A Letter From Jerry Zanelli, Commissioner of WPSL
It is a sad day — but perhaps the dawn of a new era. Jerry Zanelli is known around the USA as a champion of the women’s game — perhaps the most diehard, opinionated and focused man fighting the fight to help the women’s game grow.
Zanelli is hard to miss — With a big, warm smile, Jerry lights up a room — unless he is frustrated, and then he can amplify a debate like lightning.
A strong proponent that women’s soccer should not be run by the same organization which also runs men’s soccer — believing that women’s side of the game becomes an afterthought too quickly when juxtaposed to the men’s side — Zanelli has fathered the WPSL for decades, providing a safe haven for teams to play the beautiful game. The WPSL is the largest women’s soccer league in the world — with more than 100 teams competing this past season.
I am proud to call Jerry a friend — there are few people who I admire more for their loyal devotion to their cause. It is with great sadness that I share his letter of resignation with you — but, it is also with the hope that the future will bring great growth to the WPSL and that Jerry will be able to find the time to work on his next dream — a women’s Futsal league.
Jerry Zanelli’s Letter of Resignation to WPSL Members
AFTER 20 YEARS AS LEAGUE COMMISSIONER, I HAVE DECIDED TO RESIGN AS OF OCTOBER 1ST.
THE TIME HAS COME TO SEND THE WPSL INTO A BUSINESS OPERATION THAT CONTINUES TO SUPPORT OUR MISSION STATEMENT.
So much has happened over 20 years. As the League Commissioner, this journey was one of having tremendous volunteer leadership support. Be proud, even you latecomers because you are part of a great dream.
We have accomplished an amazing feat. Before our WPSL came on the scene, women were afterthoughts, part of men’s organizations and had no emphasis by anyone to push the women’s game. Upcoming 2018 will have over 110 teams – 16% are women owners. Many others have women in many leadership positions.
As a Women’s League, we have had unbelievable success:
- We have over 110 teams this year with 12 expansion teams ready to go.
- We have not had an increase in our $4000 dues in over 7 years.
- We have assigned referees to over 550 games in 2017.
- We have strong leadership and are recognized as the largest competitive women’s league in the world.
- We have 16% women’s ownership.
A group of us in 1998, including Lu Snyder, decided to start a women-only league.
Since we wanted to be an inclusive league playing in the May-August season, we strongly felt we should have unlimited substitution and 20 being able to suit up in a game. There was a need to have an unlimited roster. We have always followed NCAA rules.
The growth has been consistent through the years. We gained teams every year, even during the recession. A stress on expansion resulted in gaining teams from the very beginning. During the years, I believe I was the initial contact for all 110 teams in the league. This year, I have provided Sean Jones with 12 teams planning to enter the league.
Our 1st year included a team in San Diego which became the Mexican National Team.
The year there was no pro league, we put together the WPSL Elite — a combination of WPSL and the pro teams: Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, and the Western New York Flash.
Many of our teams have produced Olympians, pro players, and have sent players overseas to play.
We have provided connectivity between players of all backgrounds and levels of play across the US and British Columbia.
We have always wanted to recognize the effort of our teams and players. We have the WPSL All Star Awards that recognize teams and players based on their season ranking — so that even the last place team gets an All Star.
I have not done this alone.
I WOULD LIKE TO STRESS HOW IMPORTANT LU SNYDER HAS BEEN TO THIS LEAGUE.
SHE IS THE ONE PERSON WHO HAS BEEN HERE FROM THE BEGINNING. LU DESERVES EQUAL CREDIT WITH ME IN THE SUCCESS OF THE WPSL.
There are so many people to thank … such as Rich Sparling, Marge Perry, Matt Homonoff, Lindsay Eversmeyer, Lindsey Delorenze, Wendy Louque, Derrick Long, Bob McGee, David Simmons, Lori Kirk, the Regional Commissioners, the team owners and most of all the women who give up their summers to play in the WPSL. Their dedication is deeply appreciated.
When the league was a much smaller operation, we could control expenses. This year, we ran short by the FC Dallas Texas, FC Austin teams not paying their dues and other teams not fully meeting their commitments. We also had other expenses that put us into a shortfall.
Now comes the hard part. Why I am leaving:
- Age 79
- Not in the greatest health
- Time to move on
- The league is now a business
- Tired of chasing dues from late paying teams
- Have trust in Sean Jones to operate the WPSL as a business with a strong commitment to our WPSL mission statement
- After the evaluation of people wanting to buy the league, the best business choice was Sean Jones.
Even though my title will be gone, if there is any advice I can give you, contact me.
AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2017, I AM APPOINTING LEAGUE COMMISSIONER SEAN JONES TO THE POSITION.
Sean has the business background with a strong commitment to women’s soccer. He is a long-time coach. Please give Sean the support you have given me over the last twenty years.
THANK YOU—THANK YOU—THANK YOU FOR AFFORDING ME THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD A ONCE IN A LIFETIME WOMEN’S SPORTS ORGANIZATION.
Warmest Personal Regards,