Meeting Recap: April 5th, 2016

photo credit: unknown

By Eric Flatness

Tuesday, April 5 was the third meeting of the year for the full Alliance Council, joined by Taylor Graham as well as Kyle Sheldon (VP of Marketing) and Al Raitt (Gameday Presentation). The club staff at hand garnered much interest right away as Council members peppered the pair with questions about potential and insipient stadium changes, gameday signage and the logistics of showing video replay of controversial plays and decisions.

This meeting came in the immediate wake of the previous weekend’s home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, a match that featured two… let’s say “interesting”… penalty kicks for the away team. Raitt was able to clarify the policies that govern what replays are shown on the in-stadium video boards. The league itself has certain guidelines on what can and cannot be shown, and disputed plays are treated gingerly (likely with the intention of avoiding inciting the crowd.) It was brought up that many fans can now watch the plays via their mobile phones (using in-stadium wi-fi no less) and that gifs via Twitter and other social media can make the situation even worse. We were told concerns would be passed on to the league.

Raitt and Sheldon both addressed a noticeable change occurring at the stadium: the inclusion of the wrap-around video boards on the edge of the upper deck. The boards should be fully functional in May, and will include new gameday features as well as old ones (scoreboard) and likely some new advertising opportunities.

Most members of the council were pleasantly surprised with the increased speed getting through security lines since the first match, though it was noted that consistency was still an issue for wanders. Some had heard examples of people being asked to unzip jackets and take off hats while others had not been asked to do so. One problem that no one had was with the mobile ticketing-the new tickets seem to work exactly as intended.

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.

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”).

Meeting Recap: February 2016

Tweet credited to Likkit Pocinwong

By Stephanie Steiner

February 20th, 2016

This was the first meeting with our new attendance bylaw in effect – four people called in.

We started our meeting with a presentation from Taylor Graham, Mikaela Purvis, and Megan West to cover mobile ticketing, Matchpass rewards, the new mobile app, account representative restructure, and voting.  The news:

  • Sounders invested heavily and built their own app.
  • Matchpasses for entry and pre-printed tickets were going away – entry was mobile only.
  • Matchpass points were going away. For a loyalty program they never really worked, and were a cause for constant frustration.  Charitable support was more aligned with the brand and with the priorities of Sounders Season Ticket Members.
  • Voting: delayed. All efforts being focused on start of the season. Once everything was ready, Primary Account Holders would be able to designate voters from within the app itself. As of this writing, it appears as though voting is still not yet turned on. Primary Account Holders will be able to vote now and start designating voters as soon as it is. The FO is concentrating their efforts on making sure mobile entry works to get people through the gates before they take on anything else.
  • Mobile App: heavy investment into communication with STMs and entertainment options.
  • Account Managers: restructured and reassigned by “neighborhoods” within the stadium. Since they’ll know which seats are vacant on matchday, they can go sit within their sections and be available.  Neighborhood parties being planned.
  • Buy It Now option within MatchPass to generate funds for charity, 1/3 of those funds directed by the Alliance Council to a cause.
  • Mikaela Purvis, Megan West, and Taylor Graham will partner as liaisons to the Alliance Council going forward.

It’s important to note that although several Alliance Council members had been beta testing the app for a little over a week by this point, this is the first we’d heard of ticketing being moved to mobile only.  The November meeting with owners included conversations about mobile ticketing, but not from any perspective of “only.”

After they left, we approved our minutes from the November 2015 meeting and then went around the room and briefly highlighted for each other why we nominated ourselves for the the Alliance Council.  We held our annual elections:

President: Stephanie Steiner (unopposed)

Vice President: Kristina Vaughn (unopposed)

Secretary: Cameron Collins (unopposed)

All three of the above are on the Executive Committee – President and Vice President are automatic.  Also elected to the Executive Committee were Martin Buckley and Daniel Roe.

We then moved into a conversation about our workgroups, we changed the names of some and added a few more.  I left one off inadvertently (women’s attire), but since it’s already been created we don’t need to vote it into existence – it already exists, we just need someone to lead it.

