Soccer club alleges Lawrence rival lured players away 

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The Zionsville Youth Soccer Association recently filed the second of two lawsuits in Boone County Superior Court against two former coaches and a rival soccer club in Lawrence.

The suit, filed in January, alleges before McKinley Jones was terminated for cause, he performed soccer services for FC Pride, a Lawrence-based soccer organization. The suit alleges that he told ZYSA players and their parents he would be resigning and leaving for FC Pride and then induced ZYSA players and their parents to follow him to FC Pride. That breached his agreement with ZYSA, according to the suit. Jones had been ZYSA assistant director of coaching for girls.

ZYSA is seeking an award of damages for the alleged violations of contract Jones signed, which included a non-compete portion for six months after leaving.

A similar lawsuit was filed in June against FC Pride, Inc., and Mike Beckner, a former ZYSA coach and board member. Beckner resigned in June 2016, one month before Jones was terminated.

The suit alleges Beckner conspired with Jones to modify Beckner’s contract with ZYSA, to the detriment of ZYSA, and didn’t disclose the contract changes to the organization until after Beckner’s departure

It alleges Beckner also told players and parents he would be resigning from ZYSA and joining FC Pride. The suit alleges that after leaving, Beckner continued to improperly mention, suggest or encourage players’ parents to leave ZYSA programs and join FC Pride programs.

“ZYSA does not take litigation lightly,” ZYSA’s attorney Steve Runyan said in an email response to Current. “Before filing suit, ZYSA tried to resolve the dispute directly with the defendants and then with the aid of Indiana Soccer. Unable to resolve the dispute after more than a year of attempting to do so, ZYSA filed suit to protect its interests, as we believe our club members would expect. Further, ZYSA has actively worked to address the issues, including influencing Indiana Soccer and its membership to change Indiana Soccer policy to prevent future incidents of this nature (prohibitive contact by coaches relocation).”

An Indiana Soccer fine of $2,000 and loss of coaching privileges for up to five years is now in effect to deter prohibitive contact.

Runyan said the matter was taken with careful consideration of the players impacted by the defendants’ actions.

“ZYSA could have requested an injunction from the (Superior) Court, prohibiting Mr. Jones and Mr. Beckner from coaching, but chose not to do so to minimize the impact on then-current players,” Runyan said. “But protecting the players does not include allowing those named to violate their obligations. We believe the court will ultimately uphold ZYSA’s rights, and we have proceeded in a way that focuses this case on the actions of the adults involved without impacting the children.”

Runyan said ZYSA has asked the court to determine the amount ZYSA is owed. Jones said he had no comment at this time. FC Pride responded on its website to the lawsuit.

“FC Pride is deeply disappointed by the actions taken by ZYSA and its board. Such actions are entirely contrary to the fundamental missions of each organization to serve and develop the youths of our communities through soccer. While the ZYSA has decided to spend its members’ fees to pursue baseless allegations, FC Pride remains committed to its mission to serve the community and provide developmentally appropriate environments for all levels of players. FC Pride will vigorously defend itself and its coaches while, at the same time, continue to focus on being the premier youth soccer organization in Central Indiana.”

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