18 October 2018
By Molly Wagner
“Hi! Are you a season ticket holder? Have you voted?”
Those are the words we said over and over, the questions asked on repeat over the last three matches. “Are you a season ticket holder?” Well, are you? We in Soundersland are presented with an anomaly in the world of pro sports. We can decide if our general manager, our president of soccer can keep his job. We can do this with a vote simply saying, “yes I have faith in your plan” or” no, I don’t like you or what you stand for”. We are spoiled. We are gifted with a front office that actually cares about the bond between the fans and the team. It can be tricky to get them to listen, but they do. More so than we know.
The other day at the home match against Houston, I was one of the people asking random fans “Hey! Are you a season ticket holder?” It was an interesting experience to say the least. We quickly looked for the signs of people who you could tell had been to a match or two. Clear bag? Older scarf? How much Sounders gear? Rain gear? We got a lot of folks, putting their hand in our face saying “No, we’re not interested.” But we weren’t selling anything. “No, we don’t care.” This one in particular bothered me. It’s a Monday night game, it’s raining, you drove over an hour to get here based on that crest on your coat, and it’s a team that we should be able to beat going into the international break. You’re here; clearly you do care on some level. To hear how our fan base feels alienated based on their location is disturbing. Sounders have always come from far and wide. There are folks who came from a hell of a lot further away who voted. Why? Because it matters. Even on a deeper level we know it matters to us, to the front office, to the entire body of MLS. No, I am not saying that if we keep Garth the entirety of the league will care, but if we vote out our President of Soccer the entire league will wonder as they often do, “What’s going on in Seattle?”
It took me a long time to decide how to use the voice my season tickets gave me. I did my homework, studied speeches Garth has given over his current term, and I have looked at what he done previously with Real Salt Lake. His impact on the first team, the academy system, the game we hold so dear. Over and over, listening to him speak. When Garth speaks, I suggest you grab a pen and take some notes. You are going to want to focus on every word he says and the tone in which he says it. He tends to speak on a level that is beyond the average fan’s knowledge. The last thing I listened to before I voted was a conversation of his from a podcast. He sounded like he’d been humbled by the whole experience, as if the fan base was able to look him in the eye and say “hey buddy, it’s time you listen to us.” I even went so far back to listen to the Business Meeting at the end of last season, for the fourth or fifth time.
Dissecting what he said, wondering if he has carried out his promises. Have those of us on the alliance council fulfilled our commitments to the fan base and to the season ticket holders; even those that say they don’t care? I used my vote and I am proud of the work I put in to gather my own conclusions of what Garth is attempting to do with this club.
I will take as many rain dampened evenings standing on the concourse getting hands in my face from men and women saying “I don’t care,” “I’m not interested,” or “We don’t want whatever you’re selling.” With a laugh at this and a smile on our faces, we kept asking folks if they would care to vote. Even as men often stopped and stared at us; a certain creepy feeling sinking into our skin. We kept going and for every single creep, we had at least 5 people that were, in fact, excited about using their voice.
What alarmed me, however, were the season ticket holders that didn’t understand what was going on. This didn’t go unnoticed; how can we make this more visible? When we all walk around with mini computers in our pockets, yet we seem to be confused as to how best utilize this tool, this opportunity. Have we let the fanbase down? Have we let ourselves down? Have we let this process, which our owners have given us and have faith in, fail? This isn’t my first general manager vote, I like many others voted Adrian in. I wanted that one to be a success as much as I do this one. We owe it to ourselves, to take the two minutes out of our day to vote, to use our voice as a whole.
The first day of the vote on September 19, we hosted the Union. My family and I were walking to a bar near the stadium, fairly early before the match. I saw Garth walking out of the stadium and he looked nervous. Anxious. He has, in every conversation I’ve been a part of, looked uneasy; uncertain of what his future may hold. The body language of what he’s not saying is just as important to this as the actual words coming from his mouth. Have you met him? He is a decent human being with his heart in the right place. He didn’t have to come out of his way to make sure he shook my hand that day. Those are the little acts, that proves to me he really does care about this community. If you are willing to listen, really listen to him. He seems to be willing to do the same. It takes a certain level of thick skin to hold a position of such public access and public scrutiny.
If nothing else, do you remember what happened the last time we didn’t use our voices and our rights to vote? Yes, you do.
I’m going to ask one more time. “Hi! Are you a season ticket holder? Have you voted?” Well, have you?
7 June 2018
By Martin Buckley
In late May Alliance Council requested a meeting with Adrian Hanauer and Garth Lagerwey to represent the angst from our fellow Alliance members and to question, listen, learn and be informed.
Our goal was to meet and build our own personal thoughts on where our beloved Sounders were headed – and whether Garth was the right person for the GM role. As an informed Alliance Council – we can then talk to our fellow fans and give as much detail as possible about our personal thoughts. Read the much more emotional and less data loaded recap here.
The data drove the questions that we asked of Adrian and Garth.
- We are used to winning. Does the club believe in winning trophies of all kinds?
- Goals win games. How does the club plan to bring firepower to score goals?
- We hear stories about talent not getting signed or retained. Is there a systemic issue regarding player acquisition?
- 2018 seems like we are cursed with injuries. Why is this?
From my view in the stadium – it’s been a horrible year as a fan. Injuries, losses, Open Cup woes. If you read Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or delve into the comments on Sounder At Heart – one could immerse oneself in the collective grief and misery of the fan base. Anecdotes however, do not make for a productive meeting – so I spent a good amount of time pulling stats from MLS and seeing for myself “how bad it really is”. Was the sky falling?
If you don’t like data – look away now.
A note on the data – I used the raw information from MLS – https://www.mlssoccer.com/stats – and a whole lot of Excel and PowerBI to make some observations. It’s not Opta, it’s not professional, there may be errors. Apologies if you find something. (If Opta want to send me a subscription – I’d be happy).
First off I took the range of 2014 – 2018 for data. 2014 was a standout year – for goals, points and bringing home some silver. The key metrics I captured included: goals, shots on goal, assists, game outcome, role of scorers. Here is the data:
So a few observations as a fan:
- 2014 really was an exceptional year across all metrics.
- 2015-2017 saw a trend of improvement across all metrics.
- Goals scored and shots on goal from forwards decreased – midfield picked up a lot of the slack.
- 2018 – at 11 games into a 34 game schedule – looks pretty grim.
Looking at the top scorers who are forwards for each season (over 8 goals/season):
- 2014: Oba, Clint, Barrett: 39 goals (of 42 from forwards, 64 total)
- 2015: Oba, Clint: 25 goals (of 31 goals from forwards, 44 total)
- 2016: Jordan, Clint: 20 goals (of 20 goals from forwards, 43 total)
- 2017: Clint, Bruin: 23 goals (of 26 goals from forwards, 51 total)
Make your own conclusions about 2014 to 2017. I see a team that is doing “the right thing” – with goals being scored. I am sure there are more nuanced conversations using specific player data per game.
2018 continues to stand out with a lack of goals. I don’t think the data needs calling out – we have supported through this for 11 games.
The final data looked at the cumulative points over the 34 game season.
The bad: a linear trend leaves us with 32 points. Urg.
The good: as we recover from injuries, hopefully make some signings – it gets better.
If we have a final 23 games like the final 23 games of 2017 (regular season, not the playoffs) we close with 51 points. That’s playoffs.
June 7, 2018
By Stephanie Steiner
Council’s role in this meeting is to determine whether or not we have confidence in the plan in place: Does it make sense? Is the General Manager making good choices with the information at hand at the time? Hindsight makes us all brilliant, but that isn’t reality.
While Council President Martin Buckley took the role of Brain(iac), my role in this meeting was more in line with representing the emotions of the fan base: our disappointment, unmet expectations, and what should be done to reach the Alliance Members frustrated by our current situation. Also: when you see the data presentations that Martin brings to the meetings – I’m not going to compete with that. I’d rather lead a naked army across a cracking icy lake. He excels at data and you can read his post here.
