Many years from now, when Sounders FC fans look back on the history of the club, 2012 will be a year to remember.
There weren’t any championships won, but it was still a historical season, as the Sounders held their first vote to retain the club’s general manager.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Adrian Hanauer on board as the GM, but to owner Drew Carey, who was the mastermind within the organization to bring the democracy element into Major League Soccer, that’s exactly how it should be when things are going well with the club. And while it was the first GM vote, the inclusion of elements of the concept of democracy that has permeated since the club’s inception made the vote run very smoothly.
“It went great. Just like I thought. It went off without a hitch,” Carey said. “It’s affected a lot of our decisions in a really positive way. There’s no harm to the team because of it and it makes the fans feel empowered a little bit, so it’s been a big success all the way around. The election went off and there was no angst about it. There was no arguing that you would think would go along with it. I was pretty happy about that. You only have to worry when things are going bad – and they’re not.”
A big reason for the democratic elements of the organization reside in those less than satisfying years though.
And while the current ownership group doesn’t necessarily need a fan vote to learn that the team’s play isn’t up to the standard expected by those fans, it is still very important to Carey, Hanauer, Paul Allen and majority owner Joe Roth that the longevity of Sounders FC is held in high importance when the foundation is laid in the early stages of the organization.
“It’s kind of a safeguard against an owner who is blind or wants his nephew to be the general manager,” Carey said. “With this current group of people, that’s not going to happen. I always think of this team as 100 years down the road or 50 years down the road and we’re dead and somebody else is running the team – who knows what they’re going to do? Since this is in place, the fans are protected. With the group we have together now, if it gets that bad, the general manager is going to be fired anyway.”
What started as an idea in a meeting between Carey and Roth back in 2007 has now taken full shape. And while elements of the concept will still evolve over time, the first four-year cycle went as well as expected. Giving the fans a hand in those important decisions along the way was integral in making the GM vote successful.
What made it successful to the franchise wasn’t not just in that Hanauer was retained, but that fans had the opportunity to have their voices heard about a topic that they feel passionately about – the Sounders FC.
“I want this team to be around forever. That’s how I always see it in my head. Everything you want to do, you want it to be on a solid foundation where some little thing isn’t going to wash it all away,” Carey said. “Nobody wants to invest their time and money and their personal energy into supporting a team that’s not going to be around or is just a flash in the pan.”
Through his time in ownership with the Sounders FC, Carey has come to one strong conclusion that also makes the fan vote a beneficial element to supporters of the team.
Though active in show business for half of his life, including many years with his own television shows, Carey has never been one for firing people.
“I’d be bad at firing people. The idea of it makes me ill,” he laughed. “Maybe that’s why I want the fans to fire people – so I don’t have to.”