SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/In-Depth
Looking to make a major Impact
Published March 5, 2012, Page 18
■ How has the team been marketing itself to the community, and what has the evolving excitement looked like?
|Richard Legendre is helping to build enthusiasm for MLS’s newest franchise.
■Given your background as a professional tennis player and as the Quebec minister of sports, how did you arrive at the Montreal Impact?
Legendre: It was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. In 2007 after being in politics for six years, Joey
■ How has your experience as an athlete and ingrained sense of competitiveness prepared you to manage this first-year team?
Legendre: It’s interesting you ask that. Once you’ve had the chance to compete, doesn’t matter which sport, you realize that the most important element of all is the athlete, the product on the field. And that has been Saputo’s philosophy from the beginning. Yes, corporate sales are important; marketing is important; ticket sales are important. But all of this is going toward one goal, which brings me back to our slogan, “Tous Pour Gagner.” That’s what sports are all about. I have a lot of respect for players, coaches, technical staff. The most important thing is to make sure the players are happy and can perform at their best. That’s what the fans are coming to see. I think once you’ve competed in your life you realize that’s first and foremost.
■What goals do you have for this coming season?
Legendre: For our first game the objective is to break the record that we’ve had at the Olympic Stadium in our soccer
■ What are your feelings now as the first match approaches, and how do you think you will feel after the first match is completed?
Legendre: We’re very, very excited, and there is still a lot to be done. Even though you plan, you prepare, you coordinate, we’ll be going full speed until March 17. It’s important we all realize it’s a new beginning, and just the beginning. As much as we say we really want to do well at that first game, this first season is important. It’s not just one game. We want support from the people throughout the season, and it’s to build up for the next season. It’s not a one-day affair. Duration and continuity are very important in everybody’s mind. After the first game, I don’t anticipate any kind of letdown. After the first game it’s, “Wow, get ready, Toronto is coming next, and we want to beat them!” And so on, and so on.
■ What kind of feedback did you get from fans on the construction of Saputo Stadium, and how did they react about the first games not being played there?
Legendre: One of the key elements that came from the fans was a half roof all around the stadium, so the new stadium will have one-third of its seats covered. It has a real European flavor, and our fans really like that. We think the ambience will be much better and the sound will stay with the stadium much more. We’re adding seats and making the stadium bigger, but it’s really as if the stadium will become more intimate because of the roof. We’ve received great feedback from the fans. As for starting the season at the Olympic Stadium, I don’t think we will need to explain for very long on March 17 [because of the cold weather] that it is probably better that we play indoors. Even in the future, we may continue this idea of starting one or two games at the Olympic Stadium. Fans have really enjoyed watching soccer games at the Olympic Stadium. It’s not a consolation prize. For us it is a great opportunity.