We have far more workgroups than our twenty-three members will be able to manage, we will have to prioritize them as the season goes. Our groups are:

GM Vote – write our language into Charter and Constitution

Member Eligibility – Do we want to charge people to join the Alliance? Is $125 too much or too little? What about S2 season ticket holders?  Partial Seasons?

Supporter Group recognition

Alliance Council Visibility – blog, social media, Pre-match table: all included here

Community Outreach – also included here is charity partnership

Scarf Vote

MatchPass – program has been entirely restructured, not sure what will be needed here

Kit (we are done with jock tag thru 2017, next chance to be involved is 2018)

Annual Meeting Questions – does this need to be a workgroup or just take volunteers at the time?

End of Year Meeting – already have a full team here

Season Ticket Holder Giveaways – scarf or?

Presentations from the FO – doesn’t need to be a workgroup, can just work with Stephanie to get onto the agenda when the agenda can accommodate the time

Constitution & Bylaws – rewrites, what language and concepts should change – get out to Alliance for a vote in ’16

Budget – build awareness of the Alliance Council, members stop spending own money

Seating Expectations – will discuss all issues related to seating in stadium.

Women’s Attire – Sounders attire still not right for women fans

Our last conversation of the meeting was about Season Ticket Members’ request for greater transparency, specifically the request that we publish our votes by member. The greatest complaint was about the number of people who have abstained. In the end, we have decided not to publish the votes.  The reasons surrounding that are that we are not a governing body, we don’t get to decide what the Sounders do.  We can merely make recommendations.  And our members have been harassed – sometimes even from other council members.  We had a lengthy conversation regarding the desire for more information and more perspectives being made available to the Alliance.  It’s too early to say if that will result in more views being expressed in the Opinions section, I hope so.

That summed up the first meeting.  We got feedback later from our call-in members that the Batphone worked fine, so that’s good.  We moved it up and down the table to keep it near the person who was talking – not always convenient, but not impossible to maintain.

And then a week later I went to bed and forgot to turn my phone off.  Like any girl from Italian lineage, when a phone keeps blowing up into the wee hours of the morning, I got up and went downstairs with heavy heart to learn the dreaded answer to the only question that could cause an iPhone to dance explosively across the countertop: Who died?  Luckily, I learned no one had.

What happened instead is that last December, some ditzy broad (who looks exactly like me) thought it would be an awesome idea to introduce season ticket members to the Alliance that they’re a part of. What a novel idea – an introduction!  That introduction went out in the season ticket member packages that also introduced the words mobile only.  I turned my phone off.  I went back to bed.  I did not sleep.  In fact, I didn’t for several nights.  Most of the mail that came in was absolute vitriol – not helpful in any way, shape, or form.  I answered those emails anyway, at least with “I’m sorry this is frustrating,” and an explanation of when the Alliance Council was informed of the decision.  After a few days, we (the Alliance Council) learned that we had an inaccurate talking point at the Front Office that declared the Alliance Council had vetted or enthusiastically endorsed mobile only or something like that.  There were several emails along those lines – I got that corrected.  We didn’t endorse the decision.  Several council members tested the app, that’s it.  Mobile only remains another story.  A couple of the emails that came in outlined the impact of the decision to go mobile only and the authors requested that their emails be elevated to the proper personnel for replies.  I was copied on those, and I’ve shared them below because I think they’re helpful to everyone.

I can’t help but be reminded of how far we’ve come in three years.  Yes – only three years ago, my group still had to deal with tearing paper tickets out of a giant book.  The rest of the stadium had been moved to these cool new plastic cards.  I made this huge color coded grid for the whole season (still do), rounded up as many people as possible, and we headed to brunch at Senor Moose in Ballard where we’d dive into awesome sopes de tinga with horchata lattes, and start separating our tickets and parking passes by person.  Some people drove in from Spokane for it.  Ticket trades had to be completed a week in advance so that the paper tickets could be dropped into snail mail.  Remember snail mail?  I forget about it too.  Sounders hadn’t even created tickets by pdf for us yet.

Here are the questions and answers I promised you (answers are from the Front Office Staff):

Hi Rob,

I appreciate you reaching out to both Alliance Council and myself. I apologize for the delayed response as I wanted to ensure I was provided you all of the answers that you requested. First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to provide us feedback regarding our mobile app. I believe that some of the new features of the app provide you with a viable ticket solution and can ensure you we have taken precautions to make sure your concerns are addressed.

 Rationale for change? Business decision, cost, convenience

There were multiple reasons why we decided to make a switch to a mobile platform, cost was definitely not one of those. Integrating mobile tickets into the native app experience provides more flexibility for fans. The app will improve the ability to manage seats in the way that works best for each fan. Whether you’re sharing a seat with one person the entire season, splitting between multiple people or deciding last-minute on what to do with your tickets, the app will provide an improved solution to help with those needs. In addition, MatchPass rewards will also be available in-app, so fans can redeem rewards and manage tickets within the same location, anytime, anywhere.  In addition, we are excited the app will continue to support news, videos and additional content and can serve as the first-choice for fans when looking for the latest from Sounders FC.   

 Are you looking to enable an Opt-In for physical tickets or enable “print at home” with “matchpass and season tickets” privileges?

Similar in the past, you will be issued a MatchPass, instead of a physical MatchPass, you will receive a digital MatchPass that you can manage through the Sounders FC app. You will still have the full functionality of My Account Manager, now even easier to access through the Sounders FC App. My Account Manager gives you the opportunity to print, forward, resell or donate your tickets. Therefore, if you prefer not to use mobile for entry, you still have the ability to print.

 Will you enable contest entry for each ticket purchase?

No, for the history of the MatchPass program, all enter to win contests have been one entry per account. This allows for all season ticket members to have the chance to enter for prizes. If you do not want to take the chance of the enter to win, there is also a buy now option to secure a spot where all of the money raised will be donated directly to charity. I strongly recommend you check out the new MatchPass informational video on the website for more information and to check out the cool rewards already posted.

 The MatchPass loyalty program has completely changed this year. There is no need to swipe at concessions or the pro shop or work to earn points, so you do not need to provide your kids your phone at concessions. With this new program, we want to simply reward you for being a season ticket member, not to have you to worry about earning enough points to redeem. We hope your phone doesn’t die getting to the match, but just in case if it does, we will have Sounders FC staff available with phone chargers to get you some battery to get into the match. If you do not want to charge your phone, you could also visit the customer service window located on the NW corner of CenturyLink Field for assistance with your tickets.

We had some issues with the Android launch, which is most likely why your wife was unable to log-in. However, we released an update Wednesday evening, which should fix those issues. Therefore, if you would like both you and your wife to have the ability to scan into the gate, you can designate her a couple of passes to download onto her device, so you do not have to swipe through all 5 passes at the gate. Below are some tutorial videos, just in case if you need them, to explain how to share a season pass with your wife or simply download the passes to your phone. In addition, you can add those passes to either Android Pay or Apple Wallet, so you do not have to worry about downloading them on matchday or using Wi-Fi or data.

Share the Season:

Download to phone:

If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to reach out me directly. I would be happy to walk through this with you, so we make sure you have a great matchday experience. If you would like to read any more information, I would recommend checking out the STM Benefits Website or the Mobilize Website for more information. Thanks again for your support and look forward to your response.

Later follow up:

Thank you for your email! One thing I do just want to note is if you save your season pass to your “wallet” on the phone, you can actually delete the app afterwards. As long you as you have the default setting, the pass will update itself to the next home match on its own. Also, the wallet doesn’t use Wi-Fi or Data, which should help the battery issue. 

We do still have our Sounders FC Pub Partnerships, and expect to expand them for the 2016 season! We are working on creating a form of Season Ticket Member ID for those who do not have access to smartphones.

Again, I really do appreciate this in depth feedback. If anything else comes up or still does not work (Android should have gotten an update after you sent this email).

At the March first meeting, we will have Taylor Graham and Bart Wiley coming in to discuss some of the hot button topics (Mobile only, variable single match pricing, etc.).  We can’t reverse their decisions, but we do want to know how they’ll take care of people – I’m confident there must be an answer, so what is it?