Categories
Editorials

Long Conversation with Adrian Hanauer

image from twotartescafe.com

October 27th, 2016

By Stephanie Steiner

I’ve heard from several of you regarding Adrian’s comments in this article that hit the Times last week. Thank you to all of you who care enough to be in touch.  Adrian and I got together for two hours earlier this week. We met at Two Tartes Café in Georgetown near my office.  If you haven’t ever tried it, please do.

Adrian was as he always is: respectful, thoughtful, and polite.  I was as I typically am: talking too much, thinking too fast, and excusing my Grocery Industry Tourette’s Syndrome™.

I know we have many in our base that want to know I beat him up – that he left bruised and limping and – dammit – I let him have it.  That’s not what happened.  He’s a good listener, he regrets his comments hitting the Times – he totally understands why we’re pissed off.  For real.  So what do I have to tell you?  Just that I really don’t think this guy is full of it. There’s something deep in there that we will never know. For one hell of a lot of good reasons, we’ll never know the whole story. Now it’s time for us to move on and butt out. Does that mean we have to love Ross any less?  No, not at all.  But it is probably past the time for all of us to quit our bellyaching and let Ross be done with this crap too.

Do I miss Ross on the broadcast? Yes I do. But I’m going to admit that Matt Johnson has grown on me, and it’s obvious that he loves the Sounders. I’ve always enjoyed having Marcus Hahnemann in there to lighten things up.  I think Taylor Graham has too much to do but he’s damned good on TV, and I see the comments all the time about Steve Zakuani – you all love him.  If Zach Scott, Mr. Sounder himself ever wants to float in on a broadcast in the future, I’d love to see that. So did the broadcast really go down in flames, or was room made for more former M.L.S. players in the broadcast team? Yeah, there’s a former Timber on the broadcast team – there’s actually more than one.  We’ll be okay.

With that conversation completed, we talked about the Annual Business Meeting (next Wednesday, people – get your questions in by Saturday please). We talked about handling the questions – Martin Buckley is triaging all of those, in fact we’re filtering out the ones that have been answered over and over again. I’ll respond to people with a link to last year’s meeting so that they can get the information on their own, but we won’t spend meeting time on those.

He gave me a quick peek at their ten year plan, and the pride was not only evident but contagious.  I told him that I have started a ten year plan to build democracy in sports but haven’t shared anything with anyone.  We started brainstorming and collaborating.  He’s not the enemy – we’re just not always going to agree, and we’re not always going to get to know everything.

There are plenty of you in the Sounders community who think I’m weak. I think you’re wrong – I think I’m different from what you’re used to:  I share very little until negotiations are completed.  Maybe that’s weak, maybe it’s smart, maybe it’s different. It’s possible you’ll be even angrier with me for having a productive meeting with Adrian – I might wake up tomorrow to an inbox full of vitriol – again. If that’s what you need to do, then it says a whole lot more about you than it does about me.  I’d rather build Democracy in Sports with Adrian than by working against Adrian.

Categories
Editorials

Respect and Gratitude


By Stephanie Steiner

July 21, 2016

Years ago, I was in an Alliance Council meeting with Sounders FC front office members and their adidas™ representative at the time (I don’t remember his name).  One of the topics of conversation was disdain for the women’s jerseys.  He talked about how poorly women’s attire sold and listed that as the main reason their company didn’t have a huge interest in investing heavily in women’s jerseys or other attire.  Our response was pretty much along the lines of “Wait, wait, wait! We’re Sounders fans – do you know who you’re talking to? We buy a lot of stuff.” He was really diplomatic, but he never wavered from his message: Sounders women’s jerseys don’t sell either.  We had a limited conversation about why women don’t buy them, and he gracefully gave us the opportunity to engage further.

Earlier this year, after seeing that two MLS clubs had released women’s jerseys which were more representative of what an athlete would wear on the pitch, we re-engaged in this conversation. I posted a blog about it here. Sounders FO personnel and owners were very open to making changes, and I’m not even sure they were ever made aware of more authentic options.

