Sporting Tampa Bay Partners with Tampa Bay United – Sporting Tampa Bay FC

Stuart Campbell:

For me, the first time I met Anthony months and months and months ago, we sat down for a good couple of hours and spoke about a lot of different things regarding soccer. But for me, the biggest comment that he made, and it really stuck with me because he’s the first person I’ve heard say it, and it’s something I’ve said as well, and everybody says it can’t be done, it can’t be done. He said that he wanted to change the culture of soccer in this area. And once he said that, my sort of ears pricked up and thought, oh, he’s the first person that I’ve heard say that. So for me, that was the biggest thing. And as he said, once the relationship organically grew, it wasn’t like they were pinning us down. We need to do this. We need to do that. We want to pin them down. You need to do this. You need to do that. It just grew and grew and grew. And I think that’s huge. That was a big, big part and the relationship ended up where it is now.

Dave Fulk:

And so knowing a little bit of the backstory, this has been kind of a long time coming. This wasn’t you guys just met two days ago. And then it was like, yeah, this sounds like a great idea. This has been kind of a dating relationship, going back and forth and understanding each other. And we did have an unprecedented pandemic that we’re dealing with right in the middle of this with the coronavirus.

How has that affected you and how has that relationship helped you get through this challenging time?

Anthony Latronica:

Honestly, I can’t really use words to describe the last nine weeks. The responsibility I feel I have to my employees is incredible. I think when you’re able to lean on people on your staff and people in the community, it makes things a lot easier because you can empathize with what you’re going through. And so just even in the last two months, being able to get on the phone with Stuart and his leadership group has been really helpful on dealing with items that we’ve never had to deal with before. And so I think that’s the whole point is to collaborate, but when it matters. And so it’s been really positive to have that relationship. And it’s almost like we tested it out during a real, real adversity. And I think at times like this true colors really come through. When people are under pressure, that’s when your true colors really come out.

And what I’m noticing is not only in my organization, but I’m seeing people rise to the occasion. It’s really remarkable. And I also will say this, this is the most humbling thing I’ve ever gone through as a person. And the reason that is, is during times like this, all your weaknesses are magnified and you have to deal with them head on. And I want help. I need help. I need other people’s input. This is not an Anthony show. This is we have to do this for the community. So having a guy like Stuart being able to bounce ideas off and he’s got a lot of experience in the soccer game, and that’s invaluable.

Dave Fulk:

I think he signed his first pro contract when he was 12 years old. Stuart, you look a tad shy older than 12 these days. So I don’t know.

Stuart Campbell:

Just a little bit, one or two more wrinkles. But I think Anthony, you’re being very modest and I can’t tell him. And I think he’s underestimating the part he played regarding helping us, because we were on the phone constantly with him. Because as he said, it was unprecedented times and it’s not like your regular season where this happens, that happens and things sort of take care of themselves. But when the coronavirus really sort of took hold of the world, like I said, it was unprecedented. So you don’t know how to react. So it was really reassuring to lean on somebody like Anthony, with his experience at soccer to guide us down the right path. Obviously we asked what their input was, what their thoughts were. As I said, we at times said, oh, we’re think about doing this. And Anthony’s like, oh no, we’re doing this. And this is why. And once he explained it and broke it down, he’d done a great job of guiding us down the right path.

As you said, in times of adversity, you can really see who steps up to the mark and really sort of looks after, not just themselves, but it’s a whole community. And that’s been the big thing that Anthony’s really done an amazing job. It wasn’t just about TBU, TBU this. There’s certain conversation that have gone with other leaders in the area, and I won’t embarrass him here. But the fact that he’s opened up his resources to lots of other clubs in the area, I think it’s testament to the type of character that he is. It’s somebody that I want to be associated with.

Dave Fulk:

Well, I love the word Anthony used, collaboration, right? When we first started this call off, we talked about how our two clubs now have an alliance together. And I asked, what does that mean? The word collaboration, I think, sums that up almost the best. And it’s not one club’s taking over the other club. They are completely independent and run independently of each other, and doing nothing more than reaching out a hand to shake each other’s hand and say, how can we help you? And it’s a back and forth from Sporting Tampa Bay to TBU and from TBU over there. And that is just, as a parent with a child in soccer, it’s awe inspiring to see two leaders in the marketplace do what’s needed to be done for a long time.

Anthony, I had a conversation with you, I think last week, and you were very passionate when we were talking about this topic and you go, I got a lot to say, it is kind of what you said. And I could hear that passion coming out in your voice in regard to this topic. So I for one, am ecstatic as a parent with a kid that plays competitively, to see the kind of opportunities and the pathways that are going to be created. And as long as you guys are in this together like you’re doing now, I truly see the landscape of soccer actually changing in the Tampa Bay community.

If it were easy, it would have been done a long time ago. But I have to applaud both of you for seeing this all the way through, these conversations started a long time ago, and get to this point, especially through a pandemic. So I couldn’t be more excited from my standpoint as a fan. But Anthony, anything else you want to say? Stuart, any last words from you?

Anthony Latronica:

Just for me, this is bigger than all of us. The focus will remain on the athletes first, which ultimately is the families, which is the community. And as long as we keep that as our main focus, then it’s going to be a real relationship. And so I’m just very thankful that we’re here and that we’re going to take this journey and see where it goes. So Dave, I appreciate that you’re excited because that’s what it’s about. You want your son or daughter to play in a club. Same for me. I have a five and a seven year old. What type of culture and club do I want my child to be a part of?

Stuart Campbell:

The positive impacted this relationship’s going to have in the community and the impact it’s going to have on the kids in the soccer world. I’ve said, two of my daughters, they play, and when I told them what I was doing today and the plans, they were super excited. And I just had to come and speak highly of Anthony and his staff. And I’m really, really excited to continue to work with them.

Dave Fulk:

Yeah, no. That’s great. Guys, I thank you so much. Both of you. Again, Anthony Latronica, Sporting Director at Tampa Bay United, Stuart Campbell, DOC at Sporting Tampa Bay. And when we were talking about when we were going to do this call, it came up we easily could have done Zoom calls, but both of you said, we’d really like to be together. Right? I mean, that just shows how much unity there is in this. Social distancing, we had to separate you, we couldn’t sit next to each other. Right? So we had to abide by the social distancing guidelines. And we got you as far off of screen as we possibly could. But I mean that just, to me, just shows really how committed you both are to this relationship. And I think it’s absolutely awesome. So guys, thanks so much, again. Looking very forward to seeing how this whole relationship plays out. And I really think it’s going to be something special.

Anthony Latronica:

Thanks, Dave.

Stuart Campbell:

Thanks, Dave.

Anthony Latronica:

Appreciate it, buddy.

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