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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
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).