Football vs. Football: Youth Soccer League Takes Super Bowl to Court
It’s an argument youth soccer players have been having with their parents in the United States for generations now - what is football?
American Football diehards may enjoy the game with the round ball (or they may not!) but they will still insist there’s only one football.
Similarly, soccer fans will argue that this isn’t a debate in the rest of the world where football is played.
As you have probably spotted from by our masthead, we at Football.com hedge our bets and give you the best of both.
But it’s not often when the two games go head to head in the courts.
That’s exactly what’s happening in Northern California as the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League takes on the might of Super Bowl 50.
Right now it must seem to the 1,500 or so boys and girls who play in the league and their coaches and parents that it’s pretty much them against the world.
The issue is the league’s soccer complex next to Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers and host this year for the Super Bowl, which will be played on February 7. Under a deal struck by the local authority, the NFL is taking over the fields for a media village which will serve as the hub for the hordes of press who will be reporting on the biggest TV event of the year.
The league is upset that its schedule is being wrecked, but it’s even more concerned that the media scrum will wreck the carefully tended fields and that the detrimental effects will last long after the NFL circus has left town.
Under the existing arrangement, the NFL must return the complex to the league in its original state by March 15. The league believes the repairs will take much longer.
"All that water is probably pooling underneath those plastic boards, and the cause of that is going to be either generation of bacteria that is probably going to kill the grass, or the grass will drown because it's underneath these boards," Gabe Foo, a Youth Soccer League board member, told the Associated Press.
Santa Clara’s soccer officials were thwarted in their bid for a court injunction to block the “Super Bowl Village” when judge Joseph Huber ruled the NFL can use the 11 acres of fields until March 2.
“While the Court understands and regrets the disruption that youth soccer players have already suffered, it expects that the city (of Santa Clara) and the NFL will do their utmost to minimize any further issues and ensure the prompt return of the fields in good condition," Huber wrote in his decision for the NFL.
But Tino Silva, Santa Clara Youth Soccer League President, was unbowed by the ruling.
“We will continue our lawsuit until the City of Santa Clara accepts responsibility by finding and funding fields for the kids who are still without enough soccer fields to play home games," he said in a statement.
Lawyers for the league claim the city acted wrongly by striking the 2013 deal with the NFL to use the fields without holding a public hearing.
The NFL, the Super Bowl host committee, and the 49ers responded with a joint statement saying they're "thankful the Super Bowl plans and build-out will continue on schedule.”
There was at least some good news for the Santa Clara youth players; they’ve been offered the free use of two fields at Avaya Stadium by the San Jose Earthquakes, the Bay Area’s pro soccer team.
In the meantime, the court battle will continue even as contractors begin work on building a media center over the Santa Clara pitches.
For in this argument, at least, it looks like the football with the oblong shape is going to come out the victor.