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Democracy in Sports Editorials GM Vote

Hi! Are you a season ticket holder? Did you vote?

18 October 2018

By Molly Wagner

“Hi! Are you a season ticket holder? Have you voted?”

Those are the words we said over and over, the questions asked on repeat over the last three matches. “Are you a season ticket holder?” Well, are you? We in Soundersland are presented with an anomaly in the world of pro sports. We can decide if our general manager, our president of soccer can keep his job. We can do this with a vote simply saying, “yes I have faith in your plan” or” no, I don’t like you or what you stand for”. We are spoiled. We are gifted with a front office that actually cares about the bond between the fans and the team. It can be tricky to get them to listen, but they do. More so than we know.

The other day at the home match against Houston, I was one of the people asking random fans “Hey! Are you a season ticket holder?” It was an interesting experience to say the least. We quickly looked for the signs of people who you could tell had been to a match or two. Clear bag? Older scarf? How much Sounders gear? Rain gear?  We got a lot of folks, putting their hand in our face saying “No, we’re not interested.” But we weren’t selling anything. “No, we don’t care.” This one in particular bothered me. It’s a Monday night game, it’s raining, you drove over an hour to get here based on that crest on your coat, and it’s a team that we should be able to beat going into the international break. You’re here; clearly you do care on some level. To hear how our fan base feels alienated based on their location is disturbing. Sounders have always come from far and wide. There are folks who came from a hell of a lot further away who voted. Why? Because it matters. Even on a deeper level we know it matters to us, to the front office, to the entire body of MLS. No, I am not saying that if we keep Garth the entirety of the league will care, but if we vote out our President of Soccer the entire league will wonder as they often do, “What’s going on in Seattle?”

It took me a long time to decide how to use the voice my season tickets gave me. I did my homework, studied speeches Garth has given over his current term, and I have looked at what he done previously with Real Salt Lake. His impact on the first team, the academy system, the game we hold so dear.  Over and over, listening to him speak. When Garth speaks, I suggest you grab a pen and take some notes. You are going to want to focus on every word he says and the tone in which he says it. He tends to speak on a level that is beyond the average fan’s knowledge. The last thing I listened to before I voted was a conversation of his from a podcast. He sounded like he’d been humbled by the whole experience, as if the fan base was able to look him in the eye and say “hey buddy, it’s time you listen to us.” I even went so far back to listen to the Business Meeting at the end of last season, for the fourth or fifth time.

Dissecting what he said, wondering if he has carried out his promises. Have those of us on the alliance council fulfilled our commitments to the fan base and to the season ticket holders; even those that say they don’t care? I used my vote and I am proud of the work I put in to gather my own conclusions of what Garth is attempting to do with this club.

I will take as many rain dampened evenings standing on the concourse getting hands in my face from men and women saying “I don’t care,” “I’m not interested,” or “We don’t want whatever you’re selling.” With a laugh at this and a smile on our faces, we kept asking folks if they would care to vote.  Even as men often stopped and stared at us; a certain creepy feeling sinking into our skin. We kept going and for every single creep, we had at least 5 people that were, in fact, excited about using their voice.

What alarmed me, however, were the season ticket holders that didn’t understand what was going on. This didn’t go unnoticed; how can we make this more visible? When we all walk around with mini computers in our pockets, yet we seem to be confused as to how best utilize this tool, this opportunity. Have we let the fanbase down? Have we let ourselves down? Have we let this process, which our owners have given us and have faith in, fail? This isn’t my first general manager vote, I like many others voted Adrian in. I wanted that one to be a success as much as I do this one. We owe it to ourselves, to take the two minutes out of our day to vote, to use our voice as a whole.

