Wednesday night, New England Revolution supporters met with team officials to address the issues from June 18th's Fortgate fiasco. Fan and frequent reader Andrew Donahue was on hand and was kind enough to give us his take on the proceedings. I'll have more on it later.
While the Revs were represented by Bilello and Cathal Conlon, Director of Marketing and the liaison to the supporter groups, representatives from Team Ops, the Foxborough Police Department, and MLS were also present. Fan attendance wasn't overwhelming, but there was solid representation from all kinds of Revs supporters. Presidents of both the Midnight Riders and Rebellion were present along with flocks of their members, members of the Rev Army, non-affiliated season ticket holders and many others.
Dialogue between supporters and the representatives of the different organizations focused on the two major issues stemming from June 18th: a failure of communication between the Front Office and the Fort and the actions of Team Ops staff during the game.
Bilello expressed his desire to develop the Revolution's supporter culture without sacrificing a friendly environment for all fans. During the June 18th game, there were many complaints from fans regarding the YSA chant. After Cathal Conlon went to the Fort in an effort to stop the chant, the situation worsened resulting in the need for Team Ops to empty the Fort.
As supporters continued to question the way the situation was handled, Bilello made numerous attempts to explain that the actions were the result of the failure of supporter groups to address the issue themselves. He also pointed out his responsibilities to create a friendly environment for all fans in attendance and not only to those seated in the Fort. Bilello continued to show openness to suggestions on better ways to handle similar situations and on ways to improve the atmosphere at Revs games.
Yet as the debate continued on, the topic of conversation switched. Criticism of Team Ops quickly became the central idea of conversation. The representative from Team Ops, Kelly Way the Director of Operations, deflected questions regarding training of security personnel, how complaints are handled, and maintained the idea that their practices do not vary at any Gillette Stadium event. As supporters brought up past conflicts with Team Ops, Way shed little light on the company's practices or procedures. She also failed to seriously acknowledge any suggestions posed by supporters during the forum. One Revs supporter, a native German, went as far as to say that Team Ops was the most aggressive security team he had seen in both the United States and Europe.
As the night dragged on, conversation never shifted from the two main points of contention. Supporters seemed disappointed by the results, while Bilello and his colleagues seemed open to suggestions to prevent this from happening again. The only solution to the issue seems to be an overhaul of the way the supporters, Front Office, and Team Ops communicate to create more transparency and to improve the relationships between these three groups. Interesting suggestions were made, such as more forums like the one tonight and more communication between the Front Office and season ticket holders.
This was only the first step in the effort to mend the relationship between fans and the Front Office, but hopefully better results on the field will shift the focus from off the field issues to the team on the field.