There’s an old saying in sports that if management and coaches start listening to the fans then they’ll soon be sitting with them. This could very well come true in North America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) as the Seattle Sounders are allowing the team’s fans to decide the fate of general manager Adrian Hanauer.
The Sounders, who average the highest attendance in the league, are holding a vote between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7 for season-ticket holders and members of their fan club to decide if Hanauer’s contract should be extended. This may be a unique move in North America, but it’s been done before in Europe as Spanish soccer clubs Barcelona and Real Madrid have used the concept on several occasions.
Comedian Drew Carey, who is one of the owners of the Sounders, became interested in the fan-voting concepts and wanted to incorporate it into the Sounders operation. Carey said that democracy’s a good thing even in sports and this allows the fans to have their say in how the club is run.
It’s unlikely that Hanauer has anything to worry about once the fans start voting since the Sounders are one of the top teams in MLS and have done exceptionally well at the gate. The franchise has been in the league for just four seasons now and has a season-ticket base of 32,000 fans.
The team’s average home attendance is over 40,000 at CenturyLink Field, which is also the home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The team seems to be in good hands with Carey being a minority owner and Paul Allen being the majority owner. Allen has pretty deep pockets for a sports franchise owner since he co-founded the Microsoft computer company.
Of course, there’s always a risk involved with holding a fan vote no matter how successful the franchise is. Some fans probably feel the soccer club could be doing even better than it is and there are sure to be some supporters who will vote against Hanauer.
Some fans are never satisfied and rightfully so. They are the ones spending the money and keeping the team in business and a lot of fans prefer to voice their opinions based on emotions rather than reasoning.
However, even if Hanauer did happen to get voted out of his general manager’s job by the fans, he doesn’t really have to worry since he’s also one of the club’s minority owners. The 46-year old will find out the official results of the fan poll on Dec. 13.
The voters will be asked if they want to retain Hanauer or if they have a lack of confidence in him. A minimum of 10,000 votes need to be cast for the poll to be official.
While Hanauer might not be risking much even if he’s voted out of the general manager’s position, there are many GMs across the country in a wide range of sports who better hope that this system of deciding their futures doesn’t catch on.
If it does, there could be dozens of them joining the unemployment line. As of Oct. 6, Seattle was in fourth place in the nine-team MLS Western Conference with 13 wins, seven losses and 10 ties and had already clinched a playoff spot.
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