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).