[WPS SPOTLIGHT] WPS isn’t the first business to have a legal dispute between partners. And WPS isn’t the first league to have a maverick owner. Indeed, maverick owners are part and parcel with what sells sports. But the year-long dispute between MagicJack owner Dan Borislow and WPS and its owners consumed the fragile league. Could the owners afford the legal fees to fight Borislow? Sure. What WPS could not overcome was the time the fight was taking away from the business of saving the league.

“I’ve only been on board for four months, and the bulk of my time has been spent on addressing a lot of these other negative issues regarding termination of MagicJack and the sanctioning issue with U.S. Soccer and resulting issues with sponsors and such,” WPS chief executive Jennifer O’Sullivan said during a media conference call Monday afternoon. “It is unfortunate that the attention and focus that needed to be on the business, growing the business and developing the game and the sport just hasn’t been able to be there. Until this [MagicJack] situation is resolved, I don’t believe we can fully put our attention to it. It would’ve been unfair to put together a season while we would’ve still had this hanging over our heads.”

While Borislow announced a settlement of his lawsuit in a Florida court against WPS for improperly kicking MagicJack out of the league, O’Sullivan said “stumbling blocks” remained, making it impossible for all parties to come to an agreement. She said another hearing in the matter on Borislow’s request for injunctive relief was set for Wednesday.

No doubt the 2012 season was going to be difficult.

There was a we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it attitude about Year 4 even as recently as two weeks ago when WPS conducted its college draft (New York Times headline: W.P.S. Holds Its Draft, Just in Case)

The league was down to five teams from seven in 2009 and 2010 and six in 2011.

It had lost its biggest sponsor, Puma, whose three-year deal had expired, and no apparel deal had been announced for 2012.

The post-2011 Women’s World Cup bounce that had everyone so excited was no more.

Ten of the 18 players on the U.S. team that just finished up in Olympic qualifying had not yet reupped for the 2012 WPS season. Star Abby Wambach was siding with Borislow (“I’m always going to back that guy,” she said after beating Costa Rica Friday night).

The 2012 Olympic year was going to be tough for the league, taking away players for a good portion of the season. Unlike the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the 2012 Olympics was not going to give the league a post-event bounce because the regular season would be over by the time the players returned.

O’Sullivan said a bounce was not what WPS needed.

“We can’t build or sustain a business based on large-scale events,” she said.

by Paul Kennedy