Monday night’s earlier of two town hall meetings hosted by Toronto FC – among seven in total – to give season seat holders a chance to voice their concerns started with food and beer, and finished with some very frank discussions about football.
What sounds like an ideal evening however, had some painful parts at the outset of these talks.
“The process has been difficult but important,” noted director of business operations Paul Beirne.
“We realize that we screwed up and we are going back to the seat holders to tell us what they would like to see done differently.“
Season seat holders have a chance to hold management accountable and they are taking it. Ticket packages, prices and uncertainties about the future were all thrust to the front of the informal agenda. At times there were fireworks, but never without respectful dialogue and a chance to hear both sides.
There is no masking the frustration felt by some seat holders, but the tone of the night changed noticeably when the discussion moved to the team’s performance on the pitch, rather than the dealings of the front office.
Interim director of soccer operations, Earl Cochrane, was asked about the designated player (DP) rule and Toronto’s inability to succeed with this roster position as teams such as Columbus and recently New York have.
“If used correctly, the DP is a very valuable asset in this league and we will see how we can use it,” said Cochrane when quizzed on the value of Toronto’s signings in this area.
While Cochrane refused to get into individual players, assistant general manager Jim Brennan painted a picture of what Toronto is courting.
“I think we need a classic number 10. We are going to look to Latin America and other places to find someone that can help us play a certain type of football. We are looking beyond the British style.”
That revelation inevitably invited jokes about Swansea and Wimbledon from the gallery, injecting some levity into the conversation.
Chief Operating Officer of team owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Tom Anselmi, offered a nugget about club direction saying, “there are substantial names being discussed” in consultation for the director of soccer position. The club is seeking advice from experienced football people before making a permanent appointment. In the meantime, Cochrane and Brennan have the full trust of the organization to prepare the team during this transitional period.
Seat holders were magnanimous toward the club for holding such open dialogue, which Beirne assured will be a regular occurrence going forward. Though not always happy about each response, many of them remained and discussed matters with the four speakers once the question and answer period was over. Some returned for the second session which predominantly featured members of The Red Patch Boys supporters group.
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