An Antioch semiprofessional football team in its first year has been suspended by the Ironman Football League for violating rules involving sponsorship sales, a league official said Tuesday.
League attorney James Kelly of the Chicago law firm Matuszewich, Kelly & McKeever LLP said they are investigating claims made by several businesses in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin against the Antioch Sting.
"The league has been contacted by some vendors claiming that they purchased sponsorships and have not received the benefit of the sponsorship," Kelly said.
Many business owners said Nick Tomlinson, who handled sponsorships for the team, made false promises in the form of advertisements and added benefits.
Tomlinson disputed the sponsors' claims and said he never received money from many of the sponsors. He also said many sponsors were given discounts.
"I have never felt so backstabbed in my life," Tomlinson said. "Did some sponsors not get what they were promised? Yes. But that's on the league; they took the team from us. There was nothing we could do."
Tomlinson said the team played seven games before being suspended. The team's home field was in Kenosha.
Some business owners said Tomlinson provided them with information outlining four types of sponsorship packages in the amounts of $250, $500, $1,500 and $2,500. According to a copy of a former team page on the league website, there were more than 100 total sponsors.
"We got ripped off. We gave them $500 and never saw nor heard of him (Tomlinson)," said Denise Just, owner of CHILL Martini and Wine Bar in Lake Villa and former sponsor. "He came in here saying the guys wanted this to be their team bar, that they would be in (and) be bringing people in (and) having events, and none of that ever came about. Then, after that, we started hearing that he was saying the same thing to other businesses."
Ed Habel, owner of Pub 22 Bar and Grill in Kenosha and a former sponsor, said he was told the same thing and had heard from about a dozen other restaurants that were also under that impression.
"We're resigned in the fact that we won't get our money back, but I think the league should reimburse us because they accepted him (Tomlinson)," Habel said. "They should have some culpability in that ... I think the league should be shut down unless they pay these people back."
Antioch Police Chief Craig Somerville said his department became aware of claims this spring and investigated but took no action. More information has since been submitted, Somerville said, and the investigation was reopened this week.
Antioch police are asking anyone with information to contact them at (847) 395-8585.