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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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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.

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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

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.

 

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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
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.

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”).