Philadelphia Union supporters descended on PPL Park last night for the 2012 Season Ticket Holder Summit, getting the chance to air their views, give feedback and talk all things Union with a special VIP panel.
The two hour event was created to bring the Philadelphia Union family together, helping the club’s front office, coaching staff and players to gain an even greater appreciation of supporters’ views, while sharing the thoughts and ideas behind their own work on and off the field at PPL Park.
The panel, which took emailed questions before being quizzed by season ticket holders, featured CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, Team Manager John Hackworth, Assistant Coach Rob Vartughian and players Chris Albright and Gabriel Farfan, while senior members of front office of staff were on hand to respond on behalf of specific departments.
“Bringing the fans together - particularly our season ticket holders – is a matter of being transparent and letting them know how we feel about them and how important they are to the Philadelphia Union family,” said Nick Sakiewicz.
“It enables fans to get an insight into things, whether that’s player personnel or how we operate our stadium. They’re all part of the family and they should know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That’s really important to us.”
Coach John Hackworth was equally as enthusiastic about the popular event, drawing on his own experiences of growing up as a huge soccer fan to outline its continued importance.
“I had a great time,” Hackworth commented. “The support was pretty amazing and the questions were not only knowledgeable, they were important to discuss.
“It’s so important that we continue to practice what we preach. We talk about being a family, about being inclusive and about making sure we’re transparent in everything we’re doing but the fans are the most important.
“When you hold these types of events, it truly resonates with people who are very passionate about our club, our team and our stadium. It’s giving back and it’s such an easy thing for us to do. It’s a way to have a true connection with these fans.
“It took me a long time to get this close to the field. When I grew up in Tampa I was a big fan of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The heroes – the players and coaches – I’d have loved to have had the opportunity to pick their brains and ask questions, just to make it so much more personal.”
Questions on the night ranged from transfers and style of play to parking and stadium facilities, with players also taking a grilling about their route into the game and their daily routines.
“They hit us with some heat early on,” joked Philadelphia-born defender Chris Albright. “I had a great time though. It was fun. These are Philadelphia fans and that’s what I grew up as so I can relate.
“We can continue to separate ourselves as an organization with how close we are to our fanbase. That’s what’s unique for us in MLS and also us in the market as a sports franchise.
“We’re still at a point where we’re selling the game and we’re selling our brand. It’s important we do things like this.”
“It’s huge for me,” Sakiewicz added. “The feedback we get on a night like the Season Ticket Holder Summit allows me to really understand how they’re enjoying things or the challenges they may have at the stadium.
“We can then make decisions in their best interests instead of sitting in an ivory tower and making them without knowing how fans are feeling. I learned so much tonight and we’re going to make some great changes.”