Tom Anselmi Blinked!
Tom Anselmi blinked.
In another open letter posted today as promised by Toronto FC in response to what the club has heard in the recent town hall meetings a number of what can only be categorized as positive substantive changes have been enacted by the club in an unprecedented response to fan anger.
Here quickly is a run down of how the club is responding to what they heard from fans in the town halls, quoted from the open letter.
- For returning season seat holders who renew by the deadline, TFC will honour their 2011 prices for the 2012 season. In other words, there will be no price increase for the 2012 season for renewing 2011 season ticketholders. The 2011 home opener will be a free ticket for season ticket holders who do renew.
- For 2012, Toronto FC’s season ticket package will only include the MLS regular season games and two Nutrilite Canadian Championship games.
- The Toronto FC Town Hall sessions were valuable and enlightening. They hoped the sessions have been valuable for fans as well. They have committed to holding similar sessions at BMO Field twice in 2011.
- They will continue to work with Metro Police, Toronto Transportation, TTC and GO Transit to improve getting to and from games. A new exit from Exhibition Place to Lakeshore Blvd. is nearly complete and will help with post game congestion.
- With change comes the opportunity to make important decisions about our future. They are working hard to assemble a management team that they feel will be second to none in Major League Soccer. They are looking for leadership that will establish the vision for this team and create a winning culture so that Toronto FC will consistently compete for a championship.
The season ticket renewal deadline has been extended for the second time now to next Monday to allow those still wavering time to review TFC’s response and judge if it is still worthwhile to renew.
I just wish it did not take crisis for all this good stuff to take place. I wish that fan revolts, poor on field results, front office turmoil, and unprecedented player movement were not all needed to illicit the positive event that took place earlier today to actually happen. But at least it has happened. And to TFC’s credit a number of issues have been addressed. The reality is that many of the poor off field business decisions that have made segments of the fan base so angry are frankly at this point too late to change for 2011. They are what they are at this point.
The three major developments in the letter were of course the promise of a price freeze, promises to restrain the scope of the season ticket packages themselves and the promise to continue face to face communications with fans and supporters on an ongoing basis.
When it comes to ticket prices I can tell you that in the three town hall meetings I attended the primary point of contention for fans across the board was the per game increases in season tickets and the collective fear of being forced to walk away at some near or future point due to price inflation. Announcing a price freeze for 2012, although too late to do anything this season, is definitely a step in the right direction to address that primary concern. And dare I say it this move is almost unprecedented from MLSE as an owner. In the sessions Tom Anselmi stated on a few occasions that he was learning that soccer fans are not hockey fans and that they cannot be treated the same way as the prototypical North American sports fan. Committing to the price freeze a year out is definitely a smart move to show in a tangible way that the club gets what was far and away the number one concern they heard at the town halls. What was unclear in the letter and what must be clarified by the club is if they are actually committing to a per game freeze. There of course will be additional games in 2012 with more league expansion on the way which impacts the number of games. And the number of games of course impacts the price of the package. Hopefully that can be clarified soon.
The surprise the club has seen in fan anger over the MLS Cup and in some quarters the inclusion of CONCACAF Champions League games in the 2011 packages really caught them of guard. Again the club made a couple of serious errors here that they are trying to address. First the MLS Cup game is likely not being nearly as popular as the club thought it was going to be. Not promoting the game for seven months after it was announced, and not putting tickets on sale months ago may very well be decisions that may come back to haunt TFC. Committing to only including TFC league games and the Voyageurs Cup games in the package also commits the club to a lot of hard work going forward. Even though the per game attendance for the four CONCACAF Champions League games to BMO Field was solid by CONCACAF standards it was low by TFC standards. Not including any of those games in the packages going forward commits the club to realizing that they have to actually advertise, market, educate and promote these games going forward for them to be successful to both season ticket holders and casual fans together. The hardcore fans will always be there at these games. Perhaps now is the time for the club to hire more ticketing and marketing staff if they want to to this the right way in the years ahead.
And the continuation of the town hall process is definitely another good move for the club to take. The quantity and scope of the errors the club has made in four years and the amount of fan anger out there obviously speaks to the fact that the club might have been hearing fans but they were not really listening to them as well as they could have been. To their credit this open letter today shows that the listening has actually begun. It is not all perfect but it is definitely a positive that may very well go a long way toward rebuilding what has become a damaged relationship with its fans.
And perhaps the most interesting thing or me in the letter was the fact that unlike the first open letter this letter today was actually signed by the four people who represented the club at the meetings. To me the first letter announcing the first season ticket renewal extension and the changes the club was originally committing to reeked of spin. and corporate doublespeak. Today’s did not. And well done for these four men to put their signatures and by extension their individual reputations on the line here.
I for one am reasonably satisfied. Realistically in my opinion there were not going to be many more changes than the ones announced today. And fan sentiment in response on the message boards today is generally one of surprise in the scope of what TFC is committing to.
The letter in it’s entirety can be found here: http://www.torontofc.ca/news/2010/10/next-path-toronto-fc
Now the focus needs to go back on the field. There is a game (even if it is a meaningless one) on deck for tomorrow at DC United and I want a road win! And yeah… we still need a new permanent President and GM and Coach!
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