The poor handling of the 2016 season ticket announcement has highlighted underlying communication issues between the front office and the fans. Before announcing a significant price increase and turning free parking into paid parking, the team should have announced the expanded benefits of being a Season Ticket Holder. Would there be a big player signing? Would there be improvements made to the stadium? Would there be a USL team? Instead, the front office resorted to the use of fear by highlighting the reduced stadium capacity.
The team rushed to release STH pricing so that they could announce the USWNT Olympic Qualifying matches. Fans were upset when massive price increases were listed on the membership website. Beer Guardian tickets became the second most expensive supporters’ group tickets in the league. Kris Katseanes, VP of Ticket Sales, announced that STHs would understand the reason for the price increase when all the puzzle pieces fell into place. "Puzzle pieces" quickly became a joke among the fans. The Dallas Morning News ran an article entitled, "FC Dallas can be puzzling," which hammered Katseanes for his "intentionally cryptic answers." American Outlaws Dallas President and Beer Guardian Kasey Baker lamented, "I’ve never had to think this hard about being a supporter."
The Hall of Fame announcement followed, which was probably meant to be the missing puzzle piece. But what is the benefit of the HoF to STHs? The only change this year is the removal of Toyota Stadium’s south stand. Katseanes said, "We fully anticipate every match to be sold out in 2016. Individual tickets to premier matches will be scarce and the reduced Toyota Stadium capacity will make season memberships more valuable than ever." Here’s the real reason why ticket prices have increased: the 4,000 seat reduction in the stadium. Let’s make what he’s saying clear. The real reason you should buy season tickets is FEAR! You should be scared that the stadium will sell out! Yet, the 2015 average attendance was below even what the reduced capacity of the stadium will be in 2016.
STHs seem to be viewed as spoiled brats. The front office’s message was, "If you don’t like the prices, move to a different section," which is heartless. I interviewed the season ticket holders in my section and not one person will be renewing. Each person specifically cited the cost increase and poor communication. The front office has broken up the camaraderie that we developed. Can the club continue to antagonize its biggest supporters?
To price gouge your most loyal supporters without offering anything new and destroying our tailgating tradition was so stupid— DBG (@DallasGuardians) August 13, 2015
The poor communication is especially affecting supporters’ groups. Phil from DFE revealed that they moved into the corner specifically because the price increase would limit the number of their supporters that could afford tickets. On the Beer Guardians’ podcast "The 19th Minute," DBG President Brandon Huckabee revealed that the supporters groups were not notified about the price increase in advance. Even more worrying is that El Matador had their section removed and DBG’s tailgating lot became paid without notice from the front office. Huckabee found out on Twitter!
"We have an attendance issue at @FCDallas. What should we do?" "I KNOW! Let's take the supporter tailgate area & turn it into paid parking!"— Priceratops (@BrianDBG) August 12, 2015
Town Hall Needed Now
Supporters’ groups and season ticket holders should be notified in advance of the public on major announcements. Sensitive issues require personal communication and satisfactory explanation. Supporters’ group leadership can disseminate information among their members and have answers to the issues that affect their membership to avoid the whiplash that was experienced in this announcement.
Currently, the chief methods of communication from the Front Office to STHs are via e-mail and the Dan Hunt Facebook chat. The e-mail is impersonal. The Facebook chat is actually generating ill will because of the unsatisfying, calculated answers.
FC Dallas could vastly improve communication by hosting a bi-annual town hall. It would be held once in the offseason and once in the middle of the season. In this town hall, season ticket holders would hear from Dan, Fernando, and Oscar and be able to ask questions. Katseanes could present the figures on STH membership. Melissa Reddick could explain the great things the club is doing in the community and present volunteer opportunities. We could possibly hear from Tim Henning, Director of Merchandising, about exciting new designs we will be seeing in the team store and be able to purchase merchandise before the general public. Supporters’ Groups would have the opportunity to share outreach that they have been doing in the community. Fans would be encouraged to ask questions and submit ideas. I know from talking to many fans that there are plenty of great ideas to be heard!
Season ticket holders would become the first people to receive information from the Front Office and have direct input into the operation of FC Dallas. This is important because the purchase of season tickets is an investment into the club. The open forum allows the Front Office to be personal and engage with the fans directly. The town hall has been shown to be an effective way to disseminate information in both Seattle and Harrison. Even when the fans were unhappy about the coaching change at NYRB, the town hall showed that the team leadership had a plan in place and understood the fans’ concerns. That plan has now paid off.
At FC Dallas, it is unclear whether or not the Front Office has a plan in place or understands the concerns of the fans.