Every year since playing their first MLS season in 2009, the Seattle Sounders and the Alliance Council have held an Annual Business Meeting. The event is part of the team’s broader commitment to “Democracy in Sports” and is actually mandated in the club’s constitution.
4.2 General Meeting. The Alliance shall hold an annual General Meeting, also known as the End of the Year Business Meeting or Annual Business Meeting, open to all Alliance Members. This meeting shall be held within eight (8) weeks of the conclusion of the last regular season match. This meeting shall be planned by the Council and the Club collectively.
In the early years, it was a pretty big deal with hundreds or even thousands of fans showing up to places like WAMU Theater or the Paramount to see the owners and various front office staff give updates on how things were progressing behind the scenes.
More recently, however, the ABM has been lower-key. Even before the pandemic, it had become a mostly online event, with only a few dozen fans allowed to attend in person. Even when it was at its most intimate, though, it was at least reasonably well publicized with media encouraged to attend.
In that sense, this year's event was a bit of a departure. Many of us were surprised to learn that the ABM was last Friday. After a bit of digging, I discovered that it had been publicized rather deep inside an email to season-ticket holders as well as advertised at some Sounders home games, although you'd have to have been watching the pregame announcements rather closely to catch it. Attendance was so limited that even if you attempted to RSVP, you weren't guaranteed a spot.
When I asked the Sounders about this, they admitted that outreach was basically non-existent but insisted that they are "reimagining the vision and scope for the Annual Business Meeting. Our collective hope is that those renewed efforts will support enhanced programming, engagement and attendance surrounding the ABM."
Whether or not the event was intended to be held in virtual secret, the full recording is now available. I still think it was pretty un-Sounders to do such a poor job of outreach and was as disappointed as anyone to be caught off-guard, but the end product looked and felt like most of the previous ABMs. That means a lot of corporate-style speak, a few interesting takeaways and fans having an opportunity to ask most of the big questions most probably wanted asked.
At the same time, I'm sympathetic to the idea that the ABM has started to feel a bit like a box-checking event and hope the Alliance Council and club can come up with a format that does a better job of showcasing what an amazing and unique opportunity this is for fans to hear directly from decision-makers.
Participating in the event were majority owner Adrian Hanauer, President of Business Operations Hugh Weber, Chief Operating Officer Maya Mendoza-Exstrom, Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Taylor Graham, and GM Craig Waibel.
Here are some of the highlights: