Packers kicker Mason Crosby owns an English soccer team but he can't watch it this weekend
GREEN BAY – If anyone wants to offer Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby a helicopter ride or jet pack from his London hotel Saturday, he just might take you up on the offer.
Crosby will be tantalizingly close to the English Football League team he and a group of investors bought over the summer and it just so happens Walsall FC, located two hours northwest of the Packers’ hotel in Hertfordshire, plays at 3 p.m. in Poundland Bescott Stadium in Walsall.
But Crosby is there for business. The Packers take on the New York Giants on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 2:30 p.m. London time (8:30 a.m. CDT) in the team’s first regular-season game on a different continent.
Coach Matt LaFleur has given the players some free time Saturday, but being late for a team meeting isn’t his style.
“I just can’t chance it,” Crosby said Thursday, hours before the Packers took off for London. “I can just see the trains stopping or I’m stuck in traffic and I’m an hour and a half late. It’s just not going to work out.”
Crosby grew up playing soccer and is an avid follower of the Premier League – his favorite team is Liverpool – and so playing in a big-time European soccer stadium Sunday will be a memorable experience. The only thing better would be if he could see the team he recently bought.
“They’re in the lowest of the four tiers,” Crosby said. “But this is a good team and a good organization and being a part of a soccer team is something that really appealed to me. I love soccer. I’ve been part of a Christian-based organization called Vapor Ministries that set up soccer training centers in Africa and Haiti and that’s how I got connected with this investment group.”
Benjamin Boycott, the managing director of Trivela Group, the American company that bought Walsall FC, knew Crosby through their charity work together with Vapor and felt he would be a good addition to the team. Besides Crosby having the financial capability to invest, his love of soccer made him a perfect fit.
It was an exciting proposition for Crosby, who was an all-district soccer player for two years at Georgetown (Texas) High School before focusing full-time on football. Through the years, he has been highly invested in soccer and has done a lot to promote the sport in areas where resources aren’t available for children to play.
“A couple years back, Mason and I were in Haiti together at one of those sites where we really saw football be a catalyst to transform a community, and really kind of revitalize a community.” Boycott said. “We've been friends for a long time and we've kind of had those long conversations about just the impact that sport can have in people's lives.
“He and I are both very passionate about that.”
At 38 years old, Crosby hasn’t shown any sign of losing it – he’s 4 of 4 on field goals, including a game-winning overtime field goal against New England on Sunday – but eventually he’ll have to find something else to do. Continuing to be part of an investors group that wants to build a global portfolio of football teams is something he can foresee in his future.
Part of what appeals to him is the potential to improve the franchise’s connection with the community, something he’s felt a part of with the Packers. He said it’s not just supporting the team financially but propping up the communities where they reside.
“It’s like what they’ve done here with Titletown,” he said.
Walsall FC is in League Two of the English Football League, which consists of three levels – Championship, League One and League Two. The Premier League sits atop all of English football and it’s a long way from League Two to the top.
Crosby chuckled when asked if his pie-in-the-sky dream was for Walsall FC to reach the Premier League and said being promoted to League One is the first order of business.
“Every year, (three) teams get relegated from the Premier League, so you never know,” he said with a smile.
But Boycott said the immediate goal is to get Walsall promoted to the Championship.
“It's a great team, it's a great town,” he said. “It’s a very well-run club, it's financially stable. And it's just got all kinds of upside. It’s a club that historically has been at the championship level, which is tier two, and now they're currently in League Two, which is tier four.
“The club's been around for 130 years, just a ton of tradition, a ton of stability. It's just made all kinds of sense for us as a first place to acquire a club.”
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Trivela has an option to buy the 11,300-seat stadium in two years and Boycott said it’s committed to reopening a club next to the stadium that was for years a gathering spot for Walsall FC supporters. What happens beyond that is still in the conceptual stage.
Maybe if Crosby could make it up for the game Saturday, he’d have some suggestions for making it a little more like the Packers game experience. But there is this little thing known as the NFL international series that is getting in the way.
“I was just texting with Mason, and I actually did think about a helicopter,” Boycott said. “He sent me the place they’re staying at and I was like, ‘It’s not that far.’
“But I think this one is going to be a pass. But we’ll get over in the spring. It’ll be fun.”