We walked through injuries (compared to years past and data from other teams), injury timing, and recovery data. Essentially, and if you’ve been in these conversations with any of us or Adrian or Garth before you know this one already: your best players need to be on the pitch making contributions to the game. Everything boils down to that. Super-short off seasons, especially two years in a row, take their toll on players. One month off and coming right back to training for CONCACAF is brutal: players are not machines. Toronto FC is in a similar situation. There are some who might say ‘well you should have known that and rotated out your players,’ but really? This is me talking now, not them: how much tolerance would we have for a Club that whacks 15 players annually to always have players at 23-26 years of age? We love loving our lads and it takes time to build relationships. Players need time to mature and develop skill sets: and they learn them from established veterans. Locker room dynamic needs to be respected. Bonding among our men is important for all of them to trust each other and be a real team not just a product on the field. So even though I don’t know as much as most of you, I don’t care for this idea. Also: our young lads get hurt too.
We talked at considerable length about our goal scoring average, which led us into a conversation about player acquisitions: There is a plan with multiple layers. When the primary target’s contract is inked, they will announce (pending all of the normal stuff) because they love us and they want us to be happy. The primary target’s identity was not revealed; however, they did say that the current rumor fits the type of player, position, and style that they’d seek. Everything else after that is dependent on that outcome – if that player is a yes: then it’s a different set of players to pursue based on that player coming aboard. If that contract should happen to not go through, then obviously that position still needs to be filled and then other complimentary positions also need to be filled. Garth apologized for texting during the meeting as “we’re working a deal right now.” (Erp, no problemo).
Regarding acquisitions during off-season: it was definitely an objective to bring someone in during January. Negotiations were completed and things fell apart at the very end because: reasons. Council was informed of the reasons at our first update with Garth (March 2018), but we agreed to keep that confidence (GAH! *[email protected]@!!*). This is where the Club drives me nutty. Yes, I know that the Club does not want to ever have the reputation for throwing anyone under the bus. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, because at that time we had Clint, Jordan, Nico, and Will all firepower up front – we didn’t yet know we’d need so much help up top: that’s not the position this person would have filled. Turns out , it’s a huge impact when your firepower isn’t on the pitch together (injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.). If that signing had gone through, money would have been tied up – now, it’s available to pursue what is the remedies for what ails us now.
The lack of storytelling this season is frustrating: Garth and Adrian haven’t told us all what’s up. Council has gotten a little more than the rest of Sounderland – or maybe we got some of it earlier than you all. Their philosophy has been that since they just can’t tell everyone enough, it’s better to be quiet. We disagree with that: don’t break the rules, but we want them to talk about what they can talk about. Also please do it in multiple formats so that the information gets into the community. Garth does a radio show every week. If you’ve listened, you know that teams don’t give up their good players when they’re still in their season. During that time, there are plenty of lousy players available, but not good ones (hence: no replacement for JMo). Sounders: Garth said it on the radio and to the Times. <heavy sigh> Let’s find a way to take that snippet and put out into Sounders’ own social media. As a matter of fact, why aren’t all of Garth’s KJR radio interviews broken out into Q&A and then put into links afterward and out into Sounders’ own social media? This is a super important year with some presently crap circumstances: don’t talk less, talk more. The Sounders have staff and have the ability to hire out: get more stories into multiple formats and put them out into the ether.
I think we might have had an impact here – you deserve more information about what’s going on in a lot of areas: the Academy players are doing amazingly well – let’s learn more about that and celebrate the accomplishments. We have a new High Performance Director, Damien Roden – really, that’s his title. I want to learn about his story and how I can get a cool title like that. Hendy is great on Twitter with his pictures, and a “Where in the World is Hendy” could have been a fun social campaign and bright spot that brought us closer. Of all years, this has year felt like they are distant from us – like they’ve created this monk-like commitment to modesty because of the GM Vote. The impact is that we’re left feeling shut out of things that would have made a big difference, especially in this losing season but any season really. Some of this might get though, but by the time any of the impact can reach you, so will the trade window: so maybe by August we won’t even notice because we’ll be scoring so many goals.
