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Union responds to criticism over town hall meeting

Editor’s note: Philadelphia Union spokesman Ryan Schwepfinger contacted me Friday afternoon after we ran Adam Schorr’s Friday column, which was critical of the team’s town hall meeting last week. Here’s what Ryan wrote. 

I came across the piece published by Adam Schorr today and there were some elements in it that I wanted to clear up with you. There seems to be a lot of misconception out there. Totally up to you if you want to update the piece or make any of this public, but in light of some of the stuff that’s being said, just wanted to say the following:

First and foremost, there were no employees tasked with keeping watch over anything. We had myself and Mark Evans running microphones on the sides, enabling people to ask any question that they wanted, that was it. Truly no conspiracy theory on that one.

Meanwhile, the point of asking fans to not record the town hall wasn’t to hide a super secret message — we want to communicate our plan very openly and that’s why the town hall was being held. That’s also why, just like the first one, this one was filmed for the purpose of releasing a public video that anyone, including fans who couldn’t make the event, can watch. 

The only reason we asked to not record it was because an entire audio recording of the first one got out, and some of the personal tidbits that were meant to be an off-the-record, personal-type of communication got out along with it — for example, the note about Felipe that’s referenced in the comment sections from the first town hall. 

It’s no different than when a scrum ends and a coach or player hangs out to chat with the media about personal stuff with the recorders off — there are a lot of moments in a town hall setting that are similar “recorders off” type of moments. [Editor’s note: A “scrum” refers to a gathering of journalists with a coach, player or other figure of interest. It’s more informal than a press conference. These are common with sports clubs such as the Union.)

We try to be very open and communicative about the team’s plan — Earnie held an extended scrum with reporters that day at training, and Jim talks all the time, as you know. It’s a shame that people think that the point of not recording the town hall was to hide anything important about our team and our future — it was just to enable Earnie, Tim, and Tommy to address the fans candidly with a sense of trust, in the hopes that off-the-record personal tidbits they might choose to share would stay that way.

If I can answer any other questions, please let me know. Appreciate all that you guys do for the sport in our city.

22 Comments

  1. here are the only questions that should have been asked:

    1. when can we (the fans) expect the hiring of a competent & experienced coach?

    2. when can we (the fans) expect the FO to spend real $$ on quality players?

    3. More of a statement than a question:
    we (the fans) do not/will not/ have never cared about long term plans and academy B.S.. This is a “win now” league and the FO have a “win maybe, sometime in the future, as long as its on the cheap” mentality.

  2. Suffice it to say that as a fan I neither care nor do I have any desire to hear anything coming from the Union organization. Actions are loud and clear. Until this team is sold to a financially competent and competitive ownership and the management and coaching are gone I am no longer interested.

  3. It’s a shame that it’s come to this, but we’re approaching a decade of futility. Apathy, anger, distrust – they’re all on full display when we can’t see a consistent product on the field. We’re getting lapped by every expansion franchise that enters the league. Even our shiny trophy of a stadium is about to be eclipsed by a new generation of soccer palaces.
    .
    I don’t like seeing these seemingly good people put in tough spots, but it will continue as long as the product languishes behind the rest of the league.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      This.

      It’s not Ryan’s fault, and he deserves credit for trying to clear the air. The problem is that this event encapsulated many Union fan fears: a disconnected and out of touch leadership group caught trying to positively spin an otherwise negative narrative. All the while, failure on the field has become so systemic, repeated, and predictable that, even amongst the most die-hard of fans, expectations are nearly zero.

      • I think all they had to say was please do not distribute the audio of the event as we plan on releasing a video of the event.

      • pragmatist says:

        I agree, mcb. This was a simple communication failure. But the more you can legitimately attach the word “failure” to any organization, the more disenfranchised people become.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Adam. Glad to know the Union reads this site so that they (hopefully) get a sense of the frustration we all share…

  5. Well, I’m glad that we cleared this up. However, this doesn’t invalidate almost all of the fanbase’s comments about the poor performance of the club over the last seven plus seasons.

    Talk is great, but let’s be honest, we’ve all heard enough talk from the club. Actions speak louder than any more empty words.

    As a STH from Day 1, I’ve remained patient as the organization has embarrassingly stumbled its way through life. Since my financial commitment isn’t limitless, I prefer to watch this next stage from afar. I hope that the Club is successful in implementing their strategy and perhaps at that time, I’ll reconsider becoming a STH again.

  6. Good to know information. People get so worked up in their conspiracies so quickly, it’s quite disturbing. I respect their reasoning. That being said it’s unfortunate the unions season is over with 10 games left and the future isn’t looking so bright. I’m an optimist but really stretching at this point to find a bright spot

  7. What purpose does this really serve? It’s like worrying the front door needs to be painted while the house is burning down. I mean it’s nice that they took the time to soothe the more paranoid of the fan base, but hey, how about the rest of us worried about the shit manager, the hole in the #10 position, and the dreadful investment by the owner. Maybe they can take some time out of their busy day to let us in on the plan eh? Don’t really care if they lock a town hall meeting up like Ft. Knox. I do car that they spend the gold from FT. Knox on some players. Now that’d be nice, and actual news important to the fan base.

  8. Maybe Jay Sugarman can show some courage and come to one of the town hall meetings.

    • Exactly. I went to the town hall but I wish I hadn’t because I realized while I was sitting there that the only questions I really wanted to ask could only be answered by ownership.

    • It would be nice to know what Jay’s goals for the organization are. As it would make it easier to the grade Earnie.

      If his boss has different objectives then us, we may be disappointed.

  9. So… where can we find the video?

  10. I declined the invitation. I don’t regret it. I didn’t go to the game either. Sob since 07. I gave my seats away like I have most of the last two seasons. Feeling funny about the emails thanking me for coming to the games. I didn’t even watch on TV.

  11. OneManWolfpack says:

    Dear Ryan,
    .
    Communicate these comments to your bosses. It is becoming vitally important this FO understands just how sick and tired the dire hard fans are becoming. This team is quickly becoming irrelevant.
    .
    Sincerely,
    .
    A STH since Day 1

  12. I’ve always wondered what this team would be like if Nogueira and Barnetta stayed with this team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A big F U Is granted to these players for leaving this team. If the FO knew Barnetta was only here for a season he should have been a sub or never signed him at all! They need to look for players of that stature who are committed and what to play here for years to come. It seems that Nogs’s ego got the best of him. He wanted to go back to France to better his career? Where is he now? This is just one example of how incompetent this FO can be. To be fair , no it can’t be easy trying to find high quality players that way to stick around in Chester.

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