Alliance Council statement – call out to MLS

1 November 2017

By Martin Buckley and Stephanie Steiner

As the Alliance Council, representing Alliance Members and fans of Seattle Sounders FC, we recognize and celebrate the diversity of our communities.

Alliance Council and Supporter Groups have worked closely with the Sounders FC throughout the years around the fan experience inside and outside of the stadium.  We gave our strong opinions back in September following a series of incidents. We know that Community is important to all of us, and we continue to have a regular face-to-face engagement to advocate for and represent all fans.

We have seen how Alliance members and fellow fans have not been treated as expected – both at home and last weekend in Vancouver, BC. As fans we have been left frustrated, angry and confused at the vacuum in communication around these serious issues. We encourage all Sounders fans to respect and support each other as a community.

Alliance Council recognize our Club Ownership and Front Office for their continued support – both visible and otherwise. We applaud our Ownership in issuing a jointly signed, though delayed, statement of values: “At a human level, we believe these values to be non-­political. Speaking up for equality is simply the right thing to do.” We believe their statement was originally intended to be stronger, and we believe the dilution and the delay to be caused by MLS decision-makers.

Alliance Council look beyond our Club to Major League Soccer to provide a clear statement of values that recognizes the diversity of the fan base. The silence in this matter is deafening, disappointing and cowardly.  The decision made to eject our fans last Sunday was wrong, and the silence surrounding the decision is wrong.

Soccer is a global platform of inclusion and unity, and even a common language. Soccer is love, passion, and lifelong devotion.  It is these commitments that create the very foundations of Clubs around the world that have existed for more than a century.  Fans first, MLS.  Fans first.

Thanks to Jeff Williams and Roberta King for their content and for reviewing this statement.

Statement from Sounders FC was posted here – http://soundersalliance.org/2017/10/31/statement-from-club/

 

Statement from Club

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC OWNERSHIP
A public statement from Seattle leadership following Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinals first leg in Vancouver

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2017
Contact: Alex Caulfield, 206-­512-­1225

SEATTLE, WASH. – On behalf of its Ownership Group, Seattle Sounders FC today issued the following statement on the heels of Sunday’s first leg of the 2017 MLS Western Conference Semifinals:

“Seattle Sounders FC is aware of the events that occurred within the club’s supporters’ section during the first leg of the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals at  BC Place on Sunday evening, where two travelling supporters were ejected for holding a sign that read: ‘Anti-­fascist, anti-­racist, always Seattle.’ We would like to reassure our fans that both the league and our club believe strongly in inclusion and acceptance. Tolerance and inclusiveness are pillars of our society, and ideals we take seriously as an organization. At a human level, we believe these values to be non-­political. Speaking up for equality is simply the right thing to do.”

/s/ Adrian Hanauer  Joe Roth Paul Allen  Drew Carey

10-31-17 Sounders FC Club Statement

Star Wars – calling it a win

21 September 2017

By Stephanie Steiner

Sounders: You will have a star. Our team earned it, we will all be able to celebrate that championship authentically regardless of our size or gender. You matter. The star matters. We have been heard.

Very recently the Sounders’ Front Office announced on a joint call with MLS and adidas’ committee regarding championship stars, that regardless of the 2017 MLS Cup match outcome, all Sounders jerseys will have access to stars earned. 

Here are the details: 

Since we got involved and began applying pressure in this conversation, MLS and adidas agreed that they could work stars into the production of 2019 kits, but gave us lip service about the “complications,” of anything for 2018.  This came in a letter from MLS’s Chief Legal Counsel that essentially told us to shut up and go away, if they had anything to communicate, they’d do it via the Club. 

I made the request that they put the desires of the fans first, and consider that after-purchase heat application can be a viable solution for any club. We followed up with the Club consistently only to learn that a committee had been formed. There was “no news” for a long time.

On August 20th of this year, the Alliance Council had our summer meeting with owners and leadership, and I inquired about the status of the star situation.  It was reiterated that 2019 kits would be covered: since nothing was manufactured, production could accommodate championship acknowledgement* on authentic and replica jerseys. Next, a new complication: MLS had expanded their investment into retail by vastly multiplying their contracted retail outlets and were worried that if only some stores could heat apply stars and others couldn’t, those stores which couldn’t would return the jerseys they ordered, and this could hamper the relationship they’d just built with these new small stores.  My view: MLS is putting the relationships with stores ahead of the relationship with fans.  I called BS.

