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2016 Year in Review


Photo from Cedarpoint.com

Keep Your Arms and Legs inside the Ride at all Times

By Stephanie Steiner

In August I reminded owners and front office decision-makers that our General Manager was eligible for recall vote as soon as the last whistle blew on regular season play. I looked right at Garth Lagerwey and said, “This is not a time for people to tell you they have your back. They need to have your back.” In a year with some Front Office decisions that really made people angry, Alliance Members were ready to make him pay for it. Only four months later, late at night on December tenth, I got to congratulate him and shake his father’s hand (and wipe a few of my own joyful tears). In March 2016, my in-boxes were full of hate mail over the mobile-only ticketing decision the Alliance Council didn’t influence, and in November we watched our boys advance to the Final. We learned quickly that no matter what the conversation is about “rebuilding” or “loyalty,” our fan base has little patience for it. The loyalty is deep with only a few: we have work to do there. In late spring and early summer there was incoming communication with threatening tones, and in November we finally got to drop the word “interim” from Head Coach Brian Schmetzer: at the Annual Business Meeting he shared the love Schmetz-style with all of you.

What a roller coaster of a season.

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2017 Meeting Recaps

Meeting Recap: March 2017

photo by Karl Picard

March 25th, 2017

by Karl Picard

Our meeting was March 7th, and included nearly an hour of conversation with the Sounders’ marketing team. The first half of the meeting was a presentation and Q&A with Vice President of Marketing, Kyle Sheldon. They reviewed the look and feel of the schedule posters and banners for the stadium.  They have put an emphasis on the Rave Green – back to basics for marketing.  One other thing they have prioritized is standardizing things across all elements from banners to graphics and between different channels from web to mobile to different social platforms to provide a better experience to the consumer.  Their focus is on local growth but thinking globally as well.  We reviewed some of the work around the season ticket box and delivery including the Golden ticket promotion.

There will be a few new things, too. They will be deploying signs on game day to help fans experience all the game day events and activities. There is now a printed match day program (also available digitally) with a focus on the storytelling: March has articles on both The Save and Brian Schmetzer.  The last thing we covered was the surprise: getting the giant MLS Cup, the very one from the match in Toronto, for the season.  At the time of the meeting they were still working out the details but as many of you saw it is currently sitting behind section 124.  Darla Langdon and Alex Eagleton are the follow-up team for marketing.

After a quick break, we moved on to a review of Articles including the Honorary Chair secondary reading.  The article was voted on and passed unanimously.  Next up was Article 4 and dealing with when the Annual Business Meeting can be held.  The requested change is to ensure we can review the regular season that has just concluded rather than have it scheduled in the beginning of the season or some other time.  We discussed the verbiage around how we deal with any changes to the MLS schedule.  The discussion went into the ability of the Council to put on the Business Meeting without the help of the Sounders front office.  Final was the updates to Bylaw 7 (Supporter Group) which was discussed with 4 different representatives from Supporter Groups (changes stemmed from the proposed updates to the constitution in October).

We discussed steps to take should Stars for All not receive full support from the league.  Luckily, we got a temporary solution shortly after the last meeting.  We will continue to work for a resolution where all teams going forward will have #StarsForAll.

That’s all from March.  There is also the video recap with Martin and Cameron posted.  Sorry for the delay in getting this version out, life got in the way this month.

 

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Editorials

Seeing Stars

photo from soundersfc.com

January 6, 2017

By Stephanie Steiner

It’s 2017, and we’re Brian Schmetzer’s Rave Green Army. The team are the championest champions ever.  We’ve had some sad moments saying goodbye to some heroes, and we’re still waiting to hear about a few more we love. When I get sad or worried about them, I go watch the celebration videos again and look at them in their proudest moments. It helps a little.

This past Tuesday, we met with Garth Lagerwey who shared with us a tiny bit about what it was like to have some of those meetings on Sunday morning after winning the Cup. You’ve read the article, he called the meetings “brutal.” Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t insinuating that it was worse for him than the others, but you’d have to be inhuman to not be impacted. He was certainly impacted. Dear MLS: There is nothing about this timing that is a good idea. Let the winners be champions for a few days before this happens. Fix it.

Move forward with our love, Champions. Once a Sounder, ALWAYS A SOUNDER.

We’ve been hearing from you – a lot of you. You want to know what will have stars, where to find stars, if we can get a tattoo artist for stars. It’s a little bit overwhelming to try to manage the expectations at this point, but I’m in love with the enthusiasm.  Of course, it wouldn’t be MLS if they didn’t take something that was functioning perfectly well and change it up, so here are the updated rules for all things stars and jerseys:  http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/02/04/here-s-what-s-changing-about-championship-stars-mls-jerseys-year .

