Global Premier Soccer, Sky Blue, the Boston Breakers and a legal tempest
The Boston Globe reported Friday on the latest charges in the fallout from Global Premier Soccer’s demise, and as expected by those of us who’ve been following the story, the Boston Breakers and Sky Blue (previous management) were wrapped into the saga.
Feds charge youth soccer executive in probe of visa practices with pro teams - The Boston Globe
Capell, 39, of Southborough, who served as Global Premier's COO from 2010-19, when federal agents raided the company's…
Disclaimer: This does not mean Breakers and Sky Blue officials did anything illegal. This is quite a legal quagmire, as you’ll see here.
The story broke open in the New England Soccer Journal one year and two days ago. You’ll see that story cited many times here; dig to the legal sites if you want even more documentation.
Investigation, lawsuits ensnare Global Premier Soccer amid leadership change
The club soccer world is abuzz after Global Premier Soccer undergoes a significant leadership change and faces serious…
Taking a page from Miki Turner, I’m attempting to round up all the lawsuits, along with all the pertinent facts and people involved.
U.S. megaclub Global Premier Soccer, a Bayern Munich affiliate operating in 26 states, shut down in June 2020. Its parent company, Legacy Global Sports, has been forced into bankruptcy. Former president/CEO Joseph Bradley, a Northern Irish coach who built the club, is under federal investigation over visas for foreign workers.
Why it matters
- The case is now extraordinarily public. It’s featured in the technically fictional book Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company, written by one of the key figures in the saga, Stephen Griffin. (Yes, that’s unusual.)
- The case sheds light on the promises made to foreign coaches coming in to the lucrative U.S. youth market.
- The case raises questions about the merits and potential liabilities of the megaclubs that have rapidly spread across the country.
- The case includes two NWSL clubs and an indoor club, and they‘re not alone. The Justice Department says “at least seven professional soccer teams” are involved.
Clubs and entities
Global Premier Soccer (GPS): One of several megaclubs, along with Rush Soccer, Surf Soccer, Pateadores, Steel United (formerly FC USA), FC Dallas, Sporting KC ,Barca Academy, BVB International Academy (Borussia Dortmund), Juventus Academy and Liverpool FC International Academy that operate(d) nationally, setting up new clubs or enticing existing clubs to affiliate all over the country. GPS kept its own name but affiliated with Bayern Munich.
Legacy Global Sports: Multisports company that bought a majority stake in GPS in 2016.
Boston Breakers: Long-standing women’s club that folded in 2018.
Sky Blue FC: Still in the NWSL, and it’s worth noting that management has changed since the events in question here. (See Christy Holly below.)
Syracuse Silver Knights: An indoor soccer team.
Other pro clubs: Stephen Griffin (see below) has hinted that at least one MLS club is involved, but there is no public evidence.
Global Staffing Enterprises LLC: The Bradleys’ staffing venture.
Jefferson River Capital and Generation Capital: Got promissory notes from Legacy in June 2019; in legal filings, John St. Pierre (see below) alleges this move gave them control of Legacy’s board.
Stephen Griffin: Wrote Front Row Seat: Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company, a thinly fictionalized account of his time with Legacy.
Joseph Bradley: Former GPS coach, moved from Northern Ireland to play for Harvard in early 90s, then Cape Cod Crusaders and Boston Bulldogs. Subject of federal investigation in visa case.
Peter Bradley: Unlike Joseph, not yet named as a target of the federal investigation.
Gavin MacPhee: Scottish coach pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, admitting he destroyed records in probe of visa case.
Justin Capell: GPS COO who has agreed to plead guilty to role in visa case.
Burns & Levinson: Law firm representing Bradleys and sued by GPS
John St. Pierre: Legacy founder and president/CEO until terminated Nov. 28, 2018. Legacy is suing him and Bezio over an alleged conflict of interest concerning a hockey enterprise; they have counterclaims.
Amy St. Pierre: John’s wife; sued Griffin in November 2020 (see below).
Travis Bezio: Left Legacy on March 15, 2019. Also involved in St. Pierre’s hockey enterprise and the related lawsuit.
Jeff Lukasak: Founder of Premier Sports Events, which Legacy bought in 2014. Continued to work at PSE/Legacy until Griffin fired him in May 2019. Sued Griffin, alleging that he was subject to harassment probe because Griffin needed a fall guy.
Keith Caldwell: GPS CEO starting January 2020. Shut down club in summer.
Christy Holly: Former Sky Blue head coach, now at Racing Louisville. He coached with GPS from March 2012 to January 2016, per his LinkedIn profile, and his GPS email address is on documents about the visa deal. He told the Globe that he benefited from scouting done by the GPS coaches brought in on some of the visas in question and that GPS and Sky Blue lawyers said the arrangement was legal. The Globe says Massachusetts-based immigration lawyer Keith Pabian is an alleged co-conspirator in the Capell charges.
The alleged scheme
- GPS recruits coaches overseas.
