TFC Supporters Town Hall 2011
I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend the last of four 2011 Town Hall sessions hosted by Toronto FC Thursday evening at BMO Field. Answering questions from TFC supporters were Paul Mariner, Earl Cochrane, Bob De Klerk, Aron Winter, Tom Anselmi and Paul Beirne.
True to their word from last season the club committed to the Town Hall process as being something they were committed to doing annually, and they are to be applauded in my opinion for following through on that promise. I am sure that not all clubs in this league do this sort of thing for their supporters.
There were a few tidbits from the session I attended Thursday evening that I felt were worthy of sharing:
- Richard Eckersley is 100% out for the New York game at BMO Field this Saturday. Bob De Klerk mentioned in an off line conversation that the player will likely be ready for the Dallas Game on October 18th.
- Joao Plata will, according to the words of Aron Winter, likely factor at the very least into the eighteen players selected for the Red Bulls game this coming Saturday. Winter was noncommittal as always on if he would actually play. Expect to at the very least to see Plata on the bench or as perhaps a late sub.
- Elbekay Bouchiba, injured in pre season and yet to of course feature competitively for TFC this year, is recovered sufficiently from injury to train with the first team, which he is currently doing. De Klerk stated however that it would be “foolhardy” to use him this season and that we will certainly not see him play an official match in TFC red until 2012.
- In response to a question surrounding the apparent “defensive shell” approach the club has recently taken in games when leading (such as the Pumas game on Tuesday past) Winter essentially stated that doing so was more of a tactical rather than a philosophical approach and has been generally been the way to go for TFC based on quality of the opponents and the issues of quality at the back.
- The first playing field at the new TFC Academy will be ready for use in November with the “…bubble going up…” as stated by Paul Beirne. The facility will be fully operation by June/July 2012.
- There are no specific plans from TFC to add any significant amount of new amenities at BMO Field next season other than some additional ATM’s and hand dryers in the washrooms.
- Paul Mariner stated that the club is “…trying very hard…” to find ways to keep on loan players Eckersley and Plata with TFC going forward.
- In response to question about the relatively high price ($15) and low attendance at TFC Academy games the club confirmed that the prices are set by the CSL and not TFC and that with the new Academy facility opening in the middle of next season they were looking hard at trying to find ways to increase attendance at these TFC Academy matches.
- The club “hinted” that TFC fans might want to keep April 7th 2012 open. Scuttlebutt in the room was that this could be the date of the “Montreal Derby” between TFC and the Impact at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
- TFC confirmed that there might be as many as eight mid week games at BMO Field next season as part of the 2012 league schedule.
- In response to a question about the lack of real good “road trip” opportunities for TFC fans in this season’s schedule Paul Beirne did state that TFC are working with MLS this season to try and incorporate more “road trip” friendly dates into the 2012 schedule. He further went on to his credit in stating that he felt TFC dropped the ball a bit on this issue in 2011 and that he would not do so going forward.
- Earl Cochrane, in response to a question about the salary cap and cap space for TFC going into the of season, stated that he felt strongly that TFC was “…in good shape cap space wise…” and that there the resources available fiscally to improve the team.
- In response to a general bit of criticism of the standard of MLS officiating from a number of supporters present Tom Anselmi, who is also a MLS Board of Governors member, stated that the league is very aware of the officiating issues in mls and among a number of initiatives to improve things is spending upwards of $500,000 this off season in running a referee school led by a firm from Europe that specializes in training officials.
- In response to a few questions about fans wishing that the club put priority on the Champions League game in Texas on October 18th versus Dallas instead of what will likely be a meaningless away game in Philly three days ahead of the Champions League game, Winter gave what I thought was his clearest response yet that he would likely rest some key players in Philly. Both Winter and De Klerk both I think truly get the fact that the Dallas game is massive.
- There are no plans for TFC to open training camp overseas next season as they did this past year in Turkey. The club will be based primarily in Orlando Florida in the upcoming pre-season. There are currently no plans to take part in the Charleston Challenge Cup pre-season tournament either for the first time.
I probably missed a few things of course as the discussions between the representatives from the club and the supporters in the room was very informal and free wheeling.
Off line I had the chance to chat with Bob De Klerk for about fifteen minutes and personally that was indeed the highlight of the evening for me. I hope that someone at the club, GOL TV or MLSE is reading this when I say that Bob De Klerk needs his own television show. He is such a genuinely interesting, charming and funny character that could do so very much to sell the sport, the club and the brand in this market. TFC has a real asset there that they should definitely leverage in the public eye much more than they are to date.
I have posted a few photos I took Thursday evening of artwork on display at the Town Hall session displaying how the new TFC Academy/Training facility may look when finished in mid 2012. You can check them out here in my Twitter photo feed: http://twitpic.com/photos/bgnewf
Your comments are always welcome and appreciated in this space. Please let us know what you think, especially if you were in attendance at any of the four Town Hall sessions.