The curious case of Walter Restrepo: More on NASL's player-for-hotel-rooms trade
By now you may have seen the news: On Tuesday, the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions acquired midfielder Wálter Restrepo — one of the league’s top players two years ago — from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for a rather unique transfer fee (first reported by 90 Minutes Strong):
*Free lodging and transportation during Fort Lauderdale’s two road trips to San Antonio in 2014.*
Your first reaction was: Seriously?
Welcome to life in the NASL, the second tier of U.S. soccer.
I spoke to two people involved in the deal over the phone on Wednesday. The first was Bill Brendel, the general manager of the Crockett Hotel, a Scorpions sponsor which hosts all the NASL teams visiting San Antonio.
“The Scorpions reached out to us to see if we could be creative,” said Brendel, whose hotel was thanked by the Scorpions in their official press release (which has since been taken down). “It was kind of a win-win for everyone.”
The second person I spoke to was Howard Cornfield, the San Antonio team president. With a voice that seemed a bit weary, Cornfield said maybe they should have simply mentioned “cash considerations” in the press release instead of thanking the Crockett Hotel and Shark Limo, another team sponsor that will provide free bus service to Fort Lauderdale as well on their trips.
“But I’m a believer that no publicity is bad publicity,” Cornfield said, “unless somebody gets murdered or something.”
Cornfield also clarified that Fort Lauderdale’s transfer fee would include hotel coverage only on the second night of the two-night road trips, since NASL rules already call for the home team to pay for the hotel on the first night. Brendel, the hotel manager, said most visiting teams send a 20-person contingent and get 10 rooms for those 20 people.
Cornfield said Fort Lauderdale will receive no additional cash in the transfer fee, only the hotel rooms, use of a bus in San Antonio and “maybe one team meal per trip.”
A Fort Lauderdale media rep would not comment on the specifics of the deal. Restrepo, 25, was voted to the NASL’s Best XI in 2012 after a season in which he had six goals and a league-leading eight assists.