photo by Stephanie Steiner
By Stephanie Steiner
May 20, 2016
I had the opportunity to attend a Sounders’ event this week, and I engaged several of the Front Office staff (different levels) in some pretty interesting conversations. I’ve been known to take these casual opportunities to pitch the needs of the Alliance. But this week was particularly interesting, as I learned something pretty damned important: Clear plastic bags (in 2017): are being mandated by CenturyLink Field. Guess what? CenturyLink Field actually tried to mandate them this year to match the Seahawks rules, and Sounders told them to pound sand (probably something more professional than that, but I would have used four-letter words). CenturyLink didn’t give them enough notice, and didn’t give the Club enough time to provide any solutions, so the Club shut it down.
Then MLS put out the bag rules and the Club actually negotiated to not follow those rules here because we have a “really good” (quotes added because you know why) security system with inspections and wanding. CenturyLink Field said something along the line of “Forget it. If MLS has published rules, and SSFC does not follow them, then if anything ever happens no matter what it is, it’ll be 100% on the Sounders.” So Sounders adopted the new rules. Sounders’ verbiage with the announcement regarding 2017 does not specify that CenturyLink Field is mandating the clear bag rule because the powers that be want “to be good business partners with Century Link.”
Sometimes this crap just makes me nutty. Actually, all the time. I know they need to be good business partners – fine. Is it so damned hard to say you have to do something that your fans are going to hate? I wrote Taylor Graham a very nasty email that used the phrase “pain in the ass factor” many times. I don’t understand how the relationship between the Club and CenturyLink Field could possibly be so fragile. The Sounders are the biggest tenant. The Sounders are CenturyLink’s customer, not the other way around.
Yet without these pieces of information, Sounders’ customers are left feeling like we are not important (I certainly did). We end up feeling like this is one more thing to make our matchday more difficult, and most of us who have been active in this conversation were left thinking the FO didn’t care. Well it looks like they went to bat for us in a pretty big way. Why couldn’t they just say so? Isn’t the relationship with their own customers more important? Seriously, if I don’t get those angry comments, I’m not going to be lonely. I bet their customer service agents won’t either. This doesn’t make the bag rule any easier to tolerate, but at least I can direct my contempt at the right target.
Here are a few other topics I was able to slide in:
Matchpass vs. Mobile Tickets – when the Alliance Council first had the conversation, we all thought mobile tickets were going to be optional. No matter the hot button of the day/week, it still does not outrank the number of requests to get Matchpasses back. I asked that they please allow STMs to opt-in for Matchpasses: please create a solution. Well, I can’t say that the solution will be a plastic card, but I do feel like I’ve been heard. I don’t know what’s in the works, but I think something is going on.
Ross Fletcher vs. Keith Costigan – first, the Club is not ever going to make comments on human resource issues. Get used to it. I could get laid off today – and no one from the Front Office gets to show up at my office and demand an answer why. I hate that we don’t have Ross, and I never believed that it wasn’t a dollars and cents decision, and I said so (minute 1:18:30). But aside from that – Adrian asked us to be patient, and asked us to trust the organization. There’s no reason we can’t talk about the broadcast. Well, we’re now in May – is the broadcast better? I hear from people all the time who don’t think so. I don’t think so. While I’m willing to concede that most people don’t pay as much attention and don’t care as much as the people I hear from, then aren’t we at the point in time that we should listen to the people who do care? This one isn’t going away until it’s solved or until we go away. With this, I was able to segue into how they address the really passionate followers:
I talked about the Club’s attitude toward the “small group of passionate fans.” Those of us with deeper than passing knowledge, the avid followers who have been around for a while, the ones who read information and pay attention. I said the Club is terrible at addressing that group of people, and in my opinion they under-estimate the ripple effect of the passion (or its absence). They have access to multiple channels for communication, so they need to start using them. The messages don’t have to be the same on Twitter as they are on Facebook or email. But for crying out loud – start talking directly to that group (us!) because when that group starts to check out, the impact will be felt now and for many years to come. There will come a time when base prices for tickets are double what they are today. I don’t want the Club to struggle to sell them. I don’t want there to be a time when kids’ jerseys don’t sell because people stopped teaching their kids to make this their Club. I said, “You have an Executive Committee that you can access nearly any time, and a whole Alliance Council. Yet it very much feels like any time the organization doesn’t want to hear anything it doesn’t like, it just won’t ask the question – therefore, full steam ahead!”
I feel very strongly if they don’t better consider their fans when they make decisions, many of those fans are going to stop considering the Club when they make theirs. That will be a really expensive problem to solve. Well, this week I learned that some of those mis-steps that I have blamed on the Front Office didn’t come from the FO. I’ll still think it’s stupid that they didn’t just say so the first time.
The terrible photo of Roman Torres has nothing to do with this post. But Roman is running around at practice in boots. Soon, he’ll be running on our pitch. That day will be a very good day.