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WNY Flash apologizes for ‘embarrassment’ and is fined by league for field conditions

Western New York Flash owners Joe and Alex Sahlen issued a statement Friday in which they apologized for poor field conditions at last Saturday’s home game against the Seattle Reign, calling it an “embarrassment,” while the National Women’s Soccer League announced it had “issued a significant fine” to the Flash.

The WNY Flash was roundly criticized in soccer circles for poor field conditions in the game, which was held at downtown Rochester’s Frontier Field, a baseball stadium, due to a conflict. Field conditions were blasted by the Seattle coach and players near and far – including several U.S. national team members.

A statement by NWSL president Jeff Plush critcized the Flash for a “lack of organizational oversight.”

The entire statement from the Flash’s Joe Sahlen and daughter Alex:

“On Saturday, July 9, 2016, the Western New York Flash hosted the Seattle Reign in a National Womens Soccer League match. Due to a scheduling conflict, the Flash’s regular home field, Rochester Rhinos Stadium, was unavailable. The venue for the game was moved a few blocks away to Frontier Field, a baseball venue that, in the past, has had a rich history of hosting professional soccer games, including the United States Women’s National Team. Our intention throughout this process was always to provide a quality game atmosphere for players and fans alike in a stadium that holds a special place in the hearts of Rochester fans.

“Due to the configuration of Frontier Field, Flash management was aware that the pitch was going to be smaller than a typical field. Certain dimensions were designated and communicated to the league and to our opponent.

“After a thorough investigation of what transpired this past weekend, it has been determined that there was a lack of oversight on behalf of our organization in preparing and operating Frontier Field at the standards we should expect for a professional women’s soccer game.

“This ultimately resulted in an embarrassment for our league. We, as a family and organization, have always strived to enhance and benefit the sport of soccer and, in particular, women’s soccer.

On behalf of our organization and our family, we sincerely apologize to the NWSL for tarnishing its reputation and image. We also apologize to the Seattle Reign organization and to the players and fans. Our club has continued to be dedicated and invested through several iterations of women’s professional soccer and we will continue to work hard to grow the league and the game in the most positive ways possible.”

The entire statement from NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush:

“We have completed our review of last weekend’s match between the Western New York Flash and Seattle Reign FC and today have issued a significant fine to Western New York for a lack of organizational oversight in both preparing and then operating Frontier Field to the standards of a professional soccer match. In the future, we will not deviate from our standards or grant exceptions for changes to field sizes that are not in accordance with our standards. Moving forward, we must, and will, work together with all of our partners to safeguard the integrity of our game and make certain that it is always respected both on and off the field.”

We would like to thank our NWSL owners, U.S. Soccer and all of our other stakeholders for their hard work, patience and guidance as we worked through this difficult situation. This situation has been a distraction that has taken away from the many positive storylines our clubs are having this season with significantly increased attendance and fan engagement. Most importantly, our great players continue to turn in spectacular team and individual performances and are the reasons we remain so excited about, and committed to, our league and our sport.”

The Flash play at Seattle Saturday night and return home to Rhinos Stadium in Rochester on July 23 against FC Kansas City.