by Neil Morris
A shake-up in the front office of the North American Soccer League (NASL) is currently taking place, with at least three full-time staffers and a contract employee leaving the league by the end of this month.
According to an internal league memorandum from NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson obtained by INDY Week, Chief Operating Officer Darren McCartney, Communications Director Kartik Krishnaiyer and graphic artist Derek Reese are leaving their positions with the league. The three departing staffers are being replaced by Brian Melekian, Michael Preston and Steve Torres.
According to sources close to the situation, McCartney and Krishnaiyer were relieved of their positions, while Reese submitted his resignation. The departures will become effective at various times over the next two weeks. The NASL front office currently has a total of at most nine full-time personnel, including Peterson.
Peterson, who began his tenure as NASL commissioner last November, confirmed both the impending departures and new hirings when reached for comment late this afternoon.
Melekian has served various stints as a sports executive over the past 15 years. Notably, Peterson and Melekian worked together during their time with the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and the United Football League (UFL), where Melekian served in various capacities, including director of team business and management and vice president of operations. Peterson served as the UFL’s chief operating officer from January 2010 until approximately October 2011.
“Brian is a guy I’ve known since 2000,” Peterson said. “We worked together at AEG, he was with the Galaxy, he was at Home Depot Center. So he’s coming in and focusing on three different areas to start out with. Obviously operations from a league standpoint, which is not too involved but important. Two is taking over some day-to-day administrative duties from me and focusing on lifting the organization up in some areas. And three, working me on the expansion work we’re doing, which is starting to become more and more involved.”
Preston, who has worked as a contract employee at the NASL office since December, has also served in a variety of sports consulting and public relations capacities over the past 15 years, including working with Peterson during Preston’s time in the PR department of NFL Europe and the communications department of the UFL.
Torres comes to the NASL after spending the last 10 years as a press officer for CONCACAF. Prior to that, Torres spent four years as a public relations coordinator at the United States Soccer Federation.
In addition to the departing full-time staffers, Steven Bernasconi, a contract employee working as a communications assistant for the NASL, announced via Facebook earlier this week that he is also leaving his post with the league.
Peterson responded to questions about the curious timing of these changes, coming now six weeks into the NASL Spring season at a time when the league is enjoying increased attendance figures over this time last year and on the cusp of expansion into several new markets.
“There was no plan that all of this would happen at the same time,” Peterson explained. “Part of the changes is me coming in and having a chance to establish where we’re at as a league, what we need to do going forward, understanding where our opportunities are and what our resources are to get that done, and be timely about when we’re going to bring people on board. It just happens to be this is a time when I think it’s a good time for us to do that.
“I’m trying to put together a team who can achieve what I want us to achieve,” Peterson continued. “As always, a lot of times you lean on people who you know. They know how I operate, they know what my expectations are, they know the level I expect things to be done. They’re quite capable of delivering all that or I wouldn't have brought them on board.”