Matt Leinart’s flag football league avoided paying $50,000 in rental fees for public fields this past spring by registering as a non-profit, an Orange County Register investigation has found, and will do so again next year. The big problem here is that the league is very much for-profit.

It’s a little involved, and you should definitely read the Register story, but here’s how it works: The Matt Leinart Flag Football League saved money on field fees, and gained permits for other fields that aren’t supposed to be provided to for-profit organizations at all, by registering with local government agencies and school districts as a non-profit. The league cited the non-profit Matt Leinart Foundation in its applications, but the Foundation has absolutely zero to do with the flag football league.

Even after [Matt’s brother] Ryan Leinart told the Register that the Huntington Beach-based youth flag football league was not part of the non-profit foundation, Robert Leinart, Ryan and Matt’s father, wrote a letter to the Costa Mesa City Council requesting the league continue to be granted status otherwise only available to non-profit groups under city regulations.

The Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission decided last week to recommend the flag football league be granted a one-year extension. The commission is expected to approve the recommendation Thursday.

Former Costa Mesa (Calif.) Parks and Recreation director Robert Knapp said that he protested the use of the city’s fields by the for-profit league, against city regulations, but felt so much pressure from city officials that he resigned.

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This is legitimate money we’re talking about here. The Register got hold of the contracts the league signed with the city, did the math and determined that “between the two rental agreements, the Leinart league paid $49,648 less in rental fees than it would have if it had been required to pay the regular for-profit rate.”

Ryan Leinart, however, acknowledged that, “The foundation is not running the leagues. We have collaborated with the Matt Leinart Flag Football League to use our non-profit status.”

Even when confronted with the Leinart league’s for-profit status by the Register, city officials approved an extension of the contract for next spring—if it passes today, the Leinart league will again save about $50,000 in fees it ought to be paying.

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This on the heels of Costa Mesa cracking down on the rival Newport-Mesa Friday Night Lights league, which is actually operated by the non-profit Orange County Youth Sports Association.

That $50,000 a year would mean big money to the Matt Leinart Foundation as well:

The foundation had revenues of $334,256 for the fiscal year 2013, according to a May 15 draft of financial filing with the California Attorney General obtained by the Register.

Ryan Leinart is the foundation’s executive director and receives an annual salary of $90,000, according to a review of the foundation’s filings with the IRS for the past four fiscal years. Matt Leinart contributed $25,000 to the foundation during the 2013 fiscal year, the most recent year with available records, and $75,000 in 2012.

The foundation contributed $32,985 to non-profit groups in 2013 and had another $155,629 in expenses for “charitable purposes” – $13,947 in office administrative fees, $2,741 in meals, $54,075 in expenses for a football camp for underprivileged youth, $20,062 in promotions, $46,583 on a bowling fundraiser and another $18,221 on a golfing fundraiser.

Leinart last played in the NFL for the Texans in 2011.

Matt Leinart’s for-profit flag football league has gained access to fields, saved money by registering as a non-profit [OC Register]