Toronto FC hires new GM
By Courtnie Martin, Sports Reporter
Former Major League Soccer (MLS) senior director of player relations, Tim Bezbatchenko, is changing faces and walking into the GM position for Toronto FC. With the club continuing its downhill tumble, Toronto was desperate to find someone with MLS knowledge. Former Toronto FC GM and president Kevin Payne only lasted nine months in his position, but was asked to stay on board, without the title, to help with the transition.
Payne was released for several reasons. During his tenure it was suggested that his relationships with his cohorts and supervisors were irreconcilable. He invested much of his time trying to recruit two players: Uruguayan Diego Forlan and Argentinian Maxi Moralez. This led to the demise of his relationship with the club. Tim Leiweke, the new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) CEO, decided that the “culture” of the club needed major adjustments.
After the news of replacing Payne with Bezbatchenko, the soccer world was now curious—who is Bezbatchenko? Many were surprised to learn that he, in fact, had some rapport with the soccer world: he was part of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds squad that won the 2004 USL Pro Atlantic Division Championship. Bezbatchenko was also known for his law accomplishments as an attorney for Shearman & Sterling LLP. After his law career, he made connections within the soccer world as a liaison between the US Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association. He also negotiated and drafted all player contracts and specialized in managing player salary caps. MLSE CEO Leiweke interviewed with MLS Network stating, “Tim brings an analytical mind to the job along with the best understanding that I’ve seen of the salary cap and how to manage it. He knows how to build a team that will win long-term and he believes, like we do, that his vision will have an immediate and positive impact on this team. We are excited about adding Tim’s knowledge, experience and relationships within MLS to Toronto FC and we now look forward to focusing together on the most important job: putting a winning team on the pitch for Toronto FC supporters.”
Many fans are in an uproar about the new decision, questioning his knowledge on player prospects and of the game, rather than his experience with crunching numbers and regulations. So, who is Tim Bezbatchenko? Liaison? Lawyer? Contractor? Nope, Toronto FC’s new GM.