On Tuesday -- First Kick day -- The News Tribune published an update on the progress of the Sounders' supporters Alliance and the club's effort to institute what it calls "Democracy in sports."
However, the obvious missing voice from that story was Sounders minority owner Drew Carey, who is credited with the idea of a fan alliance with action power, including the ability to vote out the general manager every four years (at least).
And while Carey's schedule didn't allow an interview in advance of the story, I did get some time with him at Qwest Field before the Sounders' opening loss to L.A., and here's what he had to say when I asked how his idea is working out after two seasons:
I think it’s going well, but in my dream state I thought that, ‘Oh, when people just hear about this they’ll want to adopt this model because it’s a really good model for treating the fans. If it’s a really good part you’re your business model if you’re in the sports business.’ And if you’re a team that has bad relations with the fans or the fans aren’t really trusting the ownership – you can name a lot of teams in professional sports with that kind of problem – they can go, ‘Oh, that’s a good thing they’re doing in Seattle, let’s copy that.’
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But I think that, realistically, we’re going to have to wait until after the first election – the vote on (general manager Adrian) Hanauer, and maybe even the second one – when people go, ‘Oh, that’s the system they have up there. Look how good it’s working.’ You’re talking having to wait eight or 10 years to have it incubate and people catch on and people go, ‘Oh, that’s what’s going on up there, that’s a really good thing.’ Which is fine with me, because I didn’t think of this as a first-year stunt to sell tickets.
Honestly, I always think of this team a hundred years from now. Seriously. I totally think, ‘What’s this system going to be like a hundred years from now.’ And I wanted us to have a system in place that will be good for 100 years, where 100 years from now it will be so expected, that ‘Oh yeah, my kid is going to be a Sounders fan because then he gets to vote and he’s pay attention.’ And it will be like, ‘My grandfather was on the Council, and now I want to be on the Council.’ It’ll be one of those things where it will just grow and grow and it will just be a natural part of the fabric. And I really think it will.
I hate to make this comparison – this is a really bad comparison – but, when the country started – when the United States started – nobody wanted the people to have the vote, and the objection they had was the same objected that I get from – I won’t say who – but other people in sports management in other teams that I mention this to. I had one person say, ‘You let the fans vote? What do the fans know?’ That was exactly the phrase. And I go, ‘Well, the fans know as much as the sports reporters know, the fans know if somebody isn’t doing a good job. Everybody knows.’ That was my argument from the first time I told (Sounders owner) Joe Roth about it. I said everybody knows when a general manager’s not doing a good job: It’s no secret.’ But sometimes they don’t get first when they should because … who knows why: the owner likes him or he gave the owner some song and dance. And I told Joe, that phrase I used was, ‘The fans will do your dirty work for you.’ Because the fans aren’t going to care. If Adrian – he’s not, he’s great – but if Adrian was a terrible general manager and really screwing up the team right now, the fans aren’t going to go, ‘Well, man, he’s a nice guy though; he promised he’ll do better next year; I know his family. Let’s give him another year.’ That’s not how they’re going to think. They’re going to go, ‘No. Get rid of this guy,’ the first chance they can.
And I really think we have to like publicize this thing to because if they wanted to they could vote out Adrian any year they want by getting 20 percent of the Alliance members to sign a petition on line. All the tools are there. … It’s supposed to be a back-and-forth where we are fools if we don’t give them the most possible ways to communicate with us, and we’re fools if we don’t listen.