Fans' View

Fans’ View: What is this Fan Council thing?

As readers of this website know,  I am not shy about sharing my opinion. So when offered the opportunity to have ongoing small group discussions with the front office, I said “Sign me up!”

Last year early in the season, the Union put out a call for fans to apply to be on the Fan Council. They got a lot of interest so I’m not the only opinionated member of the fanbase.

Originally, 26 fans were chosen from the hundreds of applicants. We are a diverse group of fans – SOBs and non-SOBs, young and old, season ticket holders and not yet season ticket holders, single and married (with or without kids). The thought is that we would serve for a season or two before new folks would enter the mix.

We meet about once every two months in Chester to discuss a wide range of topics – from what we like/dislike about the Loyalty Program, what could be done to get the fans excited before and during games (yes, winning does help) and to how to get more casual fans in the seats.

These discussions can become quite lively when people have passionate beliefs about what the Union brand embodies. Are we the gritty city with die hard fans, hard hitting brawlers, or should we look to change our image?

There have been a few “perks” to the job. Its always nice to get to know the folks behind the scenes. I know most of the front office members by name which makes it easy when I have a question about anything – I can go directly to the right person. We got to tour the new training facility (the site of our meetings) and we were invited to the press conference with the Commissioner last Tuesday.

So far, my favorite “perk” has been the opportunity to paint the mural on the wall near 133. We came together the first Sunday in March in the cold to test our artistic abilities. It was a great chance to talk to other members about the upcoming Vancouver game and our off-season signings.

The most interesting “perk” and part of our job is to look at ideas that the front office has before they release them to the public. They want our feedback – good, bad or ugly. For example, before the playoffs last season, we got a chance to look at the marketing materials that were designed to get fans excited about the postseason. There were three players featured in these graphics. One member of the council piped up and reminded us all that one of the reasons we reached the playoffs was because of the stellar play of Andre Blake. He was not one of the three players the staff had chosen to feature in the advertisement. The marketing staff took it to heart and I was happy to see when the eventual campaign featuring Andre Blake. So yes, they do listen to our input and make changes because of it.

For me, although I love voicing my opinion, the best part has been getting together with other fans to talk about our shared passion – our boys in blue.

42 Comments

  1. Could you please beg the team on my behalf for a postgame radio show? JP and Tommy are already on site, just pay them a few extra dollars to go over the highlights of the game and provide a little analysis. Maybe a quick one on one with Curtain? Something to make the drive home a little more tolerable (or to continue the celebration of a well earned victory?)

    • This is more about the radio stations themselves. They ignore the Union. For the first two weeks WIP didn’t even mention they were playing a game. And only after the Toronto match did they even give the final score. The hosts don’t care. The stations don’t care. And when the Union are mentioned, the following callers make jokes about soccer.
      .
      Thanks Staci. I enjoyed hearing about the kinds of things the Union are doing to be more involved with their fan base.

      • The Union could pay for play if the price was right. Other teams do this.

      • 97.5 is getting better, to be honest. They at least mention the Union during conversations, on several shows. It’s always a quick mention, not anything in-depth. But for example, I recall last week hearing Anthony Gargano telling his partner – forget who it is, to be honest – that he needs to get to a game at Talen to experience it, because it’s such a great experience.

        • Preston and Steve (93.3) had Curtin on a while back and has gotten better about including scores in their sports report. I think some of it is that Nick from the show seems to enjoy taking his son to games.

          • Let me qualify, I want nothing to do with a call in show or to have the radio shock jocks on after the game. I want something professionally produced by people who know the game.
            .
            If FC Cincinnati can buy radio time, I can’t understand why we can’t.

      • That (thankfully departed) idiot Josh Innes on WIP used to drown out Union callers with static

    • I actually think this is a great idea. It’s true that radio stations probably don’t care a lot, but if the Union approach them with ready-made content, and we make our voices known that we will tune in and listen to their advertising – it could happen.

    • I’d like to have a live audio stream of the entire game – either online or over the air. Not having TCN it would be nice to have that when I cant get to a place where I can watch.
      I listened to a Vancouver broadcast of that game, seems like feeding the audio to a link on the Union website wouldnt be too hard.

  2. Darth Harvey says:

    Was the fan council consulted about the Capo stands in front of the RE at the first home game?

    In theory, great idea…in practice, horrendous… I was in 140 and couldn’t see Simpson’s goal, Herbers penalty, and only saw the ball clank off the crossbar from Bedoya. I had said to my buddy just before halftime that if those Capo stands were still there at the second half, we would move over to my seats in 101. Thankfully they took them down at halftime as there was palpable vitriol and distaste being expressed in the stands for the Capo stands. There were rumblings in the stands of a reaction a la Drunk Santa Claus in the 70’s

    RE is in need for rejuvenation in my opinion, the lack of innovation and creativity (beyond Tifo) has taken the teeth out of the RE section. I can see a need for a way to increase capos’ effectiveness, but blocking 1/4 of the field from view is not a great way to get fans excited.

