Democracy in sports is not a common thing, especially here in the U.S. We are used to sitting on the sidelines while the players union, the ownership, the league, and the referees do their thing and we spectate (or wait for them to finish their lockout). But the Seattle Sounders are different. The Seattle Times' Joshua Mayers and the Tacoma News-Tribune's Don Ruiz recently interviewed minority owner Drew Carey and majority owner Joe Roth about the GM vote, covering a wide range of topics. Drew Carey made sure that the Sounders' fan base would be heavily involved. In his interview with Mayers, he makes it clear that he wants the fans to have decision-making power:
"Everybody knows when a guy has to go. You don't want to get to that point ever, but when it does get to that point, the fans now on every other team, all they can do is write a letter to an editor or not buy a ticket. That's what you don't want. You don't want them to separate from the club. If worst comes to worst, if Adrian goes on a bender and becomes an alcoholic and spends all his money on hookers or whatever, if it gets to that point, the fans are going to know that they don't have to stop buying tickets and separate themselves from the team."
Carey also makes clear, in his full remarks to Mayers, that this goes beyond the Sounders--he sees this as a way not just for sports to operate, but businesses like grocery stores as well. He thinks that this vote will help expose the Sounders' idea of Democracy in Sports to the rest of the country, hopefully catching on. This really is a must read on topics from Carey's first meeting with Roth to some of the internal deliberations about how many away fans to let in during Cascadia games.
"I always tell people if I owned a grocery store -- you know how they keep track of your purchases with the card? -- I would let the top 20-percent of purchasers vote to keep or not keep the guy who is general managing the store. If you don't like the clerks he hires, he never has your strawberries on Thursday or whatever, you could just voice your opinion that way and get rid of him -- fire him."
Joe Roth's interview is a continuation from his earlier conversation with the Seattle Times regarding the expiring Xbox deal, attendance, and the new Arena. He talks about how great the vote will be for the team, and how he wants to stay neutral during the process so the fans can really make a full decision. He also talks about how other teams are a bit baffled as to why they are allowing this vote:
"I got calls from owners in other sports telling me I was out of my mind, of course. I thought, 'You know, why wouldn't you want your general manager at the start of your fourth year to make sure that you have a really good year? Why wouldn't you want that?' It's like a player playing in his contract year. Have incentive."
Other tidbits Roth provides in his full remarks have to do with the Sounders' growing presence amongst world soccer, and the desire of players to play here. Pete Vagenas even makes a cameo. Go read both interviews, it'll be well worth your while.
As a reminder, the vote to retaining Adrian Hanauer or kick him out, will open on October 7th and will close on December 7th. It may be done in person at the stadium or online.