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Sporting KC, Livestrong end deal

FOX Soccer News: Sporting KC, Livestrong end stadium name deal.
FOX Soccer News: Sporting KC, Livestrong end stadium name deal.
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Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy writes about the beautiful game for FOX Soccer, the Boston Herald and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter.

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Sporting Kansas City and the LIVESTRONG foundation have decided to terminate their naming rights deal for Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

A series of factors – including allegations about the level of the donations made by the club and the tactics employed by the charity to procure them – prompted both parties to step away from the agreement after less than two years, according to a statement by Sporting Club chief executive officer Robb Heineman on Tuesday night.

“Our faith and trust in this partnership have been permanently damaged; therefore we are terminating our agreement with LIVESTRONG, effectively immediately,” Heineman wrote. “As a result of this decision, our stadium will now be referred to as Sporting Park. While we are ending this relationship, our support of the fight against cancer will endure. We look forward to introducing new initiatives to assist these efforts in Kansas City.”

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Heineman and LIVESTRONG executives did not envision this premature and tumultuous conclusion to their landmark agreement after the initial fanfare surrounding their partnership.

The two parties struck an innovative deal in March of 2011 to place the charity's name on the newly constructed stadium for six years. Instead of LIVESTRONG offering a fee to secure those rights, Sporting Club pledged to donate a portion of its revenues – a figure that could have reached $7.5 million over six years – from the $200 million venue to the charity instead.

Even though the stadium has emerged as one of the top soccer venues in the country since it opened in June 2011, the relationship between LIVESTRONG and Sporting Kansas City endured more than its share of rocky moments.

The ongoing steroid revelations involving LIVESTRONG founder Lance Armstrong raised questions about whether the team should continue to have the LIVESTRONG name on its stadium. Sporting Club decided to retain the stadium name last year despite the controversy generated and reaffirmed its commitment to the charitable causes behind the partnership.

In the end, other concerns regarding the business relationship between the parties ultimately sidetracked the deal and led to this parting of ways. Although Heineman underscored the club's desire to continue such charitable endeavors in the future, the partnership with LIVESTRONG concluded, coincidentally just one day after seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong admitted to using steroids.

Sporting Club has already darkened the lighted sign – once a shining beacon complete with LIVESTRONG's trademark yellow logo – on the side of its stadium and pulled down the website draped with the venue's former name. The club is expected to pursue alternative stadium naming rights deals in the future.

Greg Lee, the chief financial officer for the charity, did not address any details in his emailed statement, but said part of his role is ''to ensure that the terms of the foundation's agreements are adhered to.''

''If a partner is struggling to meet the terms of an agreement, we do everything possible to reach a fair and reasonable compromise,'' he said. ''If no compromise can be reached, as good stewards of our brand, mission and donors' dollars, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end. That is the case here.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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