Alan Rothenberg, who as soccer commissioner for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics oversaw one of the Games' best-attended events, said Tuesday that he is considering running for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, apparently at the prompting of international soccer officials concerned about the 1994 World Cup to be held in the United States.
Rothenberg, a former president of the Clippers and now the president of the California State Bar Assn., said he has been urged to run for the soccer position by officials at FIFA, soccer's international governing body.
"FIFA people have been talking to me all along--before, during and after the World Cup in Italy," Rothenberg said. "People involved in both the international and domestic soccer scene have been asking me to step in and make sure that '94 comes off properly. People are concerned that the legacy after '94 will be that soccer will be a hit on all levels in the United States."
In the late 1970s, Rothenberg was part-owner of the Los Angeles Aztecs, a North American Soccer League franchise that drew well and had moderate success. He was also involved with perhaps the last successful large-scale international soccer event in this country--the '84 Olympics. The matches at the Rose Bowl drew crowds of 100,000-plus. Scott LeTellier, president of the 1994 World Cup Organizing Committee, briefly worked under Rothenberg in 1984.
Werner Fricker, the current USSF president, is also the chairman of the board of the 1994 Organizing Committee. Fricker, in his third term as president, has said he will run for reelection. Also announced as a candidate is Paul Stiehl, the USSF treasurer.
The election for the president will be held Aug. 5 during the federation's annual meetings at Orlando, Fla. The term will be for four years. The USSF president will have considerable input into the 1994 World Cup organization.
Stiehl said Tuesday that he didn't know anything about Rothenberg and that with only two weeks to go before the vote, Rothenberg would have a difficult time being accepted by soccer's rank and file.
"I'm not aware of any expertise he has in the game of soccer," Stiehl said from his office in Beltsville, Md. "He will be seen as an outsider; he will be seen as an opportunist, as an expert there to tell us how to run our sport. The question will be, 'What have you done for the game?' Quite frankly, no one will be impressed with the (title of) commissioner of the Olympics."
If Rothenberg were to gain the presidency, it would appear to give a boost to L.A.'s chances of holding the World Cup final. Rothenberg said he well remembered sitting with FIFA officials, viewing the large, enthusiastic crowds in 1984.
"It's always been my assumption that when push came to shove, they (FIFA officials) would pick Los Angeles because it's been proven here," Rothenberg said.
Recently, FIFA officials have reportedly been concerned about the reduced potential for success of the 1994 World Cup, after dismal U.S. television ratings for the recent World Cup in Italy indicated that the American public has only lukewarm interest in what is generally considered to be the world's biggest sporting event.
"I can assure you that FIFA is very disenchanted with the operation of the federation at this point," Stiehl said.
Rothenberg, 51, indicated that if he were elected, he would want full control of the sport.
"I won't run unless it's clear that I have proper support and it won't be just a job of placating factions," he said. "I'm less afraid of losing than of winning and not having things done the way I want them to be."
Rothenberg said his term as president of the State Bar Assn. would expire in August.