Sky Blue FC general manager Tony Novo left the job Tuesday evening in a move the New Jersey-based club termed a resignation but multiple other sources termed a firing.
The move came just five days before the start of the NWSL season. He spent five and a half years in the job, and the latter stages of his were marked by a series of controversies over a lack of infrastructure and financial resources.
Sky Blue, part-owned by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, plays its home games at Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field, a college soccer venue which lacks professional-scale locker rooms and training equipment. The club’s training facility last year did not have showers for players to use after practice until temporary ones were set up in mid-July.
Star player Carli Lloyd stayed quiet through much of the year, then revealed after the regular season finale in early September that she did so intentionally.
“There’s a lot of things that need to change,” the Delran native said back then. "I think that we as an organization, Sky Blue, I think everybody can sit down and look themselves in the mirror and see how we can make this better.
This winter, the club announced an increase in spending on players’ housing allowances, and moved its training facility to Georgian Court University in Lakewood. But neither move came in time to stop first-round draft picks Julia Ashley and Hailie Mace - the latter of whom made her senior U.S. national team debut as a collegian at UCLA - from refusing to play for the club. Both players signed professional contracts in Sweden.
Sky Blue also announced that Tammy Murphy, Gov. Murphy’s wife, was to take a more proactive role in the team’s operations. She has not yet made a public appearance to discuss that, but was quoted in the team’s statement announcing Novo’s departure.
“Tony has been an integral part of the growth of Sky Blue and we appreciate his dedication to the team and the sport,” Murphy said. “He has been a passionate supporter of professional women’s soccer and has worked tirelessly to get the team to where it is today. We are grateful for his time with Sky Blue and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Reached by phone by the Inquirer, Novo politely declined to comment for the time being, and said he’d have more to say at another time.
The team’s statement said vice president Alyse LaHue will serve as interim GM “while the owners conduct a search for the position and reevaluate operations.” LaHue was GM of the Chicago Red Stars from 2012-16 and joined Sky Blue last year.
The club’s season opener is Saturday at the Washington Spirit, and its home opener is April 20 against the Houston Dash. Those games and all other NWSL games this year will be streamed via Yahoo! Sports’ website and apps.