Today, I am proud and honored. I have learned that adidas™ and Sounders FC were able to make changes even this far into the production schedule.  The 2017 offering will include a women’s jersey with a more authentic neckline and cut. Making such a change happen after the jerseys were this far into the production cycle is no small feat, and speaks greatly to the respect that Sounders FC has for us and the concern we brought forward.  Alliance Council can’t fix everything, and there are days when I feel like we’ll never be able to fix enough – but this is one that women have complained about for years.  Some of the clearest explanations came in social media replies as the original blog was forwarded and posted:  “I’m tired of having to buy clothes to wear under my clothes,” and “Show me a team that ever entered the pitch dressed like that.”

Ladies, you’ve been heard.

Categories
2016 Meeting Recaps

Meeting Recap: June 2016

By Thom Kephart and Stephanie Steiner

New business at this meeting was a Supporter Liaison Officer resolution proposed by Paul Cox.  This conversation was tabled until we can discuss at greater length and expect to devote time to this topic in our next meeting. The goal of this proposal aligns with the goal of the Alliance which is to positively influence the game day experience.

We had a heated conversation about our productivity particularly around how we are representing the fan voice and progress within our work groups.  Pretty much everyone on the Council agrees that the Council as a whole is not producing enough for the Alliance; i.e. for you. Half way through the season and the Council is short on representatives who are striving to push for change. We are short on action oriented people. This is where you come in; If you think you can make a good contribution to the Alliance, nominate yourself for Council here.  To learn more about what is entailed, check out this blog and this link.

Sometimes our meetings feel like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, especially with our June meeting being devoted to voting on Constitutional changes presented in May. However, with repeated efforts we are able to move forward toward the greater good.  Why must we do everything twice?  The Constitution requires that every new Article or Bylaw (or every change – called an amendment), must be presented at one meeting and voted upon at the next.  This provides our Council members with the time needed for consideration.  Usually, there is discussion on the topics at each meeting, because people have ideas whenever they have them, not on a convenient schedule.

Our objective is to have the cleanest possible and most relevant version of the Constitution ready for the Alliance to ratify when we host the annual scarf vote.  The most important section is the addition of General Manager Vote and Recall – this section is not in the Constitution that was ratified in 2011.  Solidifying that work could be extremely important in the future and finalizing the Constitution has a big deadline.

If you’d like to read about some of the other things we’re working on, you can check out this blog.

We’d love to hear from you: hit us up on the comments, Facebook or Twitter.  You can also look back at the meeting minutes for past Alliance Council meetings.

 

Categories
2016 Meeting Recaps

Meeting Recap: March 2016

Democracy in Sports photo from The NINETY

photo credit: Karl Picard

By Karl Picard

March 14, 2016

Our last Alliance Council meeting was on 3/1.  We had 15 members attend the meeting and one member that called in.  The meeting started with the AC chatting with Taylor Graham.  The main focus of the discussion was how things went for the Club America match, which was the first home game using the mobile app tickets and other changes.  Overall the feedback from the Council members, based on conversations with fellow fans and season ticket members combined with what we saw on social media, indicated entry and use of the app was pretty smooth.  We did share some isolated issues with Taylor as well.

Security at the Club America game was another matter we discussed, mostly around inconsistencies. This is an area that we are starting to hear more about and are making sure the Front Office is aware of fan concerns.

We also discussed the changes around MatchPass and the fact there are no longer points but rather random drawings or buy it now options for rewards.   They are also using the info gathered from the users of the app and mobile tickets to send targeted emails to Season Ticket Holders (STH). The direct messages were sent prior to the home opener, so you should have seen one prior to  the KC game.  We discussed how there are language options on the Sounders App, including Spanish. Fans who have set their phone to Spanish saw the app in Spanish. Many commented how this was a step in the right direction coming out of the November Annual Business Meeting.

The council spent time discussing app features with Taylor, including the ability to reach your ticket rep during games from the app’s MatchPass Profile page.   The “My Rep” area contains your rep’s email and phone number and even a quick way to add them to your phone contacts.

A question was raised to Taylor about the capping the resale of GA tickets via the Ticket Exchange. He clarified that capping GA resale is not in affect this year but that is being looked into for next year.

