SoccerNation.com had the opportunity to sit down with Andreas Roell, Chairman of Albion Pros SC, a San Diego based NPSL team. A native of Karlsruhe, Germany, Roell was a professional soccer player in his home country before being recruited by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Since retiring from playing soccer, Roell has gone on to become one of the most influential digital marketers in the country. He sits on the board of multiple companies including Katana, Analytics Ventures, and Carib Ventures. He is also a member American Advertising Federation’s (AAF) board of directors, and is a recognized angel investor for San Diego startup technology firms and actively pursues charitable interests.
Previously, Roell led love.futbol non-profit foundation. Love.futbol creates and builds safe soccer spaces for impoverished communities all over the world and was the official charity for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. His grassroots approach to building a soccer community will help lead Albion Pros and ultimately San Diego to the forefront of the “MLS to San Diego” national discussion. His unparalleled passion for soccer, business, and love for San Diego will be a guiding vision in the years to follow.
Ian Cook: You obviously have a passion for soccer, having played professionally in Germany and here in the United States. What excites you most about the Albion Pros project?
Andreas Roell: First of all, I believe that San Diego in conjunction with the Tijuana market is one of, if not the most prime soccer communities in the country. It is the most popular sport played by youth players and has the largest active adult participation amongst all sports here in the community. In addition, the region is ripe, in my opinion, for a professional team that is professionally led. Coming from Europe, I have grown up in an environment where my youth academy was connected to a senior team. It helped infuse professionalism through all ranks while it gave us youth players a significant amount of motivation and prestige to be part of the club. Looking at Albion SC as an overall entity, it is my understanding that Albion is one of the very few clubs in the country where a youth program builds the foundation of a professional team. This is a unique approach in San Diego and the wonderful professional climate of the club, the coaches, and the leadership is what truly attracted me. For me, Albion Pros has the most potential of building a true soccer legacy that the San Diego community can be proud of for a long time.
IC: What did your soccer related non-profit organization do?
AR: love.futbol is a wonderful gift to communities. We build simple soccer fields in underprivileged communities around the globe, with the core objective to give each child the ability to play the beautiful game in a safe environment. We pride ourselves in taking a very sustainable and empowering approach. We provide raw materials, secure the land from the local municipality, and the train local communities to build, use, and maintain the fields. The benefits are incredible. Locals take significant pride in creating such a centerpiece of their local community. In addition to empowering kids to be able to play soccer, it engages entire communities in a positive way. We have been able to build fields in the most dangerous areas of a town, for instance in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, where the fields sparked job creation and new businesses. The use of the new soccer fields created an entirely new ecosystem. All of this, on top of enabling youths to safely enjoy their lives while playing, and keeping them away from drugs, crime, and depression.
IC: What was your favorite aspect of your non-profit organization: love.futbol?
AR: My favorite part is to see first hand how the simple game of soccer has so much power and impact for change in even the most desperate locations around the world. Wherever we are, India, Morocco, Guatemala, it doesn’t matter, give kids a safe place to play our game and their lives change for the better.
IC: How do you think that experience will help you guide the strategy of Albion Pros?
AR: I have learned over the years that giving is better than taking. The concept of giving has created a high level of awareness in all of my daily activities. In my opinion, this approach creates a strong foundation in a person’s character and daily behaviors. Therefore, I believe that the core values of helping out our local community, making an impact beyond just the borders of our city are the foundation of everything we do. Besides running the best possible professional soccer organization and winning lots of trophies, Albion SC Pros will increase its impact by being an organization that has an impact outside of the pitch.
IC: What aspects of your successful business career do you think can parlay to San Diego’s Professional Soccer Team?
AR: I have been blessed to have gained a very diverse range of business experiences. When you bubble all these up into a framework that consists of a sound vision/strategy, a strong internal culture, and responsible operations, success will follow. This is where I will spend the significant amount of time in my participation in the club leadership. Albion Pros is fully capable of attaining our goal of building something special here in San Diego. We have unbelievable soccer experts and a tremendous support system. My job is to accelerate and set us up for long-term success.
IC: Do you think MLS in San Diego is a realistic goal by the 2026 World Cup? If so, what is top of the shopping list to make it happen (soccer specific stadium after the Chargers leave perhaps)?
AR: It must happen in my opinion. I personally see no alternative. San Diego deserves a professional team at the highest level in the most popular sport in our community. When combining San Diego with Tijuana, we have more than enough of an audience to fill a 20-30,000 seat stadium week after week. So, yes, a stadium is obviously one of the primary key elements to gain access in to the MLS. However, I look beyond the issues of licenses, stadiums, and sponsors. I look at how we can build a product that this community can be proud of; one that also bring significant benefits to our economy. How can we spiral a local MLS team into building the premier youth academy for local talent? How can build an MLS team that is ultimately a team that consists of players from our community? How can we be taking advantage of global businesses in our community, like Qualcomm to help them connect their products to the largest sport in the world? And obviously, how can we have healthy and unprecedented relationships between the team with local media and government officials? For me a San Diego MLS team has a much larger obligation than mere existence, we have the obligation to be category leaders and ultimately help U.S. soccer become a dominant force on the international scene.
IC: Predictions for 2016 NPSL Season?
AR: My focus will be around how professional and competitive we will show up during our inaugural year. I want soccer fans in our local community to take notice and interest. I also want our competitors to feel that something is brewing in San Diego. My goal as a team is to reach the semis (of the playoffs). My goal from an operations side is an average attendance of 3,000 and regular quality media coverage.