Uncategorized — June 10, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Real Madrid vs Roma at Giants Stadium – The House That “George” Zoffinger Built


They doubted that he could do it.  The last time Giants Stadium had a full house of more than  70,000 “paying” fans was during the 1999 Women’s World Cup.  The Metrostars held several international events since, but none filled the stadium to capacity or even half-way.  Even the USA Team with it’smagnificent run during World Cup 2002 could not draw a full capacity crowd at RFK which was billed as an MLS Allstar vs USA match. Most recent MLS matches failed to draw caopacity crowds as well.  It was beginning to feel like America’s interest in soccer was waning. That recent shot in the arm provided by Team USA seemed to be wearing off.   The Metrostars had brought top international teams to the famed Giants Stadium but even some of the top players and teams aboard spectatorship proved to be at best only modest.  So how could George Zoffinger dare to imagiine that two teams even as high powered as AC Roma and Real Madrid make a difference in terms of attendance?

Well..on a beautiful August evening the upper seats began to swell as early as 7:00 PM. By 8:00PM the stadium was filled with 70,635 fans.  Not only were two of the greatest teams on field Roma and Real Madrid with their top players such as Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Gabriel Batistuta, but spectators and speakers in attendence read like a who’s who with the likes of former Scretary of State Henry Kissinger, Spainish King Juan Carlos, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and James E. McGreevey, Governor of New Jersey.  The event was a fund-rasier for AIDS reasearch. Although the game itself ended in a 0-0 draw, the fans were treated to a feast of high quality soccer which left most breathless.  For the 70 minutes that Zidane played, he gave the audience a display of passing and dribbling skills that were nearly unearthly.

Prior the game when this writer asked George Zoffinger President and CEO of the NJSEA about his attendance expectations he remarked “I guarantee that I will have more than 20,000 people in the seats. This historic venue deserves it and residents of New Jersey deserve top quality soccer!”.  There is no reason that the New York/New Jersey with it’s rich diversity of ethnic cultures cannot generate a fan base to fill these seats”.

As this writer looked around a filled to capacity stadium it was remeniscint of Americas first World Cup in 1994 when the stadium was filled for each game. It ‘s no wonder that the stadium was filled this evening as it was George Zoffinger who was responsible for bringing the World Cup to Giants Stadium as the venue director.

Although George Zoffinger spearheaded this latest effort, he was quick to point out that it was a team effort.  ”This could not have been achieved without a team effort”.   “Charlie Stillitano who heads Championsworld, the actual sponsor of this event working in conjunction with the staff at NJSEA worked tirelessly to put this thing together.  There were actually several teams within each organization which came together to ensure the success of the event” said Zoffinger

When one reporter asked why it was that the Metrostars were not as successful Zoffinger stated ” You must be willing to open this thing [Soccer]  up to everyone.  You cannot keep it a closed in terms of management and ideas as if you alone own it”. This sport belongs to everyone and everyone can benefit if event organizers are open to new ideas. In addition to ensure this event’s a success we devoted alot of energy and resources to marketing”  Our marketing strategy included TV spots, radio, newspapers and a lot of basic leg-work getting the word out”.

What is more to George Zoffinger’s credit is that this feat was accomplished while in the midst of a fierce battle between the NJSEA and the MetroStars over use of the Giants Stadium for international soccer events. A battle which Zoffinger indicates came to a conclusion with the recent decision handed down by a New Jersey Appellate Court. The ruling according to Zoffinger allows the NJSEA to host international soccer events. “They {the Metrostars] had sought a ruling which would have given them the exclusive rights to major soccer events held in t the stadium. Now as a result of the decision handed down by the Appellate Court that will not be the case. We plan to hold 6 major international soccer events per years..  For example we are working on bringing Manchester United here in the very near future and other similar high powered teams”. Zoffinger stated that he was working on a match which would have  this coming September brought World Cup Champion Brasil to the stadium to face the USA team.. He added said that meeting had be be temporarily shelved due to events surrounding the recently concluded legal battle between his group and the Metrostars.

With the legal battle behind him Zoffinger promises to bring high powered teams to Giants Stadiums including Brazil, and to do so at least six times per year. He also says he has in the past reached out to his former adversaries the Metrostars.  ”We have offered to assist them in the past, and I am doing it now again.” Zoffinger adds, ” I believe we can and should work together. It’s good for us, good for them, and more importantly good for the spectators.”

About George R. Zoffinger

George R. Zoffinger was appointed President and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in March 2002. He previously served as Presidentand CEO of Constellation Capital Corp. He also served as President and CEO of Value Property Trust, a publicly owned REIT. He served as Chairman of CoreStates New Jersey National Bank, from 1994 through December 1995, until the bank’s merger into CoreStatesBank, N.A. Zoffinger also served as President and CEO of Constellation Bancorp and its principal subsidiary, Constellation Bank, N.A., from 1991 through 1994,.

Governor Jim Florio appointed Zoffinger to serve as the Commissioner of Commerce and Economic Development for the State of New Jersey in 1990. During his tenure as Commissioner, he spearheaded the effort to bring the 1994 FIFA World Cup soccer games to the Meadowlands Sports Complex, and he served as Chairman of New Jersey’s Host Committee for the 1994 World Cup soccer games held at Giants Stadium.

Zoffinger is a member of the New Jersey Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). He serves as Chairman of the New Brunswick Development Corporation and is a board member of the New Jersey Resources Corporation, the New Jersey World Trade Council, Commercial Federal Corporation, Admiralty Bancorporation and St. Peter’s University Hospital.

Mr. Zoffinger was awarded a Master’s degree in Finance from New York University in 1971 and was graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelors degree in Business in 1970.


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