Thursday, November 20, 2008

Supporter's Meeting with Plush

For clarification's sake, the opions I express in this post (or any post for that metter) are mine and do not represent Class VI or any of the other supporter's groups.

I don't talk a whole lot about the supporter's groups here at View From the Couch. It's mainly because I like to talk about what happens "between the lines" and the supporter's groups don't fit into that. Along with that they have great websites of their own (see the links on the right) and there's no reason for me to repeat what they're already doing. That said I do see the relationship between the groups and the FO as a important component to a successful franchise, so I took the opportunity to attend last night's meeting between the Colorado Rapids supporters and GM Jeff Plush before the USA - Guatemala game.

The focus of the meeting was on Centennial Firm and N.C.C.'s request to relocate to the North Stands for 2009. This has been a long-term goal of both groups, and the Rapids are trying to work with the groups to see if a move like that meets the Rapids' needs as well. The Rapids are supportive of the idea, but they need to see enough numbers to make it economically viable for them. Right now they average about 670 tickets a game in the North end. If they were to give one side of the North end to the supporters groups they would be giving up 335 tickets. Jeff Plush does not expect the supporters groups to immediately be able to compensate for that, but there needs to be a realistic plan for the future so the Rapids feel like they're making a worthwhile investment. As Jeff Plush put it, he can't "go backwards in this economy".

Of course, the flip side to this is the supporter's group's belief that they can't get their numbers up until they make the move to a more visible location like the North end. So its a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. Either the Rapids will have to take a leap of faith and move the groups with the belief that doing so will eventually pay off, or the supporter's groups will have to commit to ticket sales at a significantly higher level than they are now with the understanding that if they don't sell, the Rapids are not going to be pleased. Determining where that break point is and who will take responsibility for it is the key to moving forward in my opinion.

Outside of that topic there was some general talk about how the team was feeling about 2009. Everyone in the organization seems to be excited about the Gary Smith decision and what he wants to do with the team. There were even comments that the detractors of the decision (of which I am one, at least of how the decision was made) really don't have a good feel for what's happening. There was understanding of the long years of frustration, but also of the fact that most of those years weren't under control of the current leadership. There was even some talk about the difficulties between what the team wants to do in the stadium and what the stadium wants to have happen. Since the stadium is run by a separate KSE entity from the Rapids there's ongoing discussions and debate about what the Rapids want vs. what the stadium operators want.

In general I thought the meeting was more informative for what it was than what was said. It was the first time I had a chance to see Jeff Plush interacting with the supporters and the first supporters meeting I've seen. There were a few things that I thought could improve the effectiveness of the meeting. First of all there was no real agenda. The general topic was set but nobody had a real list of points to cover or what needed to be accomplished in the meeting. It was a good chance to pass information back and forth, but no real decisions were made.

The second was that there were too many voices in the meeting. There were 6 representatives from the Rapids and 11 fan representatives. While not everyone talked there were still too many people working at cross-purposes. Even though I was there somewhat representing Class VI, along with another Class VI rep, there really wasn't anything involving Class VI. We were there for moral support only. What would probably work better would be a meeting with 2-3 Rapids FO personnel and no more than 2 reps from each supporters group, if even every group needs to be there. This would allow for focused discussion without a lot of sidetracking as more voices were added to the mix. It would also force everyone involved to figure out their points ahead of time as each group determine what their representatives need to cover.

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