An Open Letter From DBG Leadership To FC Dallas
Dear FC Dallas,
The 2018 season is now over and we have been quiet for way too long. We stayed through the ups and the downs. We stayed in the 100 degree weather and the rain. We are the supporters who are there when no one else is. But, enough is enough. Something must be said.
There is a disconnect between the organization and those around it. We are watching our club begin to fall apart in front of our eyes. This disconnect starts at the top and trickles down to the bottom and even has affected our play on the field. Our ownership, Hunt Sports Group, has shown that they are more concerned about the National Soccer Hall of Fame than their own franchise. Rather than investing in the team, the entire stadium, and the fans, they point their time, money, and attention to the south end. All at the same time, ignoring that those running the organization are letting it crumble and are not doing anything about it. Dan Hunt, re-evaluate those you have in charge. They are not doing their jobs the way they should be and you can see how below. We appreciate that the academy and stadium revenue are what make FC Dallas profitable overall, but the value of this organization stems from success on the field and in the stands, not a museum in an empty stadium.
Our ticketing system must be better. Season ticket holders are pushed aside and not valued by being undercut by game specials on a frequent basis. Not to mention, increasing prices on a regular basis with justification of value. Kris Katseanes, fluctuating prices and then allowing your sales team to beg with free tickets is not how you retain current customers or secure new ones. We are tired of the puzzle pieces not fitting together… or even being from the same puzzle for that matter. We know for a fact that the FC Dallas front office concentrates their marketing of tickets to residents in Collin County. They ignore the entire Metroplex on a regular basis in the misguided belief that they can fill seats by targeting families, youth teams, and those who live by the stadium. This is not working. You are ignoring entire demographics of people because they don’t fit you’re ideal fan. Die hard supporters who have been season ticket members for years are cancelling their tickets because we are not seen as anything but guaranteed money. While other organizations offer refunds, we are hit with payments on 2019 season tickets the day after losing in playoffs. Just a reminder that our $29 playoff package wasn’t going to be refunded or even used toward future tickets and our 18th game was included in it. And what is our front office doing? Continuing to hire ticket reps who don’t reach out or get to know their accounts. Then again, how can season ticket members expect to know their rep when the turnover is ridiculous? Dozens upon dozens in and out in few year span is not how you build relationships.
Our marketing is sub par and is not keeping up with the demands of a competitive environment like the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. We may be from MLS 1.0, but we need to up our presence as an asset to the league by hanging with MLS 3.0. This is not done by using the children of marketing staff for rivalry videos. This is not done by stealing supporters culture and forcing it into the stadium. Around the league, we see media groups tapping into urban culture, creating original content for social media platforms, and over all engaging fans rather than lecturing them on why we should stop being upset with what is happening across the board with the organization. Calling your biggest rivals “poopy head” is not banter, it’s an embarrassment.
Look around the stadium on a game day. This marketing extends not only to buying tickets, but also merchandise. The north end is full of fans clad in both FC Dallas and supporters group merchandise. Further around the stadium is a sea of European jerseys. The Kickaround created a lot of buzz with their Huntsmen shirts. El Matador got attention for their El Matador -vs- Everybody shirts. Our adidas hooped jersey this year was wildly popular even outside of the north end and wider FC Dallas community. The last time FC Dallas created that attention was for selling a scarf that incorrectly said the Dallas Tornado was founded in 1976. Fans avoid the team store because it carries a fraction of the merchandise lines the MLS online store carries. Sure, keeping stock costs money, but you're throwing far more money away by not selling items that people will happily buy elsewhere.
Other teams attract the attention of mainstream media by generating content, and sharing outside content. MLS provides more coverage for FC Dallas than FC Dallas itself. There are numerous blogs, podcasts, radio shows and national media sources that are ignored by FC Dallas. As Bob Sturm and Gavin Dawson - two huge soccer fans and prominent radio hosts in this market - often say of why their stations do not cover FC Dallas, their answer is always the same. “Why would we invest time and money to publicize them when they won’t invest that in themselves?” Without mainstream media attention FC Dallas will never be considered a peer to the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs and Stars. Even the Texas Legends and Frisco RoughRiders receive more attention from media, because they make themselves accessible to both the media and public.