Shortly after our win, I was in touch with Taylor and Mikaela about the whole star situation, what to expect, etcetra. Bart Wiley had met with adidas prior to the MLS Cup match to discuss stars and the 2017 jersey. I’m sure Toronto FC had a similar meeting with their representative.  Taylor updated me that Sounders FC were in a persistent conversation with adidas regarding women’s jerseys.  Current rules are that only authentic jerseys receive the stars. When I went forward with this question, Sounders’ FO was already all over it and lobbying for us hard.  By definition, women’s jerseys (and kids) are replica jerseys as there are no women or kids on the team, and none on the team wear women’s or kids’ jerseys. So it’s a sticking point – but I am so proud and honored that our front office wasn’t going to just let this slide. I can’t predict the outcome, and they are so busy that I’m trying not to pester them with things beyond their control.  But I’m really proud that they took this on for us and you should be too.

Some products are ordered and finalized during the regular season – don’t expect to see stars on the clear plastic bags – we can take gold pens to those. Scarves, well I really doubt it since the design contest deadline makes me familiar with the production calendar (I’m sure they were manufactured before our season ended).  There is simply a ton of work which has to be done early in order to have merchandise for all of us at the start of the season. But with the responses I’ve gotten to my inquiry, I’m confident in the efforts our Club has made to get as much merchandise updated as humanly possible.

Happy New Year, Rave Green Army!

Alliance Council has our first official meeting next Tuesday (January 10th) where we’ll elect our Executive Committee for the year.  At the end of January, all candidates’ votes will go to zero and voting will start over for 2017. If you’re considering running, you might want to wait until after that reset date and then nominate yourself at this link.  If you’d like more information about it, shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you quickly.

In only two and a half months, we’ll be welcoming our men back to Century Link as Champions. Dang it, someone is chopping onions in my house again.

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.

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2016 Meeting Recaps

Meeting Recap: October 2016

Roger Levesque giving kids soccer skills at the Rave Foundation’s launch event at Yesler Community Center, last July.  Photo by Stephanie Steiner

October 10th, 2016

by Karl Picard

 The first hour of the October Alliance meeting was a discussion around the Rave Foundation provided by Maya Mendoza-Exstrom – General Counsel for Sounders and Executive Director of Rave Foundation.  The Rave Foundation is the charitable arm of the Sounders FC that was started in 2013 internally but official launched to the public in July 2016.  They are a 501 c3 and a close partner to the for-profit Sounders.  They have been working on community outreach and hosting events for kids and communities to get people playing soccer and getting soccer balls into the hands of young people.

For 2017 they will be focused on the following areas: building urban accessible fields (small soccer fields) in the communities that need access to soccer facilities, and creating a culture where pickup soccer can happen – not just the organized, pay to play soccer opportunities for youth.  One such field that has been already built it at Beverly Park Elementary where they built a mini-pitch.

They have big goals over the next 10 years, 5 community small fields, 2 Seattle community-centric small fields (targeting iconic areas), distribute soccer balls (10,000) to area kids,  and continue supporting pop-up games to encourage free play anywhere.  The Foundation wants to remove barriers to participate in soccer, strengthen the communities, and all the ways soccer helps address challenges in our communities.

Yesler Terrace is the first location for the Rave fields (park around the Yesler Community Center). The field will support full field as well as split field games with goals on both ends and sides of the field.  It’s going to be a unique location in Seattle and model for parks going forward.  Not many places in the immediate area have access to soccer fields plus the right leadership and advocates in the community, therefore making this a great location for the first field.

Next up is bringing the Rave field to Pier 62 at the waterfront. There will be a semi-permanent soccer field that will be similar to the Yesler size.  This is the doorstep to Seattle and contributes to the culture of the city.

The Rave Foundation has given out 292 soccer balls and held 83 popup games to date.  They will be working on fundraising and the next locations for Rave fields by reaching out to communities and their leaders.

The remaining hour was spent finalizing some items around the Constitution and By-Law changes (which likely everyone reading this has seen by now), discussion around the scarf vote (over 4,ooo people placed their vote) and the Annual Business meeting, which is scheduled for 11/2. Executive Committee Member, Martin Buckley created this nifty survey if you don’t want to use SSFC’s or your question is longer than 150 characters.

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2016 Meeting Recaps

Chalk Talk: September 17th, 2016

photo from SoundersFC.com

By Stephanie Steiner

September 20th, 2016

On September 17th, immediately following our victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps, Sounders FC hosted a Chalk Talk with fans to discuss Club direction, challenges, and (surprisingly) took live questions from the audience.  This conversation is the result of the Council’s repeated requests to make Garth Lagerwey, General Manager and President of Soccer, more accessible to our Alliance Members.  We are very pleased that the Club heard us and made this event possible. We sincerely hope this can become something that happens multiple times each year.

