It’s a well-known part of Seattle Sounders FC history that minority owner Drew Carey imported the idea of allowing fans to vote on the club’s general manager every four years.
However, with the first fan vote on the fate of Adrian Hanauer starting Sunday, Carey filled in the details about the pains he went through to pitch the idea to Sounders majority owner Joe Roth:
“I was doing a ‘Price is Right’ rehearsal … and you know that big turntable that comes around when they reveal a thing for some of the games – that platform? Well, I was joking around, and I caught my arm in it, and it smashed my arm,” Carey said. “I thought I broke my arm. What I did was I crushed some tendons … but the EMTs came and they put ice packs on it and said, ‘You should go to the (hospital) right away.’ I go, ‘I can’t. I have a lunch meeting with Joe Roth.’
“So I showed up like 15 minutes late with a big ice pack on, throbbing in pain. … I was in really bad shape. But I didn’t miss the lunch because I wanted to talk him into doing this thing. This was my big chance. The lunch was like an hour and a half, and at the end of it I had talked him into it. He offered me a part in the ownership group, and then I went straight from there and I drove myself to the hospital. That’s how important this was to me.”
Carey admits the idea is borrowed from European clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, whose fans traditionally have held similar powers. But the concept hadn’t been imported to North American major league sports, despite the many advantages Carey perceives.
First and foremost, he said, it keeps the fans involved. In the traditional American sports model fans can vent on message boards, Twitter and blogs. But if those opinions are ignored by the team, fans may move on to other options: stop buying tickets, stop caring.
“And that’s what you don’t want,” Carey said. “You don’t want them to separate from the club. So if worse comes to worst … the fans are going to know that they don’t have to stop buying tickets and separate themselves from the team.”
Letting those fans vote not only gives them the feeling of power, but it also gives them actual power.
As an added bonus, the vote could let the fans handle the ugly business of ousting a general manager that ownership was probably getting around to firing anyway. Or it could keep the general manager so focused on success that it might never come to that.
“Why wouldn’t you want a general manager starting his fourth year to make sure you have a really good year?” Roth said. “Who wouldn’t want that? It’s like a player playing in his contract year: He has incentive. I think it keeps everybody on their toes.”
The consensus is that Hanauer has been on his toes enough that a vote of confidence seems far more likely than a pink slip.
The case against him could include the fact that the club has never won a Major League Soccer playoff series and has had only spotty success with its designated players and in the SuperDraft.
But the case for him includes the club’s successful launch on and off the pitch, record attendance, four straight playoff appearances, three U.S. Open Cups and two straight advancements out of CONCACAF Champions League group play. Additionally, he’s a generally well-liked local guy with history in the soccer community predating the MLS Sounders.
“Best GM in the league,” veteran Sounders defender Jeff Parke said. “He’s out (at practice) all the time. He gets us everything we need as players and an organization. They’d better not vote him out.”
Voting begins at noon Sunday. Sounders season-ticket holders and Alliance members may vote online at SoundersFCVote.com or at CenturyLink Field at each league match in October, starting with the 6 p.m. Sunday visit from the Portland Timbers.
A minimum of 10,000 votes must be received, with a simple majority needed to oust Hanauer. Results will be announced Dec. 13.
Hanauer always has voiced support for the concept. If voted out, he would remain a minority owner of the club, and Roth said Hanauer would be involved in the search for his own replacement.
Carey doesn’t think it will come to that. Not this time.
“He’s going to win, no doubt about it,” Carey said. “But with this team I always think long term. So I imagine that in those 50 years, 25 years, 100 years, there are going to be times when we’re having rough years, we have a GM who’s a (jerk); an ownership group might come in that’s not on the ball, doesn’t hire anybody who’s that great, and the fans are going to be able to get rid of him. I’m really happy that this kind of thing is in place.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org @donruiztntblog.thenewstribune.com/soccer