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Sounders part ways with longest-tenured employee Bart Wiley

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Wiley joined the Sounders in 2001 and was most recently the COO.

Photo courtesy of Sounders FC

Bart Wiley, the Seattle Sounders’ longest-tenured employee, has left the organization, the team announced on Thursday. Wiley first started working for the Sounders in 2001, predating even majority owner Adrian Hanauer.

“Bart Wiley has been a trusted advisor, executive and friend for the past two decades, helping to build Seattle Sounders FC into the community asset the club has become,” Hanauer said in a team statement. “Bart has been with the club since I first became involved with the organization in 2001, and in that time, he has helped steer us from our humble USL days into the Major League Soccer club we all know and love today.

“While Bart is saying goodbye to his day-to-day role with us, he departs our club as a friend, and someone we know we’ll be seeing again at our matches and in the community.”

Although not involved in the sporting side of the organization, Wiley has been one of the top-ranking executives on the business side. For most of his tenure, he reported directly to Hanauer. While overseeing the team’s sales, marketing, corporate partnerships, communications, broadcast and digital-related content, international marketing and community outreach, the Sounders were often considered one of the top organizations in MLS in those areas and led the league’s attendance every year from 2009-16.

Since averaging more than 44,000 fans per game in 2015, the Sounders have seen their attendance decline year-over-year in all but one season ever since. Despite the drop-off, the Sounders still averaged more than 40,000 fans per game in 2019, the last year full year of in-person attendance.

While team employees generally had positive things to say about Wiley, he did have a tenuous relationship with fans and specifically supporters’ groups. Wiley was often the target of frustrations supporters’ groups had with the front office.

When Peter Tomozawa joined the organization as a minority owner and assumed the role of President of Business Operations in 2019, though, Wiley was effectively demoted even though his title change from Chief Operating Officer to Executive Vice President & Chief Global Officer was considered lateral. In his new role, he represented Sounders FC around the world at numerous conferences and events, while also working with the club’s ownership group on strategic priorities. The pandemic effectively limited much of the work he was able to do in that area in the past year.

A Sounders source indicated there are no current plans to replace Wiley.

“I wish to thank Adrian for the amazing experiences and opportunities I’ve been a part of for the last 20 years,” Wiley said in a team statement. “From playing in front of 2,000 fans as a minor league team in 2002 to hosting MLS Cup in Seattle in front of a sold-out Lumen Field in 2019, I’m honored to have worked with my colleagues in building the organization into what it is today. Having 15 months in a pandemic to reflect on my future, I’ve chosen to explore other options outside this incredible organization. I love the Sounders and am excited to attend matches as a fan.”