    As I am not a ticket holder in RE and this was my first time in the RE since I’ve been a Union Supporter. Is there any unified communications that go out to ticket holders in that area to notify them of chants? I still love and hearken back to original and specific chants from the olden days like “Peter Vermes, give us your keys.”

    That is the stuff of legend…that is the sort of fan interaction that rattles the competition and gives the home crowd an edge…Not an oversized blanket with Union Megaman on it (no disrespect to MM, he’s the best) that we see for about 15 seconds.

    Some of the tifos that other clubs have unfurled (Portland and SKC come to mind) are truly impressive and domineering. We simply lack the physical architectural infrastructure to raise any monoliths like they do

    So we should do what we do…get scrappy…get smart…think of ways to unify the river end…give it a voice again…and make it a true home field advantage…not a 5th grade arts & crafts project.

    • While I can’t fault the efforts of those whole do some truly hard work to create tifo with little help and a severe structural disadvantage, I can agree with most of these points but one.
      .
      As long as the RE looks only at creating a great atmosphere for itself, or unifying itself, things will continue to stagnate and wither.
      .
      The goal should be to bring everyone in and unify the entire stadium (like Portland, Seattle, etc). Like it or not, working “blue” for the sake of being faux soccer badasses does nothing but alienate the masses. Make whatever counter arguments you wish, but I’ve seen and heard the proof over the last 4 years. The SOBs are struggling mightily.
      .
      This is not to say there aren’t a lot of laudable efforts in the charitable endeavors, or that the folks involved aren’t good people (I’ve paid the dues, I’ve met and talked with many of the people). However, as long as there is no clear mission or vision, or the focus is on self instead of the entire stadium (which includes a lot of kids who are the future support of the team) the that deterioration is going to continue.

      • +1

      • Darth Harvey says:

        I agree wholeheartedly. I am more “preaching” organization within the RE that will at least promote unity in chants from their end that the rest of the crowd can get behind. I think they need to get their house in order before we can even start to think about expanding through the rest of the stadium. I think it’s a “chicken and the egg” scenario where its a question of “River End or the Stadium”?

        • But unlike Seattle or Portland, there is no desire from the rest of the stadium to join in. And it’s not the SOB’s fault (though I believe they could be better). A simple “Phil-a-del-phia” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap chant gets little to no response from the rest of the stadium. This is the simplest, most basic chant that can unite the stadium, and no one responds. What else can they do to encourage participation? Hand out lyrics to a song and have people along the sidelines hold up signs instructing people when to sing it? Oh wait, they tried that too for a couple of games, and shockingly got no response.

          My thought is that we simply have a different demographic and mentality from those that live and attend games in Seattle and Portland. The stadium here doesn’t want to participate, and the River End can’t force them (successfully). So they create their own atmosphere. It is what it is.

          • I coach leaders for a living.
            .
            If people aren’t following you it’s a very cheap excuse to say “They just don’t want to.”
            The reason they’re not following is because you haven’t inspired them to.
            .
            I’m guessing if you plant any of our folks in Seattle or Portland, they’ll be as loud and excited as anyone.

          • Let me try an anecdote. From 2010-2013, my seats were in 101. Mostly because I didn’t want to be in the SOB, but I still wanted to participate in the cheers, and the Union had listed section 101 as a standing and cheering section. From day 1, no one in that section ever stood and chanted. If I tried singing with the river end, I got dirty looks from my neighbors, and more than once was told to sit down and/or stop singing. And again, this was in a section that the Union had originally pitched as a standing section. For a while, we were the section that threw streamers around, but the Union abruptly ended that practice one game by throwing out everyone that had thrown streamers without any warning. So you’ll have to understand where I’m coming from when I say that people outside the river end have no desire to join in with cheers. And I stand by that.

      • James Lockerbie says:

        DaveR Bravo, Bravo, Bravo !!! Standing Ovation ! You Sir, are Correct !

  3. as far as the Capo Stands go I shamelessly rip off this comment from MattyB316 on the BigSoccer Union forum.
    .
    >>>They were built by the Union for the SoB based off the tifo directors design. Only problem is the Union waited til the day before to build them, then built them 6+ feet taller than intended in the design.
    .
    SoB weren’t able to see the finished product until an hour prior to the game at which time they told them way too tall, and they were taken down at half time due to complaints from people who couldn’t see the game well.
    .
    There are already plans in progress to cut them a lot shorter<<<
    .
    .
    In short: Thats so Union.

    • Yes, the idea was good. While I was watching from a few sections down I was asking myself why they wouldn’t just make them the same height as where the other Capos stand. They’ll fix it while we wait almost a month for another game.

  4. What I would love, for those that live in the city or near the public transit options, is some kind of agreement between the Union and SEPTA and PATCO to accept tickets to the game as valid for transportation (thinking it could be an optional surcharge?). They do this in Germany, and it’s wonderful.

    Also, my biggest complaint is that, getting back to where I live in University City after a game can take 2 hours – as long as a game actually lasts – if I’m taking public transportation. I realize it would be a challenge to get SEPTA to change this, but I feel like it could be done.

