Several months ago, we had a joint announcement with the Sounders that not only talked about the establishment of Sounders FC 2 (S2), but also the Sounders Community Trust (SCT). Since then many people have been busy behind the scenes getting things set up, establishing a foundation to build upon for the future of SCT.
Members of the initial ad hoc working group have had numerous meetings with Sounders officials, including our main point of contact Andrew Opatkiewicz, S2 general manager. We’ve also had opportunities to meet with Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer, the Club’s general counsel Maya Mendoza-Exstrom, and other folks working for the Club in a variety of roles (game presentation, ticketing, marketing, digital media, you name it).
To get the SCT moving, the organization will initially be set up with a Board of Directors comprised of those who’ve volunteered their time building the foundation. For legal reasons, we are establishing the organization as being board-driven, and we’ll transition to one that is driven by the membership, with an elected board.
To ensure the SCT is established correctly, and legally, we’ve had help from some great lawyers. John Wilson has taken the lead, along with Josh Gaul and Annamarie Larson. They work for K&L Gates, which is one of the world’s biggest law firms.
KLG has taken up working for the SCT on a pro-bono basis, and they have been instrumental in laying the groundwork properly. They handled our paperwork to formally incorporate in the state, and are readying our IRS paperwork to become a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization.
Bigger than organizational details, we’ve been working on formalizing the SCT ownership share. This is a pretty big deal, of course, so we’ve been careful to be sure that what we work out is a deal that works for both us and the Club. It’s more detailed than we thought it would be; there’s both the legal ownership part to work out, and then there’s also the various discussions around intellectual property, tangible and intangible assets, and creating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that governs how the SCT will work with the Club.
The Club, the Board at large, and I personally all feel a very strong obligation to make sure this is done right. Fan ownership at this level in American sports is almost unheard of, and we all want to be sure we do it as best we can and succeed, to help lead the way into the future for more opportunities like this.
In addition to organizational details and ensuring the SCT is legally established with a formal working relationship in place between the Club and SCT, we’ve been working on other initiatives.
First, S2 and the SCT have been working on planning events over the recent months. One example are the events planned for March 13 where the SCT Founders Club members are being welcomed at The Ninety clubhouse. As the season progresses we are looking to host additional events and will be sending out announcements and calls for volunteers as we get into the year.
Readers may be aware that SCT membership contributions are funding improvements at the Starfire Sports Complex, which will greatly enhance the operations of the entire soccer community at Starfire. SCT has been involved in these initial conversations and are being consulted on the early designs of the complex.
Representing the fans, we are advocating for increased stadium capacity so that as the USL moves towards becoming a bigger, better league, our Club will continue to be a leader.
The SCT has been thinking about what we want to do to improve community access to soccer. As a nonprofit organization, while our first purpose for organizing is to have a way to have a true fan ownership in our Club, we recognize that we have an opportunity and obligation to promote the beautiful game across the Puget Sound and beyond. To deliver on any initiatives we commit to through the year, we will need to consider our finances and will likely pursue fundraising activities. In addition, the SCT membership is full of great ideas and energy; as the SCT gets off the ground, we need to ensure that we have systematic details finalized so that we can collect feedback, communicate with members, and more.
Finally, games are coming up! SCT is working out things like some volunteer efforts for the first few games, potentially hosting our own information table, and various things about game presentation. For example, the Club reached out to our membership on Twitter to help build a suggested playlist of songs for the pregame period.
Many people have been helping us through this initial set-up period. In addition to having a good relationship with the Sounders front office staff, we also need to thank an organization in the UK called Supporters Direct (SD).
SD originally started in the United Kingdom and now also consults with supporters trusts in over 20 nations. SD has been lending us terrific advice and has published several research studies that we’re using to build SCT.
I speak for myself and those that have been working tirelessly behind the scenes when I say that we are very optimistic about the road ahead. Watch for some news from SCT soon. We’ll also be putting out a call for volunteers, as well as some opportunities for Trust members to be on the field at Starfire for the first few games. If you haven’t already, follow SCT on Facebook, connect through Twitter @SC_Trust, or keep up to date with news/information via our website at sounderscommunitytrust.org.
Let’s go Sounders! I look forward to seeing my fellow Trust members and fan-owners at Starfire soon!