The Seattle Sounders FC (the “Club”) has been actively engaging the fans of the Club since before they opened play in the MLS era. When MLS wanted Seattle to use one of their three predetermined choices for naming the new team, the fans and supporters staged a minor revolt- and so the vote was broadened to include a write-in slot.
The rest is history, of course, as over 80% of the voters cast their ballot for some version of the “Sounders FC” name that the team- and now the Club- wound up with.
The notion of having the people vote on such a thing, though, extends further back in history. As Matt Gaschk points out in this article, the original NASL-era team was named by a fan vote- so the name “Sounders” comes from the fans from over 40 years back.
Adrian Hanauer, the Club’s current General Manager and one of the owners, said “This has always been the fans’ team, and it will continue to be the fans’ team,” said Hanauer, who grew up a Sounders fan. “Our job is to carry the torch and be stewards of this franchise, but our dedication will be to the fans.”
Engaged fans are passionate fans. The attendance records that the NASL-era Sounders set have continued on until today, and personally I think it’s a direct reflection of the depth of thought and work that the Club has put into trying to get and stay connected with the fans and supporters.
It’s things both big and small that they do that helps bring us, the people, in as members of a greater Club- not just people who shell out money (and just ask my wife about the number of scarves and jerseys in my closet- I’ve shelled out plenty of money over the past several years!)
As an example, when the Alliance Council went on behalf of the Alliance and said “hey, we aren’t just season ticket holders- we’re members of the Alliance, and we’d like it to say that on the annual scarf, and we’d like to be able to design it ourselves”, the Club said “okay, let’s work together and find a way to make that happen.”
And so at today’s games, over 35,000 scarves are held up- and the guy who designed them, Garret Amini, a fellow fan, gets to look around the stadium and see his design in everyone’s hands. How cool is that? And we’ve just finished up another scarf vote this year, and yet another Sounders follower will get to see his or her design on everyone’s scarf.
The Sounders Community Trust is another representation of the Club engaging the fans. In fact, it’s doubling down on the very idea, and actually offering an ownership stake in the Club to us! We have real equity in the Club’s second team, and with that comes financial protections against them selling the team out to another city or region.
What’s more, with the Trust as an owner, the fans will have a direct line into the Club’s offices. We will elect a Board of Trustees to serve and protect our interests with the Club, and they will select someone to be on the second team’s Executive Committee.
We have a lot of ideas for how the members of the Trust can be more and more involved with the Club’s activities. What’s more, the people who are joining now- as members of the Trust’s Founders Club- will always have the first dibs on the best activities. We know that this type of deeper involvement in OUR Club will lead to even more passion among the Sounders fans and supporters.