A few other items that we’ve made progress towards were around dynamic pricing and the women’s jersey.  The dynamic pricing was discussed and Taylor clarified that this practicehas been in place for a couple seasons now.  Craig Dillon on the Council called out that the ADA tickets seemed to be mis-priced as they were more expensive than those seats around them.  Taylor looked into the issue with the sales team and it has been resolved.  One note, Taylor mentioned that if you are a fan in need they will do all they can to accommodate you.

Stephanie Steiner brought up the subject of our women’s jersey, citing concerns we’ve received over the years regarding the neckline. This  issue got a lot of attention and you should read more about it on the blog.  (We appreciated all the feedback we got via social media around this subject too!!) The Club and adidas™ have heard our concerns and we will keep pushing on this subject to create positive change.

After finishing with Taylor we moved onto the work groups for the year.  The following list captures the areas we are currently focused on but we’ll continue to refine as necessary as the season progresses:

  • GM Recall and Alliance Council Membership Eligibility – finalize the Charter, Bylaws and Constitution so they can be voted upon in 2016.
  • Support Group – clarification on the bylaw and how Support groups are recognized
  • Visibility Group – social media, blog, outreach and charity involvement to ensure the Alliance Council Members know what is happening and that we are positively impacting area charities.
  • Scarf Vote – ensuring the tradition of our Scarf Vote continues for 2017
  • Kit/Jersey – working with the Front Office to ensure fans have a stake in kit designs
  • Annual Meeting – end of year business review operations
  • Seating Expectations – addressing the sit vs. stand concerns voiced by STMs with the FO and Stadium Operations
  • Women’s Attire/Jersey – working with the Kit/Jersey team, but focused on ensuring there are more options for female fans.
  • STM giveaway – explore options to provide to season ticket members including the traditional scarf vs other items

If any of the above areas are of interest to you or you feel like you have something you want to address as part of fan and game day experiences, we encourage you to run for council. The voting and nomination site is up for the Alliance Council; the more people we have the more change we can impact.

That’s all for March.  Continue to provide feedback via Twitter, Facebook or comments on this blog (scroll down to “leave a reply”).

Categories
2015 Annual Business Meeting Meeting Recaps

Meeting Recap: End of Year Business Meeting

Photo from soundersfc.com

November 17, 2015

By Karl Picard

I have attended a couple of these events in the past; last year I came with my 4-year-old so it was totally different.  This year was my first year as an Alliance Council member and it was quite different.  I found myself way more interested in what the owners and staff were saying about our team and the future. Maybe it was because I was running the Twitter feed for the Alliance Council, but I think it was because I got a glimpse over the season of how things run. As a fan I cared less about that, just give me wins and trophies, but now it’s about respect for the fan base as well as the Alliance Council and what it stands for. And maybe more, there is a lot the team represents besides just the product on the field, as Roger Levesque would gladly fill you in on. As you heard, if you were there or have watched the edited video, there are families, community outreach, and running a business that is independent from the Seahawks.

My evening began around 4:30 with an early arrival to set up a table for council candidates and help out where I could. Then it was on to the pre-meeting the Council members had with the owners and senior staff.  I found this to be one of the best things I’ve gotten to participate in since getting elected.  We had a direct line to over 20 folks on the Sounders staff.  We talked about several issues that have been pointed out to the council by the Alliance, including delegating season tickets for voting purposes, customer service of ticket reps, changes that the club has gone through as part of the split from the Seahawks, to MatchPass and a few thank yous from each side.  The main theme was how can we all help each other make the fan experience better.  Based on some of the ideas for the coming season I am optimistic it will get better.

Then it was upstairs for the main event.  I sat maybe 15 rows back to get a good view of the stage and allow me to take some pictures.  I spent a decent amount of time tweeting or monitoring Twitter to help those who were on stage as I could.  Joe Roth definitely got things going with his comments (which if you missed them, just look back on social media or anyone who covers the Sounders) for which I immediately thought that will have an apology the next day, and it did.  As I was following Twitter, I got a really good idea on the backlash the comments would bring. After that was some big news on Adrian becoming the majority owner. He talked about doing right by the club. Next up was Bart talking about the business. The biggest thing I took from this was new turf is coming, which and while that won’t stop the conversation around grass, maybe it will result in fewer questions on that topic around that area (we got a lot).    About that time MatchPass came up and the club presented an instant delight reward, and Craig (who was right next to me) won a signed jersey delivered by our captain Brad Evans. I thought that was pretty cool and wish there were a few more of those throughout the night.

