Leaders of the Atlanta Silverbacks believe that they can increase Georgia’s international business ties, while creating strong relationships with soccer clubs throughout the world, said Scott Moran, the team’s international counsel.
Established in 1999, the Atlanta Silverbacks mens’ professional team plays in the first division of the United States’ United Soccer League. Since 2001, the Silverbacks have added a womens’ W-league team, 20 amateur recreational teams and an array of youth teams and summer camps that combined serve more than 10,000 area children.
“Atlanta’s efforts to become a more international city can certainly use the strong presence of a professional soccer club to strengthen that image,” Mr. Moran said, adding that the team’s relationships with international soccer clubs can help facilitate business and trade relations here.
The team has formal ties with soccer clubs F. C. Internazionale Milano of Italy and Independiente of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is planning a formal relationship with one of the top five soccer clubs in Mexico. The team would also like to find partnerships in Brazil, England, Germany and Spain, he said.
Team partnerships include coach and player exchanges and eventual pre-season training matches, as well as joint marketing initiatives that give foreign teams insight to valuable U. S. marketing and business skills, Mr. Moran said.
“Soccer is the same game across the world. It’s a common equalizer across cultures and from country to country whether you’re an international business person or government official,” he said.
The Atlanta soccer club is constructing a sports complex at the junction of Interstates 85 and 285 that Mr. Moran envisions being a future destination for visiting trade delegations and a facilitator for international business.
The Atlanta Silverbacks Park is expected to be completed by spring 2006, featuring a 5,000-seat stadium, three training fields and a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse that includes a health club, swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, locker rooms, a restaurant/pub and conference spaces, all open to the public. The Atlanta team has drawn on international soccer club models to incorporate players of all ages and skill levels under the professional team’s name, using Silverbacks facilities for training, Stephen Pratten, president and CEO of the Silverbacks, told GlobalAtlanta in a recent interview.
The Silverbacks began this organizational style in 2001 when Mr. Pratten, a native of England who played college soccer in the U.S., and Boris Jerkunica, club chairman and a Croatian-born Emory University soccer player, partnered with John Latham, one of the team’s original founders, who serves on the A-league Executive Committee of the USL and is a partner with Alston and Bird LLP.
“We’ve tried to bring back the pieces [from abroad] that we think are likely to work in the U. S.,” Mr. Pratten said. “By doing that, we think we can promote the sport of soccer to even greater levels in this country.”
For the season schedule, summer camp dates or further information about the organization, visit the Web site at www.atlantasilverbacks.com.
For more information about how to get involved with the Atlanta Silverbacks organization, contact Mr. Moran at (404) 219-2518.