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Interview with Chicago Riot Vice-President Tom Dunmore

Recently, Tom Dunmore, Vice-President of the Chicago Riot, gave Hot Time In Old Town a few minutes of his time to conduct an interview focusing on his role with the indoor soccer team.  He discussed some of the unique challenges he faces as the Riot continue to build the club and fanbase.  Our full interview is below. 

1.    Tom, please describe your position with the Chicago Riot and some of the responsibilities you have with the club.

-  I am pretty much in a jack-of-all-trades role.  Peter Wilt approached me a couple of months ago and asked if I would be willing to be a part of the Riot team and help get it up and running.  Previously, I had a lot of experience working with the Chicago Fire and especially Section 8.  I worked on a lot of projects involving fan interaction so I had some experience with the conventional outdoor soccer world.  I thought it would be interesting to get some experience in the totally different realm of indoor soccer.

-  Right now, my tasks involve all aspects of the club.  I help out with fan interaction when need be.  I will also do marketing, or get out in the public and get work done, help with ticket sales, etc.  I have pretty much performed all duties that the cub needs at one point or another so far.  It’s only been a few months, but everything has needed to be put together very quickly to get the Riot up and running.  We are trying to sculpt a product that is something that the fans can believe in, and we value being up front and honest as one of our biggest areas of emphasis.  We have an honest, hard working team, and honest and hard working employees, and we are all trying to bring that together in hope of not only having a successful MISL club, but also attracting investors to ensure the Riot carry on strongly into the future.

-  This is especially tough to do in a place like Chicago.  There are a large number of sports teams vying for attention and for fans, and the winter competition is especially tough with the Blackhawks, Bulls, and a couple of minor league hockey teams, just to name a few.  This makes our task even more challenging to not only create a market for the Chicago Riot, but to continue to get fans interested and believing in the team.  And that, in a nutshell, are just some of the functions that I help with as a member of the Chicago Riot.

Eight other quesitons with Tom Dunmore after the break

2.    What have been some of the unique challenges to getting a brand new club up and running and trying to create a market for the team from the ground up?

-  Unquestionably, one of the toughest things has been to create a market for the Riot from the ground up without a budget like most other professional sports teams enjoy.  Peter Wilt has mentioned this in his previous interview with your site.  We have to rely on alternate forms of marketing to build our interaction and loyalty and brand with the fans.  Things like social media (Twitter, Facebook, Riot website), and getting out and about in the community are some our of biggest advantages.  We don’t have the money to spend on mass advertising, billboards, transport, etc., so we need to use a more intimate means to create and build our fanbase.  We can even use our home venue, the Odeum in Villa Park, to help us.  Some of the other arenas/stadiums are further away from the city, or in locations that may be a bit harder to reach.  We feel the Odeum is ideally situated.  It’s close to the city, and is easily accessible from many different areas.

-  Despite the challenges, I really enjoyed seeing all the smiling faces and fans having fun at our first (and only) home game so far.  We have come a long way already, and we have quite a ways to go, but it was immensely rewarding to see the fans enjoying themselves at the Odeum during a Riot game.  We also have a great night planned on Jan. 30th, in which we will be celebrating a Chicago Soccer Heritage night, and we are looking forward to that.  Overall, we feel we have a good start on creating an in demand product.  We have an intimate venue, with great fans (the banging drums during our first home game were great), and we are really excited to build and grow the Chicago Riot.

3.    The Riot recently notched their first win in the MISL this past weekend.  What are your thoughts on the progress of the club as a whole thus far?

-  Obviously, in terms, of record, we are disappointed with how the initial part of the MISL season has gone.  However, we can also take positives out of this.  Other than one half in one game, we have been very competitive in every other half of all the games so far.  We have been able to play close games with some very good teams, and if a few things go our way, we could easily have a couple more wins.  We feel we have progressed a lot considering the circumstances of putting together a new club so quickly.  Head Coach Jeff Kraft and President and CEO Peter Wilt have done a remarkable job of bringing together this level of talent in such a short, rushed time.  I definitely think we have a good shot of making the playoffs, especially as quickly as we are progressing.  This is again a credit to Peter, Jeff, and the players as well.  Novi[ca Marojevic], Fred [Degand], and many other players have had instrumental leadership roles so far in molding this club. 

4.    Over here at Hot Time in Old Town, the other writers and I have been vastly impressed with the giant strides you have been making in such a short amount of time.  We love the fact that you already have streaming games on your website and the new iPhone app you just released works very well.  Can you give us some thoughts on the development of these tools?

-  As I had previously mentioned, these are vital tools for us to utilize as we won’t get major media coverage like the other, larger teams in the Chicagoland area.  We are really fortunate to have the MISL committed to streaming every game online.  In our case, we are so pleased to have gotten the opportunity to work with 9magnets on the iPhone app we recently launched.  We are also working on getting more video highlights up on Facebook, Twitter, the Riot website, etc.  Our staff is also working diligently on getting some unique, behind the scenes looks at the team/players up and running.  Having an intimate club like we have will allow us to be able to share info and video with fans that many larger clubs just cannot do.