Then it was our time to shine, Stephanie covered what Council did this year. While I was sitting there I was thinking, does this crowd appreciate it? Based on the applause, while not the same that turf or some of the player mentions got, it was a little satisfying. Twitter comments also helped validate our efforts. While, as Stephanie said, they weren’t sexy, and I may not fully agree with all of them, it was something myself and 20 other folks changed over the year. Cameron hopped up on the stage for his first appearance. He got the short end of the stick covering the details of the GM Vote & Recall. This part got edited out of the video of the night that the Sounders posted, but really was a big part of our year-long efforts. It laid the ground work for the Alliance to make a difference should they feel the team was headed the wrong way. In my opinion, it put some teeth (like baby teeth, but better than none) into the democracy in sports idea that Drew Carey set forth as soon as he became part of the organization. This is why making sure Alliance Members (season ticket holders) get a vote for every seat they own is important and we’ll be working with the club to ensure that happens over the next year, as was discussed earlier in the night. After that, Paul Cox talked about S2 and the Community Trust. I heard less of this as I was dealing with some of the questions that had come in via Twitter and was discussing some of them with Jerry (sorry Paul and S2 folks).

Garth got up next and talked about the team. This was probably what most folks were there for. He made it clear that Sigi would be back for another season. Most people cheered, there was even a Sigi Sigi Sigi chant. But I heard a few sighs and Twitter didn’t seem as excited.  Me personally, I don’t think there is a better alternative, but I also don’t think he has a long leash without a better playoff performance next season. I think the most important thing Garth said was around player development and the academy system. Getting young kids in, building them into the community and club to make them role players will be how this team has the depth in the future to survive injuries and suspensions like we had this season (and in most seasons based on the data Garth presented).

Then it was on to questions. I had seen most of these either prior to the meeting or on Twitter. I was excited to hear about Copa America possibly coming to the Clink and the next day MLS reported that Seattle looks to have made the cut). I appreciate the club takes questions from the Alliance. Most of the answers from the club are predictable as they are mentioned in blogs, tweets, Facebook, or on the official Sounders website in some format already. I’d love to have a way for the Alliance to see all of the questions submitted, because as Stephanie pointed out that night, folks want the club to spend money, but at the same time, keep ticket and concession prices down. Now, I am by no way rolling in money, but I understand that it is a business and they try to balance as best they can (most of the time).

If you missed it, be sure to catch the video online; as mentioned, it is edited but covers a good portion of the meeting. This is my last recap of the year. Our next meeting will be in February 2016.  That doesn’t mean council won’t be working on stuff. The front office has asked us to help them with some things for next year and I know people will be helping as they can.  If you haven’t, be sure to vote someone for Alliance Council, the more people we have on it the more we can do and the more we can influence.

Happy Holidays and can’t wait to see our Sounders play Club America in the CCL in late February.

Categories
2015 Annual Business Meeting Editorials

Sounders Edit GM Vote & Recall Out of Alliance’s Annual Business Meeting Recap


Photo from soundersfc.com

by Stephanie Steiner

November 14, 2015

Maybe someday the Sounders’ Front Office staff will learn to avoid stepping in it. But for now, that crap they’re tracking across the carpet stinks.

“Follow the Live Tweets of the Alliance’s Annual Business Meeting” and then they don’t bother to tweet a damned thing the Council presented – especially General Manager Vote and Recall – the reason the Alliance exists.

Video recap of the Annual Business meeting held Thursday, November 12th, 2015: click here .  They left my Council update in, how generous of them. Cameron’s General Manager Vote and Recall presentation was edited out, as were my answers to questions (granted those weren’t terribly exciting – but they were inclusive and supportive of the Front Office).

Disappointing isn’t strong enough of a word. I thought we’d come much further than this in creating partnership.  If the General Manager portion suddenly gets posted as a separate video, I’ll post it, but that would be a huge surprise (and likely a result of this post, and not planned ahead).  Below is the comment I posted on their Live Tweet thread:

I have already submitted my answers to my portion of the questions that the Alliance sent to us.  I sure wish I could have a do-over.  Does the Alliance need to step up to make this work?  You bet. But guess what, Front Office?  After you.

