Saturday, we had the privilege of attending the 2015 ISA (Independent Supporters Organization, aka Section 8 Chicago) Annual General Meeting. We'll get the high-suspense stuff out of the way and say that overall, it was a good meeting. From the candor of participants, to the mostly very smooth proceedings, and the nice setting, this was a good AGM.
With that, let's dig into the details, of which there are a-plenty.
The event took place at the Second Star club, which was a nice change of venue from previous meetings in years past that were held in the lounge. The lone con to this was tight spaces to maneuver from front to back and also the absolute necessity of having someone speak clearly into the mic in order to be heard all the way in the back.
Front office Q&A
The first event was a Q&A session that the Club held, with Atul Akosha, Frank Yallop, Brian Bliss, Logan Pause and the somewhat unfamiliar name of Doug Hicks, whom appears to be the brand strategist (He's actually VP/Communications - ed.) Please note responses to questions are being paraphrased, and if there is a direct quote, it will be noted it as such.
Bliss, the Chicago Fire technical director, mentioned that the squad size is currently at 24 players signed. He said he was not sure how many more will be signed due to salary cap and new CBA - still unresolved - holding them back. He specifically stated that the Fire did not want to be in a position where the new CBA might put them in a bad position.
Bliss then talked about the new affiliation with Saint Louis and how beneficial it will be to development. He did acknowledge how long the announcement took to make but stated it was not as easy as just calling clubs to affiliate with and had to work with issues of Saint Louis being close to SKC's territory. They are hoping to send 3 to 5 players to Saint Louis and did not rule out possible loans to Indy XI, New York Cosmos, Fort Lauderdale, and other NASL clubs.
CF97 head coach Yallop opened his session by saying that he has brought in exciting players but still the main issue is that they have to win, and especially at home.
From the outset, FY was peppered with 3-4 questions regarding the backline. The answers were not anything new from what has been already publicly stated. When Bliss mentioned that due to salary cap space, the team is not going to be adding any [defensive] players in the 150-180k pay range, that right there said to me "ladies and gentlemen, here's you're 2015 Chicago Fire defensive lineup."
Yallop had confirmed that Jeff Larentowicz was going to be playing centerback on the basis of coming around to a solid performance at the end of last year.. I get the impression that Larentowicz is the linchpin of the line, and if he gets injured ... We are just one more injury away from a 2013 backline nightmare redux. On a related note, Frank flat out said that he believes that the defensive line is better than last year's. He acknowledged that the Hurtado/Ianni trade didn't work out, and essentially that it is the nature of the business where some trades pan out, others don't. The opportunity was there, so he took it.
When asked about formation he would use going forward, FY said he was very likely to go with a 4-3-3 formation based on the current roster. He also stated that there were 2 more players that they were targeting (no names mentioned, but I'll assuming Maloney is one of them.) This led into questions on the USL-Pro affiliation and final roster size. Due to the CBA, the technical staff are erring on the side of needing an additional signing versus having too many and then having to say too bad, so sad, we gotta cut ya.
Yallop was asked about how the team could not finish games in 2014. He stressed that he has brought in players that can help with that. He was also asked when someone will just shoot the ball. His response was that he agrees and he feels that the players that he signed will do that. He is also waiting for 2 more possible players to be signed.
He mentioned that Mike Magee is coming along nicely after surgery and may be back in May. Patrick Nyarko is coming along also but still a ways out (June/July?).
The COO of the Fire started the Q&A session by saying that 2014 for the Fire from a FO stand point was really good. Revenues up, corporate partnerships up, and ticket sales up. Also said there is no TV deal for 2015 yet but they are working on it.
He said the Fire are excited with the extension of Quaker as a shirt sponsor but couldn't go into details. From there he talked about the 50 corporate partnerships that they have currently - the most the club has ever had. Khosla was quick to deflect any potential criticism of showing said sponsors a good time during preseason in London, saying that's what athletic teams do, regardless of the sport. So take that, you naysayers.
A mea culpa of sorts, for those who were there
Guillermo Rivera, of Fire Confidential, brought up the topic of The Editorial and an apology, wherein AK proceeded to take responsibility for it, stating that - in hindsight - it was a mistake, it shouldn't have come out, lay the blame on him. When asked if an apology would be published on the Fire website, he responded, "No." When outgoing ISA Chair Pattrick Stanton pressed AK on why not, AK deferred, stating that he doesn't want to bring up a matter that created the waves that it did. When pressed further on why he would not issue a public statement to this effect, he stated that this [moment] was a public statement. The next question was if Andrew Hauptman shared his sentiment. AK said yes.
BrianC: My own impression was that they realized they f'd up, but that issuing a public apology on the website would be too much of a loss of face. (In my own opinion, this has always been an issue that never went away, hence why the question came up.)
The new kit
We were presented with a nice surprise with a full away kit reveal. AK asked no photos please, as there is a planned unveiling in a couple weeks with the current Mayor of Chicago, so out of deference, I'm going to be very selective of what I say next. I think, like The Editorial, the Powers-that-Be learned a lesson from the chatter around the third kit. There are elements that people will like, and it makes me hopeful (there's a word for ya!) that the next home kit nails it, which, if the creative direction this kit takes things is any indicator, they just might. Past that, it has white, it has red, it has blue, and some more blue. (The blue, as I understand it, is a Chicago blue, not navy - ed.)
The ISA board had three Director positions contested, which is a new record for the books. Those positions were Chair, Vice-Chair, and Communications. The candidates for uncontested positions were allowed time to talk about themselves and their intentions for the year. The candidates for contested seats were allowed time to speak and answer questions. The candidates for the hotly contested Chair position, Don Walsh and Dan Martin, spoke individually and fielded questions together. Both spoke with passion, but in the end each person's vision on how they wished to lead the ISA greatly differed.
Ballots were tallied by an independent third party, so there should be no future questions of integrity as faced after the 2014 election. Your 2015 Section 8 Chicago ISA board (with Twitter handles!) will be:
- Chairperson: Dan Martin (@fugexlac)
- Vice-chairperson: Frank Cardenas (@TrumpetGuapo)
- Director of Marketing: Eva Hall (@evahall)
- Director of Communications: Nicole Hack (@nikhak)
- Director of Operations: Rudy Gomez (@kornkid15)
- Director of Merch: Maud Squires (@maudamanda)
- Director of Finance: Merrie Bunt (@mlbunt)
- Director of Events: Jacob Peters (@ArchiJake)
The front office worked with the Village of Bridgeview to get Toyota Park a full-time turf manager.
Yesterday, Jeff Crandall announced that he was stepping down from his front office position and would no longer be working for the Fire. He had an opportunity to address the audience and say "thank you" for everyone's support and friendship over the last five years. I caught most of it on video: