SBD/March 16, 2011/Franchises

Sounders' Fan Alliance Still Working To Have Its Voice Heard

Sounders draw record crowd of 36,433 fans for season opener against Galaxy
Sounders FC kicked off its third MLS season last night, "still pursuing not only the MLS Cup, but the experiment it calls 'democracy in sports,'" according to Don Ruiz of the Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE. After two seasons, the Alliance (the association of Sounders fans) "remains a philosophical concept with few demonstrated successes." Paul Cox, a member of the Alliance Council, said, "My sense is that there has been some disillusionment among some of the people because they feel like it’s more a slogan than anything real." The Alliance Council participates in "monthly conference calls and members have their own blog and forum on SoundersFC.com," and "any frustration stems from the relative lack of change stemming from those communications." Ruiz noted while the team's name and a "recent decision to increase the number of tickets for visiting fans" in the Sounders-Timbers-Whitecaps rivalry "did come about largely due to the input of fans and supporters groups, neither came through official action of the Alliance." The "most straightforward power granted to the Alliance -- and the one that has generated the most publicity -- is the right to vote on the retention" of the GM every four years. The first such vote is scheduled for November '12. Now the group is "well into the matter of crafting a charter that will spell out the powers actually held by the Alliance, which is made up of season-ticket holders and others who can buy their way in for $125 per season." Cox said, "(If the charter is ratified) then the Alliance will basically establish itself as an independent organization. The idea is the club will then grant this fan alliance a charter that says, ‘OK, these are the areas that you guys have control over, so if you have a vote then the club will do whatever you say on this issue and this issue and this issue.'" There "will be limits," notably the Sounders declaring that "ticket prices are off limits" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/15).

RECORD CROWD TO START SEASON: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers reports the Sounders last night drew a crowd of 36,433 fans for the team’s season opener against the Galaxy. The figure “set a team record for attendance for an MLS game” (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/16). ESPN's Adrian Healey said, "There are plenty of English Premier League teams that would settle for a crowd of 36,000 on average. ... A better attendance record than actually 19 of 30 baseball teams, including the Seattle Mariners of late." It was raining during last night's game, but Healey noted it was "not dampening the fervor of this crowd one little bit" (ESPN, 3/15). MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who was at the game, said, "This fan base loves this team, and it never ceases to amaze me when I come into town and do that march to the match and come into the stadium how special it is here in Seattle -- a great way to start the season." However, Garber "wasn't quite willing to commit future season openers to Seattle." Garber: "Many other markets, I think, earned the right to deserve the opening match. But it's pretty darn good here" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/16).

I LIKE THE SOUND OF IT: In Seattle, Nick Visser reports Microsoft sales analysts Jeff McIntyre and Erin O'Brien in '07 founded Ruffneck Scarves, aiming to "make the scarf as synonymous with soccer in America as it is in Europe." The Seattle-based company has "grown from $40,000 in annual revenue to more than $2 million last year." Ruffneck has "partnered with the Sounders FC for three years, and every season-ticket holder gets a special-edition scarf attached to his or her ticket for opening day." O'Brien said that the two are "looking to spread soccer scarves into the NCAA and partner with colleges across the country" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/16).
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