Sacramento Republic FC President Warren Smith is stepping down to focus an effort to get a Major League Soccer franchise … in Oklahoma City.
He will continue to advise the Republic FC, however, even though he will join the Oklahoma City Energy's expansion efforts as a senior advisor.
Smith said that, since he is not an employee of Republic FC, he is allowed to advise both clubs. “We chose that this would be the best route to actually provide advice to both the Republic FC and to Oklahoma City and, frankly, any other clubs that may actually need or desire some of the same,” he said.
Before Smith founded the Republic in 2012, he was researching the viability of the sport in Sacramento and noted that the area was consistently in the top 10 markets nationally for TV viewers, including the top five for two U.S. versus Mexico matches.
Later, he brought together staff, advisors and investors from the Sacramento River Cats, Kings, and city government. The franchise soon launched, and he sold tickets from the team’s headquarters on 17th Street, his small staff holding events and selling tickets.
He then landed Major League Soccer star-turned-coach Predrag “Preki” Radosavljević to lead the club, and began holding open tryouts for local talent while bringing in MLS-quality backups to play for the new United Soccer League franchise.
In its first season, the team shattered all attendance records for the USL-PRO league and won the championship.
Republic FC Chief Operating Officer Ben Gumpert says he is pleased Smith will continue to advise the Republic as needed as it searches for a lead investor. Gumpert says management is in "later stage discussions" with four candidates who will invest in the team as it hopes to be approved for MLS expansion.
The league requires an expansion fee of $150 million, and a new stadium is expected to cost about $250 million. With financing, the majority owner's contribution could be a minimum of $100 million.
MLS has said it requires a majority owner to hold 35 percent equity in the team and stadium project.
Kevin Nagle, the Republic’s majority owner, and Smith had a falling out that became public when Smith was not present during Sacramento's presentation to MLS last February. Mayor Darrell Steinberg brought the two together over beers to broker peace.
Smith previously led the effort to launch the Sacramento River Cats in 1999.