- Coaches are told to tell immigration officials they were working for Sky Blue, Boston, Syracuse or another pro club so they can get P-1S visas, which they can only get if affiliated with pro clubs.
- The pro clubs sign off on bringing in these coaches.
- With their visas held over their heads, the coaches endure terrible working conditions. Indeed has scathing reviews of GPS, including this: “The company couldn’t get any of us a proper visa to work on so we were all sent home.” It’s no better at Glassdoor: “Pros: Get a visa to work in the US. Cons: They treat you like a slave.”
- 2001: GPS founded as Mass Premier Soccer. The club is originally a nonprofit but eventually switches.
- 2014: GPS starts partnership with Bayern. Bayern says its partnership with GPS brings over 92,000 kids in the US the “knowledge and expertise of FCB’s notable Youth Academy.”
- October 2016: Legacy Global Sports agrees to buy 80% of GPS for nearly $15.2m. Bradley brothers each keep 8.5%. GPS COO Paul Baber has 2%. GPS investor Alexander Zecca keeps 1%. (NESJ Feb. 2020)
- 2017: GPS extends partnership with Bayern
- March 2017: Bradleys and others from GPS form Global Staffing Enterprises LLC, which GPS later says is “to profit from moving visas.” (NESJ Feb. 2020)
- September 2017: Griffin invests in Legacy and starts work as an executive vice president in strategy and acquisitions.
- Sometime in 2018: Sky Blue becomes aware of an investigation into GPS, per a statement to The Equalizer.
- May 2018: Griffin becomes a board member of Legacy in addition to his VP role. Representatives from Jefferson River Capital also join the board.
- Nov. 28, 2018: Legacy terminates John St. Pierre, citing alleged accounting irregularities and his work with a hockey operation that competes with Legacy. (See court documents.)
- December 2018: Griffin becomes president/CEO of Legacy.
- March 15, 2019: Travis Bezio resigns from Legacy.
- Oct. 8, 2019 (on or about): Federal search-and-seizure of GPS offices in Waltham, Mass.
- Late 2019: Both Bradleys and other GPS executives are fired “under auspices” of Griffin, per NESJ.
- Jan. 15–19, 2020: Per Bradley lawsuit, Griffin and GPS staff allegedly defame him at the United Soccer Coaches convention in Baltimore. (NESJ Feb. 2020)
- Jan. 23, 2020: Keith Caldwell becomes GPS CEO.
- Feb. 6, 2020: Bradleys and Zecca sue Legacy, claiming non-payment of $3.7 million.
- Feb. 11, 2020: GPS sues Bradleys’ lawyers, Burns & Levinson, claiming a conflict of interest. (NESJ Feb. 2020)
- March 3, 2020: GPS sues fellow megaclub Surf Soccer, claiming two management-level employees violated non-competition and non-solicitation charges, even converting some social media accounts from GPS to Surf. But it quickly settles.
- March 24, 2020: Griffin leaves Legacy, per the company’s bankruptcy filing.
- May 20, 2020: Gavin MacPhee, a Scotland native who had worked for GPS since 2007, pleads guilty to one count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in the federal investigation into visas for foreign workers at GPS.
- May 20, 2020: Legacy forced into involuntary bankruptcy.
- June 19, 2020: Caldwell tells families GPS is being shut down.
- Nov. 1, 2020: Griffin’s book published.
- Nov. 20, 2020: Amy St. Pierre, John’s wife, sues Griffin.
- Feb. 12, 2021: Capell is charged and agrees to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
U.S. District Court
Lukasak v Griffin and Premier Sports Events (basically, Legacy). Moved from Michigan to Maine. Lukasak claims he was made the “fall guy” as Griffin faced accusations of retaliation and harassment. Case number 2:20-cv-00124.
Amy St. Pierre v Griffin. St. Pierre’s wife is representing herself in a case accusing Griffin of posing as her husband to gain access to her personal Google account. She also claims Griffin’s book constitutes harassment and defamation. Case was moved from New Hampshire Superior Court to U.S. District Court in N.H. Case number 1:20-CV-1173.
Suffolk Superior Court
Bradley, Bradley and Zecca v Griffin, Legacy, GPS, Generation Capital, Jefferson River Investors et al. Filed Feb. 6, 2020, alleging non-payment of $3.7 million. Case number 2084CV00350.
Massachusetts Premier Soccer (dba GPS) v Burns & Levinson LLP et al. Filed Feb. 11, 2020, arguing law firm has a conflict of interest in representing the Bradleys. Seems arcane but led to the release of many documents. Case number 2084CV00398.
Merrimack (NH) Superior Court
Legacy v St. Pierre, Bezio and North Atlantic Hockey dba The Rinks at Exeter. Case number 218–2019–CV–198. Legacy claims St. Pierre and Bezio used Legacy corporate resources while competing with Legacy. St. Pierre and Bezio have counterclaims, including wrongful termination.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Legacy Global Sports, L.P. Case number 20–11157.
An earlier version of this post misidentified John St. Pierre as Joseph St. Pierre.