5.    What sort of unique challenges have you faced so far as a team executive when it comes to indoor soccer and the MISL vs. what you have experienced in your time helping with outdoor, conventional soccer?

-  Again, a much smaller budget is one of the main differences in the MISL.  However, this is also somewhat offset by the amount of flexibility we have.  If we want to do something, we don’t have miles and miles of red tape and multiple superiors to go through.  We talk about it and it happens.  There aren’t long waiting periods, and problems or ideas can be addressed very efficiently.  So it’s nice to have stuff happen so fast and easy.  So really, these so called “limitations” allow us to do so much more in some ways.  We have also been fortunate as we feel the MISL and the Chicago indoor soccer community in general, is very tight knit.  Other MISL clubs have helped us out greatly as a new club, so we feel very fortunate to have such a close knit group of fans and teams in this league, vs. such big leagues and fan bases in some of the other major sports where you are mostly on your own.
6.    Apart from size of budget, what has been the most challenging part of your job so far in getting the Riot up and running?  What has been the most rewarding part of your job so far?

-  One of the most challenging parts of the job so far is also there with any job- dealing with frustrations.  We feel we are creating great things so far with the Riot, but I also know it will take awhile for some of the fruits of this labor to appear.  For example, we want to sell out every home game and have loud, raucous fans there to give the team a boost when they come out on the field.  While we are definitely heading in the right directions, it can be frustrating at times for me to have to get to that point over time, rather than just overnight.  But I have no doubt we will get there.

-  As for rewarding parts of the job, as I had mentioned before, I loved seeing the happy faces at our first home game.  It definitely made all the hard work and toil instantly pay off.  Another reward would be a perk of the job- getting to go on the field occasionally and play around.  I like to try to test my soccer skills, as little as they may be [laughing].  One day, I was able to get some shots on goal in against backup goal keeper Ante Cop.  I was able to fire off one shot perfectly, and beat Ant in the upper corner of the net.  That was pretty neat, it felt good and will give me some bragging rights.  Jeff and Novi were there to witness it.  But stuff like that also gives me a large amount of respect for just how good the players are, how hard they work, and the kind of talent level needed to play in this league.

7.    In creating a new MISL team, many of your fans will be new to the sport.  Can you name 3 interesting things the average new Riot/MISL fan may not know about the team or the league?

-  7a.  A sixth attacker can be used in place of a goal keeper.  This would be a strategy that would be employed late in a game if you are behind and really need a goal.  It is similar to an extra attacker in ice hockey.  This definitely brings a special element to the game.  It essentially works like a power play for your team.  However, it can also be dangerous if you lose control of the ball, it essentially gives the other team an open goal.  But, when you’re desperate for a score, it’s a chance you sometimes have to take.

-  7b.  The scoring system in general.  To new MISL/Riot fans, it definitely is a change from conventional outdoor soccer.  There is always a debate with the MISL scoring system.  Some like it, some don’t.  Personally, I am indifferent regarding it.  I can see the argument both ways, but one unique aspect is the ability to never really be out of a game.  For example, if you are down 6 goals, it sounds like an insurmountable lead to a conventional soccer fan.  However, two 3 point goals ties the game up in the MISL.  So the scoring system helps give the feeling that a team is never really out of the contest if they can find ways to get some quick strikes in the net.

-  7c.  Blue cards are another unique part of the game.  Of course in outdoor soccer, you have your yellow and red cards.  Card accumulation can count against you, and certainly red cards can, but the occasional yellow here and there doesn’t really hurt a team.  In indoor soccer, if the referee feels a situation warrants it, a blue card is issued.  This works like a penalty in hockey.  That player serves a 2 minute penalty time, and he cannot be substituted for, again like in hockey.  So the other team receives a 5 on 4 power play.  With the field being much smaller in indoor soccer, this makes for gripping action, and makes the MISL unique in yet another aspect.

8.    Are there any upcoming projects or ideas you are working on for the near future that you can share with us?

-  We are always working on new things, but one thing I can share with you is something we also just posted on our website.  We just announced authentic Riot home jerseys for sale.  We are very excited to be able to offer a product like this, especially at such a young state in the club’s life.  We have some mini soccer balls on sale now as well, and both products can be purchased through the website.

9.    Tom, is there anything else you would like to add?

-  I just would like to thank all those who have shown us support so far.  Whether that means watching the games online, coming to the games in person, following the Riot through the website, or spreading the world in general, we truly appreciate each and every one of you.  We also greatly appreciate the coverage and attention from Hot Time In Old Town.  It’s great to have your coverage and be able to reach out to even more people, especially those that may not be familiar with the MISL or the world of indoor soccer.  We truly appreciate it, and look forward to working with you guys on things in the future.