That accessibility did exist when the team had dedicated supporter liaisons. Robert Casner was phenomenal in building a relationship between the club and its supporters groups. Joe Bellow did a fantastic job trying to pull that back together as cracks formed. Daniel Robertson insured that FC Dallas interacted with its supporters groups and addressed any concerns. Leigh Anne Gullett and Jason Minnick were great friends to the supporters groups in helping bring the players and coaches closer to the supporters, and brought a far greater representation in broadcast media than FC Dallas currently see. FC Dallas forced each of them out because they didn’t blindly toe the line, and have not replaced those ties. The monthly supporters summits are no more, FC Dallas appearances are never publicized ahead of time, so what chance do the supporters have to engage either FC Dallas or its players?
Now, for on the field. Since Blas Perez began to be eased out in 2015, we have needed a true striker as this club still chases its first MLS Cup going into the team's 23rd year. However, we have not invested in this need and continue to put band aids on the team year in and out. Last year, we saw our team give up on each other and on their fans. You could see it on their faces. This year, the same happened. Whether it be their decision to not acknowledge supporters or a member of the staff, it’s unacceptable. You force them to acknowledge those in the Hall of Fame seats. I guess we aren’t good enough since we don’t pay the big bucks, but we’ll be the ones still cheering loudly when there’s only 7,000 people in the stadium on a wet Wednesday night. We believe in this team, in our players and coaches, but you need to give them the tools to succeed. No-one has won a championship because of a museum, a new bar, or an NCAA football game. We see players well inside the organization’s $1,000,000 glass ceiling who could make the difference. Hector Villalba, Alberth Elis, Gyasi Zardes. Give the technical department a chance to win a championship, because this town rewards winners. That would do more for the attendance issue than a Zlatan or a hall of fame ever could.
And finally, the treatment of supporters. We understand that at the end of the day, the organization is a business. However, we are your atmosphere, your best marketing tool, your attendance, and much more. The treatment of supporters across the board is absolutely abhorrent. This goes from us advocating for our members and other fans from simple things like asking for us to be able to bring in one water bottle in the hot months (and being told no because it’s a business and we need to buy the $5 water) to in the past our members being ejected without warning and given criminal trespass citations. We will continue to do what we believe is best for supporters in the stadium even when our front office is not willing. Every year, we ask why players are not coming and acknowledging the supporters. The answers before were because they had to go do media, which they have not been doing late in the season either. But now, we see that it’s just that they don’t want to come over. The gesture last week of Matt Hedges trying to get his team to come to the Garden to thank us for supporting and only a handful coming is ridiculous. Other teams do organized thank yous EVERY GAME to the supporters. And don’t tell us it’s because they don’t feel supported by us. It’s hard to give full support when every year we are met with opposition to our existence. We’re not asking for a lap of honor every week like SKC, but a brief moment spent speaking to your biggest fans shouldn’t be too much to ask. According to Vice-President of Marketing, Robert Rardin, he doesn’t want the supporter groups to exist. We know for a fact that the front office doesn’t care what happens to us and would like to fabricate their own front office based supporter group which is closer aligned to their own backgrounds in other sports. This includes driving wedges between the multiple supporter groups and even within the existing groups to kill us off. This is disrespectful to the work we do every game, whether home or away, and disrespectful to the culture and sport as a whole.
So, the Dallas Beer Guardians, an independent supporters group, calls on FC Dallas to make changes in all departments and to be an organization that its fans and supporters can be proud of. It’s an investment of our time, passion and money. As Gavin Dawson and Bob Sturm had said, if you can’t invest that in yourselves, why would you expect anyone else to?
Simply put: FC Dallas, do better. This isn’t Lamar’s vision or legacy, this is desecrating what he spent forty years trying to build.