    • Just curious – do you think there would be strong interest among city residents like yourself in riding a Union fan bus from Philly to Talen Energy Stadium (for a fee)?
      .
      If so, perhaps the club should explore the possibility of chartering a bus (or multiple buses) to provide round-trip transportation from/to an easily-accessible city location on Union match days.

      • Matt Custer says:

        Phillies used to (still do?) promote (subsidize?) excursion buses from remote locations to bring fans in. Not a bad idea.
        .
        Re Capo Stands: you really don’t need taller, you do need more capos to keep the flanks of the RE engaged

      • i’ve berated the Union and SOBs with this since 2012. gotten nowhere. from the SOBs: nowhere in center city to park it. i mentioned that Septa and venues like the Mann Center don’t “park,” rather, pickup every block of JFK in CC on concert nights. as a non-car owner, getting to matches (as well as the horrid 2012-2015 seasons) reduced my attendance at every home match.
        like Dane, the Septa commute each way is as long as the match. ridiculous.

        if you read Don Garber’s “most important” stadium issues from his visit last week, transportation was it.

        of note: there’s at least 30-50 union fans on the train before kickoff every match i went to via Septa durning that 2012-15 stretch. last season i still saw some regulars.

        • They run a bus from Brauhaus Schmitz (8th and South) every home game if that would help.

          • Thanks for pointing this out. After reading your note, I checked the Union website and found that there are actually two such buses:
            .
            Fadó:
            .
            We are running monthly buses to Talen Energy Stadium and it is $25 dollars including beverages, food, and a tailgate party. Buses leave the pub 2.5 hours in advance and return immediately following the game. Reserve your seat by calling the pub at 215.893.9700 or emailing mcoulter@fadoirishpub.com.
            .
            Brauhaus Schmitz:
            .
            For every home game – if you have a ticket already, Brauhaus is happy to offer a bus to get you to the game and back! The bus will depart South St. @ approx. 1.5 hours before kickoff, leaving us an hour or so to “pre-game” (“pre-game” supplies provided). Bus will depart Chester 30 mins after the game ends. Cost is $25 (includes free “refreshments”) and limited to the first 40 people to reserve their spot so, call now! 267-909-8814.

          • the beer bus is fun but its so expensive. i used to take it a lot but then my wallet couldn’t support the habit anymore

          • Problem with the bus is that it’s $25 *per game*, plus the cost of transportation to and from the bars, so even if you just take the El in, it’s an additional 3.60 or so. I can get to and from the games for just over $10 a game. The difference in cost over an entire season is approximately $300, which is a good chunk of change. The point is to make it easy and affordable to get to and from the games in a timely fashion, to make it as attractive as possible to get to and from Talen Energy.

    • i took the train for a season or two and it was absolutely miserable. once i emailed septa customer service to see if they were planning on coordinating the schedule better for games and the guy was so incredibly rude and basically said it wasn’t his job to try to try to coordinate

  5. Garber when visiting last week: “One thing, though, that is sacrosanct, is that you need to be in a place that people find convenient, and that has access to public transportation. If you can have that and you have the right building, we ought to be able to be successful.”

    with a critical eye, in the context of this council article, i’d argue we [technically] have both of these but, in reality, we have neither.

    • Yea The Union was the last stadium that was built with car centric suburban families in mind. As a non car having city person. Its torture.

  6. Next meeting – more beer guys walking the stands!

    I love that the stadium even does this (not many MLS teams do), but there should be a few more of them.

  7. James Lockerbie says:

    This is a great program, I am proud to be represented by fans like Staci Klemmer and her fellow members.

  8. Wow, input on marketing initiatives AND you get to paint their walls, for free no less!! Man I wish I would have gotten the chance. Hopefully you guys get to chime in on more important stuff like the brand of mustard used in concessions stands in the future. I think you are ready for the challenge!!!
    Fan Council, you realize your biggest value is that your very existence is a marketing bullet point. Reminds me of high school student council.

  9. In the 1st or 2nd year I was in a meeting with the front office in which they talked about expanding the stadium and showed us where it could be expanded. These days the FO has a hard time filling the stadium …. If they do not invest the money on the field and pay a lot more than $1MM to get a DP, invest at least some money to make our experience better. For example, fill that area behind the SOB’s with a nice restaurant/bar (look how popular the (too small) Union Ale House is)!!

  10. James Lockerbie says:

    Take half of the roof top above the Locker rooms for bar/grill leave a space open for the “View” of the Bridge / water traffic

  11. I vote for “spend all the money you can on players and player development.” Winning solves most of the Union’s problems. Fun day but lousy product equals lots of empty seats.
    People like me could care less about “gameday experience”. I just want to compete for trophies.

  12. James Lockerbie says:

    JMB With the new two tier management style in place, the Union are attacking both avenues- on the field product and game day experience simultaneously. Earnie has been working on the team and I believe it is easy to see an improvement. Tim McDermott and his team are starting to implement their contributions to the overall fan experience.

    We’re two games into the season, let’s see where it goes !

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