Categories
Democracy in Sports Editorials GM Vote

Seattle Sounders Alliance Council and Seattle Sounders Football Club Agree to New Terms for General Manager Vote and Recall

General Manager Vote and Recall

As referenced in the Charter, with regard to the General Powers delegated to the Alliance, Number 1:

The right to decide on the retention of the Club’s General Manager via an Alliance-wide vote as scheduled by the Club, but not sooner than every four years.

Objectives: The Alliance Council endeavors to honor the above statement as best serves the interests of the Alliance members, the fan base at large, the growth of the sport, and the Club.  The Club retains all authority to recruit, hire and terminate a GM.  The Alliance Council recognizes and agrees that it is in our mutual interest to attract and retain the best management in order to be the best Club.  In all instances, the Club and Alliance shall work together in good faith to (a) effectively and timely communicate all information pertaining to the GM voting and recall process to all Alliance Members, and (b) to maximize the number of votes cast in all Alliance voting processes on the subject of the GM.

Definitions:  For purposes of the GM Vote and GM Recall Vote process the “General Manager” or “GM” of the Club shall mean:  that individual who is an employee of the Club whom is identified and recognized by Major League Soccer, LLC as the senior most soccer decision maker, whom is designated to represent the Club at all league wide competition related committees and meetings.  Should a vote for recall succeed, this individual shall as soon as possible, be removed from representing the Club in this capacity and MLS committee and MLS regular meetings.  Additionally the term “Voting Members” shall have the meaning ascribed to it by the then current Alliance Council Bylaws, as may from time to time be amended.

 

GM VOTE: The GM Vote will take place every four seasons after the hiring of a new Sounders FC General Manager, subject to the provision contained herein.

a) For purposes of calculating the time period triggering a GM Vote, the following rule shall apply: If a GM does not start their tenure in the off- season, July 1st will be used as the line of delineation for whether that year counts as a season or not. (If a GM is hired prior to July 1, then the ensuing GM Vote will be scheduled 4 years after, including the season in which he/she starts. If hired on after July 1st, then the GM vote will be scheduled 4 years after the start of the ensuing MLS season.)

b) When eligible, a GM Vote will include a voting window which shall be opened on the first day of the last month of the then current MLS season and remain open for a period of not less than four (4) weeks.

c) The Club shall support the GM Vote with the following:

I.  That GM Vote shall be administered electronically through the Club’s voting software and Club shall keep and record all votes. Alliance Council shall formulate the text of the GM Vote, with advice from Club, if requested.

II. The Club and Alliance Council shall mutually agree on the location and opportunity for votes to be cast.

III. The Club and Alliance Council shall mutually agree on the joint communication sent to all Alliance Members, and Club shall in its ordinary and customary manner send no less than three (3) emails to the Alliance Member email distribution list communicating the (i) purpose and scope of the GM Vote process; (ii) the methods of voting, including a ‘click through’ button to the voting platform; (iii) time window of voting; and (iv) procedures taken after the voting window is closed.

d) At least forty percent (40%) of all Alliance Members must cast votes in order for then GM Vote to be valid.

e) Action in the Alliance GM Vote can only be taken by a super majority of not less than sixty-seven percent (67%).

f) In the event that the GM Vote results in a vote of no-confidence in the GM, the then-current GM shall be removed in accordance with the definition of GM above.

GM RECALL: The GM may be subject to Recall provided that at least two (2) full MLS seasons in their entirety have passed under his/her tenure.  A full MLS season shall include any regular season in which the GM is hired before July 1st of the then current year.

a) When eligible, a GM Recall Vote may take place at any point during the MLS Regular Season.

b) The following procedure shall be used to initiate a GM Recall Vote:

