The 2013 NASL season is scheduled to begin in approximately five months.
“With his knowledge of the local community, combined with a deep experience in soccer, stadium management and the sports and entertainment industry, Erik has the perfect credentials to lead the management of the Cosmos franchise,” said Cosmos Chairman Seamus O’Brien. “We are delighted to have him on board and look forward to working with him day to day as we retrace our journey back to the top of soccer in North America.”
“I’m excited to be part of the rebirth of the New York Cosmos,” said Stover. “Seamus O’Brien and the rest of the board have a vision to build a proper soccer club in New York. We have a great legacy to live up to and I’m eager to get started right away.”
Stover served as the Managing Director of the New York Red Bulls from May 2008 to July 2011. In this role, he was responsible for managing the business and commercial aspects of the club. Perhaps what he is best remembered for is the overseeing the construction of Red Bulla Arena, the club’s $200 million soccer specific stadium in Harrison, New Jersey. It was considered the crown jewel of Major League Soccer (MLS) when completed in 2010. He was also instrumental in recruiting and signing Thierry Henry to the Red Bulls.
Stover had joined the New York Red Bulls as Vice President, Operations and General Manager of Red Bull Arena in March 2008, almost three months prior to his promotion to Managing Director. When news of the promotion broke, Soccer by Ives called the move “brainless,” claiming that Stover knew nothing about soccer. In fairness, before serving three years as General Manager of Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Stover had spent nine years at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, rising to Assistant Vice President of Stadium Operations for Giants Stadium, which was the home of the Red Bulls throughout his tenure.
Among Red Bulls fans, the reaction to Stover’s appointment as Managing Director wasn’t entirely positive either. But if you go back and look at the comments made on some of the fan forums after his resignation, they had nothing but praise for the job he did. And it might be worth noting that his replacement, Chris Heck, lasted just over a year in the position.
More Than Meets The Eye
Stover certainly has soccer experience now. And if you look at his background, and the timing of his leadership at the Red Bulls, the Cosmos have certainly clarified their intent with this appointment. His expertise is stadiums – building and operating them profitably. While the team will be taking the field in the NASL next season, clearly the Cosmos are looking ahead to working with MLS to build a stadium in New York City and become the league’s 20th franchise. And Stover was named the 2010 MLS Executive of the Year, so he has earned the respect of the league and other clubs, which can only help the cause.
While a few Cosmos fans might be put off by a former Red Bulls exec coming on board, the appointment is good news for the new club. Stover has many talents beyond his stadium bona fides, which seem to have overshadowed the breath of his experience.
Stover majored in advertising at Penn State and earned his Master’s in corporate and public communications from Seton Hall. And while I’ve often whined about the Red Bulls muted marketing efforts these days, Stover delivered a 150-percent increase in season ticket holders for the team, bringing attendance up from the bottom of the league to 4th place during his tenure. He also lifted match-day revenue from the lowest in the league to the highest, and increased sponsorship revenue by 400 percent over a 24-month span. We call that results.
If you look at Stover’s past, he has also demonstrated a commitment to customer service and staff training as well as a preference for environmental sustainability. He’s more than a facilities guy. Stover not only has the chops to build a stadium, but also a successful franchise as well.