Revolution Hold First Ever Supporters Summit
The New England Revolution held its first ever supporters group summit last night at Gillette Stadium. Members of both The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion (the newest Revolution supporters group) were in attendance to discuss the rules and guidelines for the supporters groups, as well as ask questions of Revolution COO Brian Bilello and Vice President of Player Personnel, Mike Burns. Over the course of the evening, which ran over two hours, Bilello and Burns led an engaging dialogue with the two groups that covered a wide spread of issues raised by both the supporters’ groups and the Revolution front office.
Bilello began the discussion by announcing a new seat configuration for the standing section, known as “The Fort.” The new seating arrangement, which will accommodate some 1200 fans, is designed to spread the supporters groups over a wider area and closer to the field, rather than stacked in one section directly behind the goal. The stadium will employ new, Revolution logo-bearing, tarps that will cover the 25 top rows behind the supporters section, that can be rolled back as more seating is needed. This concept, called “logo-ed downsizing,” is used in other stadiums such as Qwest Field in Seattle, where the seating capacity far exceeds the demand for tickets.
However, the majority of the early discussion focused on where the visiting supporters groups sit in relation to the stadium. Many of the supporters in attendance expressed their concern as a number of visiting fans are often seated in the main seating area along the east side of the stadium. Bilello assured those in attendance, that although there is not a lot the Revloution can do to pre-screen individual ticket sales to away supporters, when organized visiting supporters groups purchase tickets, they are always seated together at the opposing end of the stadium.
But this also was a chief point of contention for a number of the supporters present. According to many of both The Riders and The Rebellion, the acoustics of the stadium in the Fort are inferior due to the breezeway located in the north end of the stadium that abuts The Fort. According to one participant, because of the prevailing winds in relation to the location of the stadium, sound is actually funneled out of the stadium through the breezeway. Because of this, the visiting supporters in the south end, will actually sound louder than those supporters in The Fort, and it was then suggested to Bilello that the Fort be relocated to the south end of the stadium. Bilello said that the front office will have to look at it, but reminded the supporters that due to some special events (such as concets) large sections of the south end are actually removed, and therefore the seating capacity directly behind the goal will be greatly reduced.
Bilello was very candid in dealing with the fans questions and comments. He was also quite forward in dealing with the issues of profanity as they pertain to the atmosphere of the stadium. He cited league regulations are clear that profanity is prohibited, but that the Revolution front office realizes that they can not do much to curb it. He stated that the front office will continue to allow the supporters sections to self police themselves, and enjoy the game in a more adult atmosphere, but asked for a bit more consideration when it comes to organized chants that use profanity to berate a particular player. The underlying message was clear: the front office will give the supporters group some slack, but caution them not to abuse it.
Bilello stated that the front office would partially fund TIFO, and suggested ways that the Revolution would work with the supporters groups to help further fund TIFO projects. He also announced that the stadium will provide a capo stand in front of The Fort for a specified member of the supporters groups to use to lead the supporters in. Lastly, he challenged the supporters groups to come up with various ways to enhance fan participation that engages the whole stadium.
Wrapping up the evening, Burns provided some insight as to how the salary cap works and what the Revs’ plans are for the upcoming preseason. He elaborated on the decision to cancel the team’s preseason trip to Brazil, due to the uncertainty of the CBA, and instead will play FC Dallas in an exhibition preseason game in Orlando next week. He also commented that while the status of the CBA is unknown, the team is still actively trying to sign Senegalese midfielder, Nikouky Desire. When asked about the status of the CBA, and proposed increases to the salary cap, Burns elaborated on the fact that the conversations were between the league and the players, and that team personnel are essentially left out of those discussions.
Burns further addressed the supporters concern over the departure of a number of key players, including Jeff Larentowicz and Steve Ralston, stating that the team tried to retain both players, but it was ultimately the players decision to leave. He also addressed the question about signing a designated player. “From our perspective, a designated player has to fit a couple of criteria”, Burns said. ” Steve Nicol would want to have this player on the field, but we want to have the marketability side as well.”
Bilello also addressed questions regarding shirt sponsors and plans for a soccer specific stadium, stating that the Revolution were still actively pursuing both. He also stated that the Revolution were looking at alternative venues for US Open Cup games as well as SuperLiga games in the Greater Boston Area.
Both Burns and Bilello were on hand after the event to answer additional questions from the supporters.
The Revolution have announced an additional preseason game to be played against FC Dallas in Orlando next week. The team leaves this weekend, although Matt Reis and Taylor Twellman will stay behind to continue training with staff.