I said that the small retailers who’d just partnered with MLS were either capable of heat application or they were not capable, and they were already aware of their capabilities because they either have the equipment to heat apply names and numbers to jerseys, or they don’t have the equipment. So for them to get into business with MLS and reject jerseys over a star is a ludicrous idea.  What was really going on here is that MLS and adidas were fully aware that those small stores know whether or not they can heat apply stars.  What they were counting on is that I wasn’t aware enough to figure that out. It was just another line of crap.

 

Image from YouTube

Based on the lack of supportive developments from MLS, I let the Sounders owners and leadership know that we intended to go forward with our plans to protest (Sounders were/are not the target and I also made sure I was clear to reinforce that).  I was done with MLS and adidas putting more reasons for not honoring fans into a conversation that never should have been necessary to begin with:  they caused the problem, and they continued to cause more problems in our request that they solve the issue they created.  I have zero confidence that they ever approached this from the perspective of “fan first.” They never even included a fan representative on the committee.

Bart Wiley, COO, represents the Sounders on this committee.  He let us know that he’d be on a call with the rest of the group in early September.  Martin Buckley, Vice President of the Alliance Council followed up with him on Tuesday and learned that Bart announced on the committee call that Sounders FC will acquire stars for all 2018 jerseys purchased through our official team stores and our partner stores, regardless of the plans made (or not made) by MLS and adidas.  This is big.

Now: what about everyone else?  We said we were in this for all championship winners, not just us.  We requested and received a commitment from Bart Wiley that our Club will assist any other club that wishes to do the same.  It was our hope that MLS and adidas would step up, but they didn’t: I’m proud of our Club.

At this point, we will not proceed with our plans to protest: we’re calling this a win for fans.  Early this year, Taylor Graham wanted me to explain what our protest plans were. I declined and said instead when this was resolved, I’d buy an adult beverage for him, Bart, Doug Orwiler, each of the owners, and Martin Buckley – and I’d explain the details of the protest they had avoided.  My offer still stands.

We have way too many people to thank individually:

First, we all need to thank Bart and the front office leaders at Seattle Sounders FC who stood up for us fans in this conversation when MLS and adidas shut us out. The Sounders have many reasons to keep a strong relationship with both of those entities and they chose to put fans first. Bart Wiley made the announcement, and I’m sure there were more people involved in the decision.

Next, I want to thank all of the attorneys who said yes to supporting us “ACLU style” when I asked them to buff up on protestors’ rights and be present on the day, in case legal minds were needed to remind cops and stadium security that all was legal.

I send very special and whole-hearted thanks to the other clubs across the league that were willing to join and get their fans on board. Many clubs have won; all clubs have the possibility of earning that star. We were never in this just for ourselves and knowing we had the ability to create a visible protest in multiple cities on behalf of all fans and all clubs is tremendous.

Of course, I thank all of you who met us at Fuel or joined in when I asked for your help on social media: it shows the love and commitment you have for your Club, your Crest, and your Championship. It matters.

Last, but never least:  we all need to thank Martin Buckley for his diligence, thoughtfulness, and (for me!) keeping me out of jail.

*There’s a rumor going around that 2019 championships (and beyond) will be recognized with an emblem other than a star. Because MLS.  As a fan, I think it’s absolute marketing garbage.  As the President of the Alliance Council – this is not our fight.

Photo credit badge for the main image: Jon Tyson

Alliance Council Executive – comments on Sounders FC and CenturyLink Field statement

12 September 2017

By Martin Buckley and Stephanie Steiner

Alliance Council have been working directly with the Sounders FC around the entire fan experience since before the first game of the season.

The multiple changes for entry to CenturyLink Field, the move to clear bags and limits on sizes of purses have presented many challenges. We continue to present our experiences and concerns to the Club – and encourage all fans to report issues as they occur. Please stay in touch with your ticket representatives and provide details of any concerns or issues (time, gate, person’s name if possible).

We are fans too. We enter the stadium through the same gates and experience the same security teams. During the season we have seen a repeated lack of consistency in the application of gate policy. As stewards of the fan experience we have collected this repeatedly and brought it to the Club.

