Where’s our money?

January 5, 2009

By Staff

Sports organizations still waiting for registration fees

When Matthew Balkman found out the Issaquah Youth Lacrosse league hadn’t been paid for its fall registrations, he called the league’s online registration management company.When no one there returned his phone calls, he went and camped out at the Bellevue-based company’s front door, seeking an explanation for why the money was missing. 

Count Me In owes Issaquah Youth Lacrosse an estimated $65,000 for fall registrations, said Balkman, the league’s co-president. 

“It’s a completely unexpected curveball that we didn’t want to deal with, but have to, to protect our members,” Balkman said. “It’s been a complete pain to have to deal with something that was unexpected and we have never had to deal with in the past.”

Count Me In made national headlines in early December for its involvement in a U.S. District Court lawsuit where a New Jersey-based soccer league sued Count Me In for $142,000 in registration payments Nov. 10. 

According to recent news reports, CMI owes upward of $5 million to approximately 220 sports organizations across the country.  

The company provides a registration Web site for sports leagues, charging about $3 per registration. In 15-day increments, it pays leagues like Issaquah Youth Lacrosse and the Issaquah Little League the rest of the money for registration. But since the lacrosse league requested payment in early December, CMI has not paid a single penny, Balkman said. 

It has since asked for more time to generate the money it still owes various leagues around Issaquah and the plateau, according to various league managers. 

Balkman said Issaquah Youth Lacrosse has decided not to sue CMI yet.

“We do have legal council and they are consulting us about routes to take with CMI,” Balkman said.

Issaquah Little League officials declined to talk about its financial situation with CMI.

Terry Drayton, CMI founder and CEO, released a statement Jan. 2 announcing that the organization is still working to secure investors or a sale, so the company can repay the $5 million owed.

“My only objective is to raise the funds needed to pay back every club we owe money — every penny,” he said in the statement. “CMI made a series of errors over the past eight years, largely around having the right staff and developing the appropriate procedures, adequate systems and financial oversight in place. 

“We could talk about that, or poor advice we received, but at the end of the day, I am now in charge, so it is my responsibility to fix the problem.”

The Sammamish Little League and Eastlake Lacrosse say that Count Me In owes them money, too — $66,000 and $70,000, respectively.

The good news is that Issaquah Youth Lacrosse, as well as the Sammamish leagues will not have to cancel this year’s spring season as a result of the problem, according to league presidents. 

The goal right now is to help parents get their money back by reversing credit card charges, Balkman said. 

“We are owed some back money, but our main concern is that the current season that we’re currently registered for, that people can get their money back,” he said. “The bottom line is the services they paid for were not rendered. Therefore, the owner of that credit card is entitled to their money back.”

The league is still in the process of collecting checks directly from parents and getting the word out about reversing registration charges.  

Registration began the first week of November. And thus far, approximately 340 Issaquah youths have registered to play lacrosse. Online transactions ranged from $110-$400, depending on age, level and what gear members bought, Balkman said.

He also said that his league had reserve funds that could help compensate for lost revenue from the uncollected registration fees. 

The Count Me In debacle should serve as a wakeup call about how leagues approach registration, according to Jim Portugal, media officer for Washington District 9, a Little League region that includes Issaquah. 

“It’s not good to have someone else hold your money right now,” Portugal said, adding that he would favor having parents register online, but send their money in by check. 

“This is not a Seattle or Sammamish thing. This is something that every sports league in the country needs to do,” he said. “That wasn’t the best model for us leagues to be using.”

“My only objective is to raise the funds needed to pay back every club we owe money — every penny.” 

— Terry Drayton

CMI founder and CEO

Reach Reporter Christopher Huber at 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Reach Reporter J.B. Wogan at ext. 247, or at jbwogan@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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One Response to “Where’s our money?”

  1. Jeri Fitzbuck on January 10th, 2009 10:24 am

    The bottom line is that Mr.Drayton & his company have STOLEN funds. Period. This is not a case of poor financial management and we should all wait and hope he can make it right in the end. The funds taken in for various league registrations belonged to the leagues. At no time whatsoever were those funds available for the use of Count Me In’s business expenses. Their business expenses were to be covered by the $3.50 fee processed on each transaction. The transaction fee monies belonged to Count Me In, the registration monies belonged to leagues and were monies ‘held in trust’. The fact that Count Me In threw that money into their operating funds is not “a mistake”, it was theft.
    We are talking about $5 million dollars worth of other people’s money. Many of those families cannot afford to pay twice for sports fees. Getting the money back on their credit cards through the dispute process has limitations and since this has gone on for so long most people won’t be able to use that recourse.
    Plain and simple, the man is a crook, he has intentionally robbed thousands of people of their money. He should be in jail already. Giving him more time only gives him time to file bankruptcy after getting protections for his personal assets in place.
    Wake up people. Demand he pay it back now or go to jail.

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