I’ll leave you with this, one more modified Awkward Yeti cartoon. We have many reasons to envision a bright future*:
*pending results of physical examinations and Visa approval, naturally. Bwahahahaha.
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.
| ||Individual Users||Weighted vote
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.
“Democracy in Sports in action”
6 July 2017 – Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Sounders FC Alliance Council today announced an Alliance Wide Vote to ratify an updated Alliance Constitution – demonstrating once again a joint commitment with Seattle Sounders FC to fully embrace Democracy in Sports.
One major addition to the Alliance Constitution sets out the processes and procedures for an Alliance wide Vote of Confidence or a Recall Vote for the Sounders FC General Manager. Seattle Sounders fans have a unique role in US sports in being able to give a Vote of Confidence in their General Manager every four years.
“We are proud that every fan has had a voice through the Alliance since the very beginning of the club,” said Seattle Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer, “The Alliance participation in a general manager vote is unique to the Seattle Sounders and represents Democracy in Sports in action.”
“Getting to this point is a milestone,” said Stephanie Steiner, Alliance Council President, “working with the club over many months to build this framework means that Sounders fans will be able to express their voice for many years ahead.”
Seattle Sounders FC season ticket holders are automatically members of the Alliance and can find more details on this vote at http://ssfcalliancecouncil.com/ratify17
The Seattle Sounders FC Alliance was established in 2008 to deliver on the promise of minority owner Drew Carey to involve fans in the decision-making process of the team. A key tenet of Democracy in Sports is The Alliance giving a voice to fans on matters that impact fan experience. The Alliance Council is the executive and decision making body for The Alliance, members are elected by fans themselves.
Stephanie Steiner – President, Seattle Sounders FC Alliance Council
Martin Buckley – Vice President, Seattle Sounders FC Alliance Council
By Stephanie Steiner
Ch ch changes… I hope you’re old enough to remember and respect David Bowie. If not, search for the great one on your phone.
Yes indeed, we have changed the Constitution of the Seattle Sounders Alliance. Tons of changes in fact – most of them are of no consequence. But some of the additions are important to keep us relevant, so that’s why we did it. <- you can stop reading now, that’s the answer. If you want more detail, keep going.
More? OK, here goes: The first Constitution was ratified in 2011, and written primarily in 2010. That’s a long time ago and it was a ton of work. There’s no way for any of those hard-working people to predict everything necessary in perpetuity. Situations change, and the needs of the Alliance change.
For instance: in 2015, Adrian Hanauer hired a new General Manager: Garth Lagerwey. Our Charter didn’t have language to accommodate a General Manager joining the Club outside of the four-year vote of confidence cycle. Adrian generously invited the Alliance Council to converse and propose language regarding the vote cycle. In this conversation, we also determined that there was no written language for General Manager Recall procedures, only assumptions. Additionally, neither of these events existed in the Constitution; GM Vote was only in the Charter. That alone was a big enough reason to update the Constitution. Second, was the addition of a new article which created the Executive Committee: a body that could act as a steering committee of the Alliance Council.
Since two major pieces needed to be added to the Constitution, we decided to comb through it in its entirety and look for anything and everything that needed to be updated: where was it verbose? Where was it confusing? Where could we make solid improvements for the Alliance? We clarified ambiguous dates, added some parameters, and cleaned up spelling and grammatical errors.
The Constitution is for us: the members of the Seattle Sounders FC Alliance. This was a cumbersome clean-up task, but the hard work is done on the Constitution. In the future, you’ll see a new article here or there every two years or so – you shouldn’t see huge updates like this again. But it is a document that will change again as circumstances change and necessitate adjustments in the future. It is the embodiment of our voices channeled together as one: speaking for the betterment of our Club.
Read more here – vote here.