This past weekend many of our fans reported a range of unsatisfactory experiences. Yes we listened, yes we flagged these immediately post game with our Front  Office representatives.

As fans we won’t see the inner workings of the Club. This is similar to an iceberg. We see the ten percent above the waterline.

The joint statement from the Sounders FC and CenturyLink Field is much like this. Weas fans, as Alliance Council – are not privy to the internal conversations and activities of the Club. I can imagine there were meetings across different groups – and these are likely sensitive.

What we do know is that the Club is listening to us all – Alliance Council, Supporter Groups, and every individual fan who provides feedback. We expect our Club to always celebrate and support the diversity of the fans and our broader community.

What we expect from our Club and the stadium at this time is inclusive, welcoming and consistent treatment for every fan. At the gates. Inside the stadium. Every time.

Alliance Constitution Vote – Thank You!

25 July 2017

By Martin Buckley

Last week we closed Alliance wide voting for the ratification or approval of the updated Alliance Constitution.

We are proud and happy to announce that the Constitution was overwhelmingly approved by all who voted. Thank you! This means that that 2017 Constitution and Bylaws now provide the structure and governance for the Alliance and Alliance Council.

Results:

 Individual UsersWeighted vote
YES97%96%
NO3%4%

It is worth a few notes to discuss these results.

Firstly – turnout was relatively low. We expected this. Although we all love Democracy in Sports – Constitution ratification is a decidedly un-glamourous activity. We certainly expect a lot more Alliance engagement for something as significant as a General Manager Vote. The weighted vote is fully covered here – effectively one seat/ticket – one vote.

Secondly – this vote was our dry-run for the General Manager Vote which is due during 2018. We worked closely with the Club on timing, communication, email, in-ground messaging and the voting platform. We learned a lot. We will continue to refine how we (as Alliance Council) communicate with the Alliance as a whole. We found that more of you engaged through Social Media than through the email from the club. In addition we still have work to do around Alliance awareness amongst newer Season Ticket Holders.

Finally – thank you to the team that helped make this vote happen. To the representatives of the Club who worked on communication, voting platform, in-stadium visibility and more. To the Alliance Council members who advocated for this vote with friends, fellow section members and at the Eintracht Frankfurt friendly. Most of all to you. All of the Alliance Members who voted to support this.

Annual Business Meeting 2017 – an update

21 July 2017

By Stephanie Steiner and Martin Buckley

Annual Business Meeting 2017 – an update

To be clear – the Alliance Annual Business Meeting will be held.

It will be after the close of the regular season and is planned to be held in The NINETY.

The event will be live streamed.

We recognize that the Annual Business Meeting is important, yet at the same time it’s also not terribly convenient for many fans. Location, timing, traffic, weather – all conspire against us.

Early this year we began working with the the Club to make the Annual Business Meeting more accessible. That means reaching out to more people, making it easier for the average fan, and yes reduce the expense of a large production. We coordinated with the Club to meet these goals.

To be clear – the Alliance Annual Business Meeting will be held. It will be after the close of the regular season and is planned to be held in The NINETY. The event will be live streamed.

Also as part of these conversations, we closely examined the degree to which people were embracing Sounders’ streamed events. One eye-opening example of the reach of streamed events are S2 games and even the streamed draft for the Zach Scott Testimonial Game.

The NINETY has a limited capacity. Once Front Office, coaching staff, Alliance Council and representatives from Supporter Groups are present, there is even less space for Alliance Members. We plan to hold a lottery for Alliance Members to be at The NINETY for the event.

We then worked with the club on creating something FOR the Alliance as a whole. This resulted in the 13 August 2017 Season Ticket Member Event – for all Alliance Members – a real benefit to you all. Fans, players, behind the scenes – and at a time when we can all enjoy the Seattle summer.

Looking back – the Alliance Annual Business Meeting attracts pretty much the same 700 people. We have gained almost nothing in attendance. When people knew Schmetz would be promoted, we got up to 1200, but we can’t promote him every year. There were huge investments into player interaction, big lures with photo ops – none of these grew awareness. People don’t want to come out on a rainy November night.

We represent all Alliance Members – we have a duty to consider any and all ways to reach out to those that are unable to attend that in-person event. Technology can be the enabler for this.

Our other commitment to you is to review this change. If it does not work – we will change.

As always – thank you for reading and for your support.