I have been getting my backside kicked getting escrow closed (silly me, I thought that was the hard part), and now that I have the keys, I also have a new definition of urgent.  So I simply did not get a write-up of the event done as quickly as I’d hoped.  Today, Dave Clark got a great one posted at Sounder at Heart, and I highly recommend you read it here.

photo by Daniel Roe
Categories
2016 Meeting Recaps

Meeting Recap: September 2016

Photo by Taylor Graham

By Karl Picard

This month was not your typical Alliance Council meeting.  For the first time in my service we had a current player visit the meeting (we get former players like Taylor Graham and Roger Levesque to speak with us occasionally).  Stephanie worked a surprise for us into the agenda – more on that later.

First the business part:  The first was beginning the planning for the end of year business meeting that the Alliance Council helps to run.  Kristina Vaughn has managed this project for the last couple of years. We want to improve attendance and make it more valuable to the fans.  If you have ideas feel free to let us know (ssfcalliance@gmail.com).  For now we are working on timing, location, and overall format.

Next up was the Scarf Designs that will lead to the Scarf Vote. This project has also been Kristina’s for the last couple of years. Design submissions are now open (started on 9/8) and will continue through 9/22.  Be sure to get your ideas in, as you could be part of the Sounders legacy.  The voting from the Alliance will be 9/28 – 10/5 and the official announcement is scheduled from the 10/12 game.  The vote for the scarf will also include the Alliance vote on the changes to the Constitution that the Council has finalized.

Finally, you have a chance to meet your Alliance Council reps and those that are looking to get your votes.  Be sure to come to The NINETY before the game on October 12th.

Now back to the beginning: Stephanie (in August) updated us on some really inappropriate communications that have come to the Council email this season – people insistent about meeting players, harassment, even a threat. We thought the “presentation” in the agenda was a follow up to that bit on when communication got “unexpected,” but the unexpected part was Cristian Roldan coming down the stairs behind her.  She worked with Mikaela Purvis and Taylor on that for a while and kept it a surprise for us for all the work we’ve done on the Constitution.

It was great to talk with Cristian about things soccer related, his teammates, about coming to the Sounders, and playing himself in FIFA.  He took an hour answering questions and asking them as well.  Some of the highlights:

  • He joked that his brother would call himself better, so he needed to say he’s better than his brother (who is currently at the UW) but would love to play along side him for the Sounders.
  • He said hands down Chad Marshall is the funniest player on the team, especially on Thursdays when he puts on Stefan Frei’s clothes. He’s such a big guy he stretches them out and then Stef has to wear baggy clothes afterward.
  • He said Ozzie has been the player he’s learned the most from this season, also mentioned that Friberg was another source of knowledge.
  • When asked about the draft and dropping to the Sounders, he said he was the happiest guy and even noted the fist bump gif online by Lagerwey and Schmid.
  • He said he likes to play himself in FIFA and at forward so he can score goals.
  • About his first goal: he kind of blacked out about it. He thinks that Brad Evans might have celebrated more.  Even though they practice that play, it was the best flick from Brad he’d ever gotten – it was perfect.
  • And for me maybe the most important answer he gave was around advice he’d give to young players: When asked what he’d say to the seven to ten-year-olds out there, he said school was really important, they need to be sure to keep their grades up and focus on school. He said he was barely recruited in high school and was lucky some highlight tapes got in the right hands – but that he wanted kids to know it was his grades that got him into the University of Washington.

It was really a fun night, we got some work items addressed, got to have some great conversation with Roldan, and we are ready for the push to the playoffs.  If you are an Alliance Member (Season Ticket Holder), be sure to vote for Alliance Council members so we can continue to work for you.  ‘Til next time.

Be sure to get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, or the comments section here on the Blog.

 

Categories
Editorials

Seattle Times Chose this AWESOME Picture as the Photo of the Day


By Stephanie Steiner

August 22nd, 2016

It’s not uncommon for Sounders FC fans to lament the lack of media coverage the team receives – but this weekend was amazing.  Sunday morning’s Seattle Times started with an in depth article about (interim) Head Coach Brian Schmetzerinterim is in parentheses because I hate saying it.  Matt Pentz did a great job of covering the man and his deep background and passion for our club.

It was a beautiful thing to see this image make Photo of the Day.  Maybe someday my Sounders will be listed higher than general sports videos on the Times website, but for today, I’ll be happy with progress.

 

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
Editorials

Baggage and Gaggage

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.