  • Step 1: Any member of the Alliance may ask the Alliance Council to add the agenda item to certify a bonafide question of competence of the GM at any time. All Alliance Council members will act in good faith to bring a bonafide question of competence of the GM to the next, regularly scheduled Alliance Council meeting.
  • Step 2: When brought forward, the Alliance Council must reach an agreement that the bonafide question of competence of the GM is valid and in the best interest of the SFC Alliance, Alliance Council and the Club to move forward (“Qualification”).  The Alliance Council will not determine the merits of the bonafide question of competence of the GM; instead is tasked with evaluating of whether the claim is valid and setting it as the first item on the Agenda for the next regularly scheduled meeting.
  • Step 3: If the bonafide question of competence is Qualified, then a Member of the Executive Committee of the Alliance Council will, within two (2) business days, serve an official notice (“Notice”) on the Club to include the following information: (a) the full nature and scope of the bonafide question of competence, which shall include at minimum a concise statement as to the reason for the question of competence, including any specific rationale that formed the basis for the Qualification, or other details that in the exclusive discretion of the Alliance Council, are relevant or necessary to provide the Club in order to reasonably prepare ownership to address the issue; and (b) the date of the next regularly scheduled meeting, upon which the discussion, debate and decision will take place; the Notice shall serve as an invitation to the Club to send ownership or another designee to present a case of retention or otherwise to the Alliance Council.  The ownership will be provided no less than sixty (60) minutes on the agenda at the next meeting to present the position of ownership and the Club.   Notice will be served on Club’s General Counsel and Club’s Alliance Council Liaison.  At the conclusion of discussion and Ownership presentation, the
  • Alliance Council shall vote on whether to proceed to the Alliance Members for Certification, with the following percentages necessary to so proceed:
  •      0-34 Voting Members on Council: 80% must vote, 67% of the votes cast must be in favor of recall
  •      35-50 Voting Members on Council:  75% must vote, 67% of the votes cast must be in favor of recall
  •      51 or greater Voting Members on Council: 70% must vote, 67% of the votes cast must be in favor of recall
  •      Failure to Progress: If the vote fails to progress at Step 1 (Alliance Council votes against recall), a vote to recall          cannot be proposed to Council again for a vote for a minimum of ninety days after the date of the Alliance Council      vote to Recall.
  • Step 4: 20% of all Sounders FC Alliance Members must agree that a GM Recall Vote is necessary to proceed (“Certification”). Certification shall be conducted through an online voting process which shall remain open until the twenty percent (20%) threshold is reached or for 4 weeks.
    • Club Liaison will provide SFC Council with weekly totals related to the Certification (numbers only, not who voted or how they voted but how many voted and cumulative results of the vote).
    • Failure to Progress: If the vote fails to progress at Step 2 (Alliance votes against recall, or not enough votes are cast in favor of a recall within the four weeks), a vote to recall cannot be proposed to Council again for a vote for a minimum of 180 days after the date of the Alliance Council vote to Recall.

c) When Certified, a GM Recall Vote will include a voting window which shall remain open for a period of not less than four (4) weeks.

d) The Club shall support the GM Recall Vote with the following:

I. That GM Vote shall be administered electronically through the Club’s voting software and Club shall keep and record all votes. Alliance Council shall formulate the text of the GM Vote, with advice from Club, if requested.

II. Club will send, in its usual and customary manner three (3) email blasts to all Alliance email accounts which shall include notice of the GM Recall Vote and (i) the purpose and scope of the GM Recall Vote process; (ii) the methods of voting, including a ‘click through’ button to the voting platform; (iii) time window of voting; and (iv) procedures taken after the voting window is closed. One (1) email will be sent when the voting period opens.  One (1) email will be sent when the voting period has seven (7) days remaining.  One (1) email will be sent when the voting period has twenty-four (24) hours remaining.

e) The Club will, in its exclusive discretion and control prepare a press release in its usual and customary manner identifying the GM Recall process.  All content will be controlled by Club, however, where possible, input and/or quotations from Alliance Council will be included.

f)    At least forty percent (40%) of all Alliance Members must cast votes in order for then GM Recall Vote to be valid.

g)   Action in the Alliance GM Recall Vote can only be taken by a super majority of not less than sixty-seven percent (67%).

h)   In the event that the GM Recall Vote results in a vote of recall of the GM, the then-current GM shall be removed in accordance from all activities pursuant to the definition of GM above.

   I. Restriction on Multiple Recalls: Failure to recall: If the vote fails to progress at Step 3 (Alliance votes against recall, or not enough votes are cast in favor of a recall within the four weeks), a vote to recall cannot be proposed to Council again for a vote for a minimum of 180 days after the date of the Alliance Council vote to Recall.

