- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Politics and sports don’t mix — at least not for one Mitt Romney supporter, thwarted in his attempt to pay a New York minor-league soccer team to wear uniforms with an advertisement supporting the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

F.C. New York, a Long Island club in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), announced last week it had accepted an offer from an independent Romney backer to sport jerseys emblazoned on the front with Romney’s name and his campaign slogan, “Believe in America.”

The club hasn’t revealed the name of the donor or the value of the sponsorship deal but anonymously quoted him in a Friday news release as saying; “I love futbol, I love America, I am a proud Latino-American who believes Mitt Romney needs to be our next president.”

The team was set to debut its new uniforms for a home game the following day against the under-23 team of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.

That was, until the league informed the club of a key detail: FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, prohibits clubs under its jurisdiction from playing in uniforms with political, religious or personal statements.

“If they want to wear them to practice I guess they can do whatever they want, if they want to walk down the street with them, I guess [that’s fine], but not in an NPSL game,” said Andy Zorovich, NPSL board chairman.

F.C. New York complied and won Saturday’s match 3-2 for its first home win of the season. The club has a record of two wins, five losses and four draws, according to the league website.

NPSL is part of the fourth tier of the U.S. soccer league hierarchy, with MLS serving as the top division.

Michael Lewis, the editor of BigAppleSoccer.com, said he has never heard of a soccer club in the U.S. or elsewhere playing with political advertising on their uniforms.

“Hopefully [it] will never happen or there will be a new meaning to political futbol,” said Mr. Lewis, who has covered professional soccer since 1975 and was one of the first to report on the failed sponsorship deal. “There are enough internal politics in sports already. It doesn’t need any outside politics making life even more complicated.”

No one from F.C. New York, which rotates playing home games at several small venues, was available to comment Tuesday. Its website also was inaccessible for much of the day.

The Romney campaign also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

While political sponsorships are a no-no in soccer, there is no such taboo in NASCAR, as several political candidates have sponsored vehicles in the racing circuit in recent years.

The list includes Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, who ran a “Warner for Governor” Ford in the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series during his successful campaign for the state’s governor. And former Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, sponsored a truck in the series during his unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

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