June 30, 2011
Fortgate-The Airing of Grievences
Opening the meeting Brian Bilello spoke of attempts to build the supporters movement by the team over the past few years and how the team would like continue to help it grow. He went on to say that the team "realize[s] it's and adult environment and we want to market that." The YSA chant was cited as causing problems with season ticket holders, groups and multi-ticket package holders. The team was unhappy with there not being enough progress within a "multi-week time frame". The team recognised that they could of handled the situation better (i.e. emails, handouts, etc.) but they immediately turned it around to the supporters and asked what they could have done better to control the use of YSA. Focus early on was on the needlessness of profanity in chants.
Kelly Way informed us that the first complaint during that game regarding YSA was during the 1st half followed by subsequent complaints in the second half. Cathal Conlon was asked to speak with the supporters to try and quell the chant instead of TeamOps going in and ejecting people. No reference was made to Ms. Way repeatedly harassing the Capo, Monty Rodrigues about him leading YSA which was not the case. Bilello stated that if he tells Way to "let it go, it goes", but that customer service is most important.
Evan Daby stated the the "league is in the business of growing the fanbase" but if the cursing issue wasn't fixed it would hurt everyone. He said this was an opportunity for the team and supporters to be leaders in the league.
Bilello continued to speak of wanting to see the the supporters culture grow, but went on to say that there are 485 STH's in the Fort and that he has 5000 other STH's to worry about (wow we finally got season ticket numbers!)
Supporters in attendance started to voice concerns of the over aggressive behavior of TeamOps, despite repeated questions and accounts the issue was mostly tip-toed around by Kelly Way and Brian Bilello. One female supporter recounted how she felt uncomfortable and intimidated by there presence. She went on to speak of how she and another were surrounded by TeamOps officials and Foxoborough PD when they suspected them of filming them, which the proved they were in fact not. Another supporter spoke of how she was knocked over by TeamOps pushing through a row of people to get to someone that was not causing any physical harm. As she was falling she grabbed onto a TeamOps member to catch herself and was immediately threatened with arrest and ejection. Kelly Way apologized for supporters not feeling that they have a voice with TeamOps and that they will look to improve communication, Bilello chimed in that supporters should give feedback and they will be responsive towards it.
A unaffiliated supporter who does not sit in the Fort recounted that YSA is not exclusive to The Fort and that it occurs in other sections of the stadium as well and there is never even a TeamOps presence there. She went on to state that it is not the team's job to tell her kids what is and is not acceptable and that she can handle telling them herself that YSA is not acceptable but that she did not think that it needed to be stopped even though she doesn't like it. She was concerned that placing the blame on just The Fort was unacceptable and that enforcement of the rules needs to be consistent throughout the stadium.
Midnight Riders President Fran Harrington spoke of how the Riders and Rebellion did everything they could to try to curb the use of YSA including posting on their message boards, emails, a joint letter sent through social media and word of mouth. The consensus from the supporters groups was that more than a few weeks was needed to change multiple years of behavior.
Kelly Way was asked if Monty Rodrigues would be offered an apology for the way he was treated by TeamOps (specifically Way herself) while on the capo stand and making efforts to co-operate, to which Way responded with an emphatic "No".
Alan Haskill reported when asked that the officer seen in the video floating around the internet has in fact been reprimanded for his actions. Haskill said that he won't defend the behavior of that officer and it was "not the type of response we expect and was unprofessional." He stated that the officer would likely be working future Revolution matches.
After about 90 minutes of discussion revolving mostly around swearing, which everyone was in agreement that YSA can and should be eliminated the conversation was pushed by Bilello into wanting to extend the atmosphere of The Fort to the rest of the stadium and how would that be possible.
The issue of treatment of the supporters by the team and TeamOps was brought up again with one supporter speaking of his time growing up and going to games in Europe. He stated in the 25 years of going to matches in Germany and around Europe that he has never seen more aggresive behavior by any security towards it's fans than that of TeamOps. It was pointed out the security and police intervening with supporters in aggressive ways only serves to escalate rather than de-escalate a tense situation, and that this wasn't "Milwall in the 70's".
Twards the end Bilello said that "everyone is just trying to do their jobs" and that TeamOps and Foxborough PD need to enforce the rules, if you're "doing what you're supposed to be doing there are no problems." Fran Harrington of the Midnight Riders pushed Bilello to make sure that the discussion that the team has about going forward are transparent and open to or shown to all supporters and that TeamOps needs to do the same going forward. It was requested that the team make sure that ther response is seen by the greater soccer community to which Bilello said that it should be a joint letter from the SG's and the team.
Bilello closed the meeting by saying "We care about you guys, we support you guys" and asked that the supporters have faith in them. Working together to find balance and resolve issues in the future were the themes of his closing statements and the main points were 1. elimination of YSA, 2. better communication, 3. figuring out where we go from here.
So we had a 2 hour conversation about swearing, exactly what the supporters have stated that this is not about. When issues of mistreatment and aggressive behavior came up the responses were guarded at best and the issues were skirted around and the subject changed. Kelly Way did a good job of putting a smile on her face and trying to be friendly and put a positive spin on things, a far different persona than we saw from her almost 2 weeks ago now. The calls for communication were too little too late, the damage has been done and those calls were not enough for most of the supporters in attendance. While communication is good and should be encouraged it's a baby step towards what they should be doing.
Despite the team acting as if some of these issues with TeamOps were the first that they had heard others refuted that statement and said that they had filed official complaints with the team and never had any followup. If the team is going to actively pursue complaints from other STH's than they need to do the same with those from supporters and somehow TeamOps needs to be held accountable for their actions. In the end as we have said before, talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words. There was very little sign of action and we all left feeling like we've heard them say these things before... because we have.
SUPPORT THE FORT