TFC Town Hall Report Part 1
I was given the opportunity to attend the first Toronto FC Town Hall meeting with season ticket holders on Wednesday evening at BMO Field. In attendance along with 50+ fans were Interim GM Earl Cochrane, Paul Beirne (Senior Director Business Operations) and MLSE CEO Tom Anselmi. As promised in the Open Letter to supporters released on Wednesday this was one of the first sessions where fans could directly ask the club’s senior staff questions surrounding the on field performance of the club this season and of course question them directly on the myriad of controversial issues off the pitch that TFC are currently dealing with.
After some brief words from each of them that essentially mirrored the content in the letter released on their website yesterday, I was able to ask the first question. I directed it to Tom Anselmi and in it I stated that I felt that the club had only partially addressed fan anger over increased ticket prices for 2011 by removing the two CONCACAF games. For many fans I stated that there was no justification given for the per game increases from MLSE. My tickets for example have jumped in price by just about 80% over four years. So I simply asked them to justify for me the per game increases in the 2011 packages.
Tom and Paul both tried answering by stating that there have been investments made into the club, including improvements at the stadium such as grass and the upcoming plans for a large investment in the building of a training round/academy somewhere in the GTA. As well they also stated that in many respects they felt that they got their pricing wrong way back in day one and that the increases, which vary from section to section at BMO Field, are being done to “correct” many of those earlier errors.
I have to admit that I was quite unsatisfied with that response. And many in the room that I spoke with after the end of the session certainly agreed with me. I appreciate them trying to address the issue directly but all I felt I got on that question was more of the same. I have to say I was disappointed. When I responded that TFC supporters section fans pay just about the highest ticket in MLS Anselmi dismissed it by saying that “…Toronto is not Columbus…” and that they try and price to supply and demand and take into consideration what other types of sporting or cultural events in Toronto are able to charge and try and instead price to that rather than try and compare one soccer market to another. Frankly his response left me shaking my head.
Surprisingly there was little mention about fan anger around the MLS Cup. Many supporters (yours truly definitely) are not pleased that there was no option to opt out of having to purchase a ticket to the MLS Cup. After the session broke up Paul Beirne did state offline that it “…was what it was…” at this point and in retrospect that MLS Cup ticketing probably would have been handled differently.Fair enough… I think that the club will see the scope of this error later this month.
Interinm GM Earl Cochrane in response to a question about the plans for improving on field performance in 2011 dropped some interesting tidbits in his response, including breaking some news. The MLS Expansion draft is scheduled for November 24th, just a little under six weeks away. The MLS “RE-Entry” draft is scheduled to take place likely in early December. TC has six draft picks for the MLS Superdraft in January, with one pick each in the first two rounds and two each in the last two rounds. And on the news front he stated that TFC training camp would be taking place overseas in Turkey starting in mid January. Finally Cochrane stated that it was his belief that in a “week or two” there would be an announcement from the club about the hiring of a consultant to assist in hiring the new front office staff.
I am also going to attend a supporters group session next week where the questions and discussion will likely be significantly different. I wanted to be able to compare what the supporters group members and general fans will be hearing rom the club first hand. And of course I will report on that session later next week.
Overall I left somewhat disappointed. Perhaps I should have known that going in, but still I felt that there were not as many substantive responses to the questions being asked as I would have liked. Earl Cochrane was a revelation to me. Based on how he responded to the questions thrown his way he seems to at least have a good grasp of what needs to happen and what he needs to do over the short term at least.
I appreciate that they as a club provided the forum to ask the questions but I was not in retrospect too surprised that there was more “…we screwed up…” and “…we want to listen…” generalities then actual answers to some hard questions.
More to follow next week.
Your comments are always appreciated.