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Sports Democracy in Action: Seattle Sounders Let Fans Vote on GM’s Fate

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on September 27, 2012

They make it so tough to be a loyal fan these days.

Everything feels so wildly out of our control. The NHL locked out its players, we had no say. The NFL put its brand at stake with refs who couldn’t hack it in the Lingerie Football League, we had no say. Owners sign and cut players with no coherent strategy or clear vision for the future, we have no say.

Supporters of Seattle Sounders FC, however, likely don’t share this frustration. The start-up Major League Soccer franchise partially owned by Drew Carey is blazing a new trail. As part of its people-powered democracy in sports movement, Sounders management took a page from FC Barcelona’s playbook and will actually allow its season-ticket holders and Alliance fan association to vote on whether to retain general manager Adrian Hanauer, who has spent the last four seasons building a viable club.

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Here’s how it works, courtesy of SoundersFCvote.com:

What is the vote?
Sounders FC season ticket members will be asked to vote “retain” or “lack of confidence” for the current Sounders FC general manager.

What does a retain vote mean?
A vote to retain the general manager is a sign of approval from the season ticket members of the direction of the team.

What does a lack of confidence vote mean?
A lack of confidence vote signifies that season ticket members are not pleased with the job of the general manager and direction of the team.

Why should season ticket members vote?
The vote provides an opportunity for season ticket members to make their voice heard and increase their credibility. Sounders FC season ticket members have the opportunity to set the tone and lay a foundation for future season ticket members.

This is an unprecedented vote in U.S. professional sports and the vision of Sounders FC owner Drew Carey.

Who is eligible to vote?
All 2012 Sounders FC season ticket members, designated season ticket holders and anyone who has paid the $125 alliance membership fee prior to October 7, 2012.

Seattle’s KOMO News has more on why this is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to the Sounders democratic history:

While the vote is the most extreme democratic process adopted by the Sounders, it’s not the first time supporters have shaped their team.

In March 2008, the more than 14,000 fans voted to name the team with the pre-expansion name “Sounders,” despite it not being an option on the ballot. Members have also voted on the name of the association (Alliance), band name (Sound Wave), Golden Scarf recipients, and can now vote on 2013 season ticket member scarf design.

Online voting runs from Oct. 7 to Dec. 7 and is open to all 2012 season ticket members, designated season ticket holders and anyone who has paid the $125 alliance membership fee prior to the election date. The team must receive a minimum of 10,000 votes for validation.

The results of the vote will be announced at the annual business meeting on Dec. 13.

Holding sports decision-makers accountable to their fan bases is arguably the most logical step a franchise can take. But most fans are already blindly loyal to laundry, so like tying CEO pay to performance, many teams might find it annoyingly unnecessary and prohibitive.

Until the rest of the sports world catches up with Drew Carey and Seattle’s management, we shall simply salute the Sounders as American pioneers and hope for a future where fans actually f*&king matter.

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