The first day of the vote on September 19, we hosted the Union. My family and I were walking to a bar near the stadium, fairly early before the match. I saw Garth walking out of the stadium and he looked nervous. Anxious. He has, in every conversation I’ve been a part of, looked uneasy; uncertain of what his future may hold. The body language of what he’s not saying is just as important to this as the actual words coming from his mouth. Have you met him? He is a decent human being with his heart in the right place. He didn’t have to come out of his way to make sure he shook my hand that day. Those are the little acts, that proves to me he really does care about this community. If you are willing to listen, really listen to him. He seems to be willing to do the same. It takes a certain level of thick skin to hold a position of such public access and public scrutiny.

If nothing else, do you remember what happened the last time we didn’t use our voices and our rights to vote? Yes, you do.

I’m going to ask one more time. “Hi! Are you a season ticket holder? Have you voted?” Well, have you?

7 replies on “Hi! Are you a season ticket holder? Did you vote?”

In the broadcast for the Orlando game when they were promoting voting the copy and what was on the screen said “Alliance Council members along with suite and half season ticket holders could vote” and never just said “Season ticket holders”. I am guessing the majority or at least a large minority do not know that as a season ticket holder they are in fact an Alliance Council member. Just a little feedback.

Go Sounders!

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Hi Aaron

Thanks for the feedback – we’ll be doing review with the club for the next time the GM Vote rolls around.

There were over a dozen communications to those that did not vote from the club talking about the fact that Season Ticket Holders were eligible to vote – including in ground, pre-game and half-time.

–Martin, Alliance Council President

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Thanks Aaron.

I don’t know how to get people to pay attention to the fact that they’re Alliance Mambers. Their ticket packages call it out, Match Passes call it out, scarves, etc. This has been going on for years. But I think you’re right – people don’t make the connection.

That doesn’t excuse the complete shut down when we attempt to engage in conversation, though. Molly nails it: people are checked out and leaving it to someone else to handle it – and that’s pretty sad considering the opportunity we have here in Seattle. Regardless of what we call ourselves, we’re taking it for granted.

– Stephanie, VP

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Aaron…

This is good feedback. As one of the earlier former members of the Council, I’ll throw in my two cents.

One of the frustrations that we had on the Council back in the early days is that the Club tended to conflate “the Alliance” with just some kind of normal season ticket holder benefit.

The intent of the Alliance varied, depending on who you asked. Drew Carey saw it as being more of an independent organization that would weigh in on the GM’s tenure. The Club’s business officials tended to see it as a perk of being a season ticket holder.

In late 2009 and 2010, the members of the Alliance’s Council got together and took hold of the organization from the Club.

Not in an aggressive way- the Club was happy and willing to let us become more independent- but I don’t know that the clear vision of what it was supposed to be was ever widely agreed upon.

So it’s been a bit of an issue, even to this day, because the Council’s vision and the Club’s vision of what the Alliance is supposed to be (and how we should think of it) are not entirely aligned.

This means we aren’t always clear in communications with everyone.

It’s something that the Club knows is an issue; I talked about it with Adrian last summer and he does want to continue the path of the Club towards Democracy in Sports.

What that is, exactly, is still TBD, but it’s something people do recognize. I know it’s frustrating but Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course!

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I can’t speak for every STH (Alliance Member), but if the GM vote is continued four years from now, and the rules are the same- 70% super-super majority to vote a GM out- then I don’t think I will bother to vote. “Democracy in Sports”- it’s a nice gimmicky title and all, but if it has no meaning, why go through all the effort to do it? If 70% of STH are that upset about a GM’s job performance, my hunch is that he/she will already be long gone by the time any vote is taken. And this season we only mustered 31%- not even a valid vote. That is pathetic.

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Hi Mark,

Two slightly different numbers in there.

First is quorum – the number of votes needed for the entire vote process to be considered representative and valid. That’s set at 40% of Season Ticket Holder seats.

Second is super-majority of votes for an action. That’s set at 67% of the actual votes cast.

The thresholds were intentionally high to ensure that the action of calling for a GM vote of confidence and then the act of removal was considered serious and also that Alliance Members (i.e. Season Ticket Holders) get out and say “yes – this is action we believe in”.

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