   II. Weighted Vote: GM Vote + GM Recall Vote will be a weighted vote, meaning an Alliance Member with four seats will have four votes attached their account. If this account has not designated, then all undesignated seats will have votes cast in the same direction as the primary.

Categories
Editorials

So You Really Want to Recall Garth Lagerwey? (No. No, I certainly don’t.)

By Stephanie Steiner

September 24, 2015

In a meeting with Adrian Hanauer in February of this year, when discussing the very first vote he was asked “what were those results – ninety-four percent ‘confident?’” to which he replied with genuine sheepishness, “I think they were ninety-seven…”  This man has set a very high bar.

That meeting in February between the Alliance Council and Adrian Hanauer was held to meet our new General Manager and President of Soccer, Garth Lagerwey, and to initiate the conversation of the General Manager Vote in general.  When our Charter was written, the authors didn’t anticipate the need to change the person in this role between voting cycles.  The Alliance Council was invited to weigh-in on the topic and propose a solution for voting now and going forward that would accommodate a new General Manager.  For instance, an important question that needed to be answered was: should the new General Manager get a minimum number of years before facing a vote?

We’ve also had the ability to recall the General Manager sort of.  I say “sort of” because the notion of a recall was always understood to be available but never written down. No process had ever been mapped out and agreed upon.  Discovering it was missing was a lot like reaching into the spare tire compartment and finding it empty – in this case, we were lucky to determine it was missing before we needed it.

The task of determining what the GM Vote and Recall process should be was not an emergency, but certainly we felt some sense of urgency to get the process completed during this season – Season Ticket Members could be expecting a vote next year and they should have an explanation of a new procedure if there was to be one.  Then our season got underway, and by the time we had a workgroup tasked with working on all of this, it was March. Throughout the spring, we polled fans via social media whether they thought the General Manager should have a minimum amount of time from their start, or if a General Manager vote should be every four years.  Responders were overwhelmingly in favor of giving a General Manager enough time to make a difference.  By late May, we had agreed upon our GM Vote language with the Club representatives, and had the GM Recall language still ahead of us to negotiate.

Then the June USOC match happened and our July performance was worse.  Early August made us think that July was forty days long.  There were a lot of hashtags in social media with the word “out” attached.  I showed my own Italian temper and German stubbornness in social media with a fan who refused to accept the facts in chronological order.

Losing isn’t supposed to make us nasty.  It should make us committed to righting the ship, and that’s exactly why having our General Manager Vote and Recall process finalized is so important. But for crying out loud –we need to give Garth Lagerwey the opportunity right this ship himself.  I can’t speak for every decision our owners and General Manager will make, nor do I understand everything a General Manager faces.  Any General Manager will make tough decisions, and in Seattle, a General Manager will answer for them.  Had I met Garth Lagerwey in other circumstances – if he’d been an Alliance member instead of our General Manager – I would have recruited him for Alliance Council.  Seriously, I would have been that pain-in-the-backside who bought him beers and nagged him to nominate himself (with my tablet ready for him to say “yes”).  You think I’m nuts? Well I might be for many reasons, but I’d love more legal minds on council, and soccer management experience as well? Yes, please.

I am not kept up at night worrying about our owners, but some might be.  I don’t know what’s in owners’ heads nor pretend to be included in their strategy.  I am comfortable saying that Adrian Hanauer has a strong sense of doing what is right, and Joe Roth wants to win (he isn’t a guy to waffle).  Their job is to build and enhance the Club, including their own prosperity along the way – let’s face it, this isn’t supposed to be their donation to Seattle.  My job is to build and enhance Democracy in Sports – or specifically, Democracy within the Sounders – in perpetuity and specifically for the Alliance.  Luckily for all of us, these jobs are not mutually exclusive and we respect this in each other.  The Season Ticket Members of the Sounders FC are lucky to have owners who believe in the Alliance, in fact, they created it.  The ability to vote out the General Manager was the contribution of Drew Carey as a condition of joining the ownership group.  Without his commitment, there would be no GM Vote, no recall option, and no Alliance.

