You might remember our story earlier in the month on the turmoil at NASL club Rayo OKC. You should really go read that to catch up, but the gist of it is that the club’s majority owner, who also owns Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, made a series of questionable decisions that precipitated massive turnover in the coaching staff and the front office. In the immediate aftermath, allegations of impropriety— from bounced paychecks to bizarre cost-saving measures— damaged the club’s and the owners’ credibility and even led to some fans calling on the league to step in.
In other words, things have been pretty weird-in-a-bad-way at Rayo OKC. And they just got worse.
Last week the club filed a report with local police after they noticed several pallets of artificial turf were missing from the field. 92 pallets were laid down on the grass at Yukon High School’s Miller Field to provide a playing surface for the club while preserving the natural field for the school’s football team and marching band. Rayo OKC employees apparently noticed last week that 40 of those 92 pallets went missing in the middle of the night. After contacting police, club officials launched their own internal investigation into the incident.
Last night, the club released a statement saying they had figured out who took the pallets— minority owner Sean Jones. They also announced they didn’t have an immediate solution to replace the pallets or, indeed, have a suitable playing surface lined up for the next home game.
“The removal of the turf was removed under (Jones’) authority in the middle of the night. The removal of the turf took place without informing Rayo OKC management. We still don’t know Mr. Jones’ intention for the turf or its whereabouts. There is no resolution in preparation for our home match on September 11.”
The club made it clear that their home game on September 11th will go ahead as planned, but they would need to make arrangements for a replacement surface.
The story did not end there.
Soon after the club released their statement, Jones, a local businessman and self-described soccer enthusiast, gave a surprising and somewhat scathing response.
Essentially, Jones bought the turf with his own money at the beginning of the season after it became clear that the purchase was necessary and also not forthcoming from the club. But in the midst of the recent upheaval, Jones caught word that the club was planning to sell the turf and, presumably, keep the proceeds for themselves. After trying and failing to get in touch with co-owners or other club officials, Jones had the pallets moved in order to protect his investment. He closed his statement by suggesting the club try communicating with him directly rather than through passive-aggressive statements to the press.
The club continues to insist that there will be no issues for the remaining home games this season. It’s unclear what the best solution is. Jones says he’s offered to return the pallets so long as they can hash out an equitable arrangement in writing, but no such agreement appears to be forthcoming.
It’s also unclear whether the team can repair the damage to its relationship with Yukon High School, whose practice schedules for the football team and marching band have been adversely affected by the turf controversy. It’s possible Rayo OKC will have to find another site for home matches for the rest of the season and then figure out a permanent solution for next year.
Assuming the team even exists next year.