Now here we are, several months after that February conversation with a lot accomplished.  Garth Lagerwey has gotten us players who are making a considerable difference, and our big time players are getting healthy.  The Cascadia Cup has made its way back to Seattle and our standings in both the Western Conference and the race for the Supporters’ Shield look tremendously different than they did only a month ago. Everything feels better. Five weeks is a lot in soccer-time, and that is a concept that we’d remind ourselves of often as the Alliance Council took on the task of updating our GM Vote and Recall processes.  Throughout this year, Cameron Collins and I have been in negotiations with Taylor Graham and Maya Mendoza-Exstrom regarding these very processes.  After there is agreement all-around, it will all have to be translated into legalese, built into the Charter, and then into our Constitution and Bylaws.  I’m so glad I’m not one of the lawyers, and very grateful for their contributions.

So blah blah, why does it really matter then?  Because, damn it: by creating a GM Vote and Recall policy that is workable and has “teeth” to it, we support the Sounders’ legacy – correction – our Sounders legacy.  It’s not just about the threat of a recall or vote of no-confidence.  It’s our stake in the matter at hand.  It’s our stewardship of our Club, and it’s an assurance that we will have the best General Manager in the MLS. Our continued involvement drives loyalty.  It’s that loyalty that keeps us chanting long after a loss and the referees have been escorted out by police.  And our kids? By God they are Sounders.  Not just ‘til they die, but from their first breath.  This is a tie that needs to be strengthened, always.  This is what makes us unique, makes us strong, and makes us successful.  We get to have a say – I know, I wrote half of the agreement that grants it. This is not our just our entertainment.  This is our Club.

This may not finish up as our easiest season: it’s been full of moments we refer to as “not our best,” but also full of moments which should be our considered among them.  I’m proud of our Club, proud of our owners, and honored by their commitment to Democracy in Sports and the Alliance.  I hope you are too.  When all of the “legalese” is completed and handshakes are behind us, I’ll going to put my feet up, raise a glass, and watch Oba’s Goal of the Week (again).

Categories
Democracy in Sports Editorials

Democracy in Sports: the Meaning Behind the Words

May 3, 2015

By Stephanie Steiner, Alliance Council President

In February of this year, Alliance Council was invited to SSFC headquarters to meet with Adrian Hanauer and to be introduced to our new General Manager and President of Soccer, Garth Lagerwey for the first time.  During the evening’s conversation, Mr. Hanauer introduced the topic of the General Manager Vote and asked us to collect our thoughts and make a recommendation on the right thing to do regarding the timing of the vote.  In reading the Charter, we realized the ambiguity of the language included there.  So here we are, only two and a half years following Adrian Hanauer’s landslide vote of “confidence,” facing questions we weren’t expecting so soon, if at all:  Is it the right thing to do for the Club to hold a GM Vote every four years on a set schedule no matter what?  Could it interfere with the Club’s ability to hire the best General Manager possible, if the candidate would be facing a vote within a very short time of accepting the position? If the candidate is the best and confident in their abilities, would that scheduled vote even matter to the person? What is the Alliance actually expecting or wanting?

At the March Council meeting three weeks later, we created a work group to take on the task of debating the conversation surrounding the GM Vote topic, collecting ideas and opinions, and we took those to the general council meeting in April.  After that conversation, the ideas grew and the extended list was shared with our SSFC Liaison, Taylor Graham at the end of April – and the ideas grew even further.  It is easy to see how each time we add a different perspective to the conversation, new ideas emerge as to how to solve the same challenges and our opportunities to satisfy our Alliance members get better and far more interesting.

Our challenge has been to get to the Alliance at large.  In the coming weeks, you will see these questions in social media.  Please take the time to answer them in the comment sections of that media format, or send us a direct message:  SSFCAlliance@gmail.com

Democracy in Sports:  What does it mean to you?

  • What would “Democracy in Sports” need to provide such that the Season Ticket Members could influence the direction of the Club?
  • In a perfect world, what does “Democracy in Sports” mean to you?  How would it function?
  • With regard to General Manger Vote of Confidence – No Confidence, do you believe a new General Manager should have a minimum amount of time to prove him/herself in the position before facing a vote?  If so, how much?
  • In the context of “Democracy in Sports,” what can be done to make this your Club and not just a product you are consuming?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  Go Sounders!