Wednesday, March 7, 2018

[D.C. Untied 3.FOH] A Letter from the Front Office

A screenshot of a letter from a member of the D.C. United Membership Services team was posted in the Barra Brava Facebook group today. It makes some incredible claims. I’ll link to the letter but let me go through a few highlights:

ETA: It has been pointed out to me that some people are blocked from the Barra FB Group so here is a screen cap.

The Eagles are our largest supporter group, representing 75% of fans that attend on a matchday.

Um… quĂ©? 75% of fans that attend on a matchday?! I don’t remember getting a survey on supporter group participation.

Okay, so D.C. United had an average attendance of 17,904 in 2017. Does that mean an average of 13,428 fans on any given matchday were Screaming Eagles members?! Assuming that it’s not all the same people at each match, you’re looking at over half a million in $30 membership fees… and the Screaming Eagles are not taking in that kind of money.

Clearly “fans” does not refer to all of the people at the stadium. So, who are these “fans” that the Eagles make up 75% of?

A quick browse of the publically available tax documents looking for the “membership dues” column would seem to put the number of Eagles at around 1,000 more or less for the past few years. It’s possible that this “1,000” number represents 75% of paid supporter group memberships but is this really 75% of “fans” or even “fans on a matchday”?

Yeah, no. I don’t think so.

I know for a fact (because I did it) that a certain percentage of members joined the Screaming Eagles as well as a second (or even third) supporter group for solidarity or maybe just a discount on the road trip buses. Knocking those off, maybe 900 Screaming Eagles members who are primarily Screaming Eagles members?

How many of those 900 regularly attended games and stood in the supporter section? How many of those 900 were seated quite happily in other sections of the stadium? How many liked the idea of belonging to a booster club? How many just liked the tailgate passes and craft beer? There is nothing wrong with any of those things but paid memberships are not equivalent to people in the stands.

I guarantee that there are people who consider themselves Barra Brava or District Ultras members who have never once purchased an actual membership. A quick browse of Facebook comments on membership renewal posts is enough to reveal that people don’t always renew every year, even regular attendees. And I can think of a handful of people just off the top of my head who come to maybe 4 or 5 games a season and stand with Barra or Ultras but are not paid members. Where are they represented in the 75% of “fans” on matchday statistic?

What I’ve been told by supporter group leadership is that not counting individuals with season tickets, the Screaming Eagles had a bank of 200 single game tickets. The Barra Brava had 100 and the District Ultras had 60.

Looks more like 55%, 28%, and 17% to me.

Are D.C. United okay with alienating the 45% of the people who buy single game tickets and choose to stand with a non-Screaming Eagles supporter group on any given matchday?

Looking at individuals with season tickets. They may or may not be paid members, as I stated above. There were 60-70 of us in the District Ultras section and based on what I’ve been told from Barra leadership, there were at least 80 paid members but probably closer to 100 or even more in the Barra Brava. You see where I’m going… if I extrapolate out, that would mean there were about 200 Screaming Eagles season ticket members in the designated supporter group section.

400 on a sellout day is certainly possible but it’s not 75%. If the numbers I got from the Ultras and Barra leadership represent just 25% of “matchday fans” you would need 960 Screaming Eagles in the supporter section. That is more than the entire North Stand at Audi Field can hold and would mean their entire membership was present.

Are D.C. United okay with alienating the 45% of season ticket members who do not stand (sorry, “stand”) with the Screaming Eagles?

But back to the letter:

In regards to the single match tickets, the Screaming Eagles have invested in a block of season tickets for the 2018 season that they will be selling on an individual match basis. Those tickets are not being sold by D.C. United. Any supporter, regardless of group affiliation, may purchase single match tickets through the Screaming Eagles. Pricing will be in line with the standard matchday pricing, starting at $30 per match.

*Record scratch* run that back… STARTING at $30 per match?! STARTING AT?!

Question 1) If the tickets are not being sold through D.C. United but through the Screaming Eagles as bulk “season ticket members”, why wouldn’t the ticket prices be closer to the $20 matchday price offered to members? Where is that $10 extra dollars going?

Question 2) STARTING AT?! Are you seriously telling me that single game tickets will now be on a sliding scale of $30 for like the Quakes on a Wednesday but $100 when a team with washed up Prem League star comes to town?

It’s absolutely disgusting profiteering and a huge break in tradition. Please, Eagles, correct me if I’ve misunderstood but since you haven’t put out a single real FAQ or answered anybody’s questions I won’t hold my breath.

ETA: After I posted this, it was pointed out to me that the Audi Field website lists match day prices for the supporter stands at $40 and season ticket per game prices at $25.

That's literally double the price we were told and almost double what people were paying at RFK. What are the Screaming Eagles doing with that $15-20 (and more?!) per ticket markup they're going to be charging us?

(From the Audi Field website)

(From the Audi Field Guide released last fall and STILL AVAILABLE ON THE DC UNITED WEBSITE)


Moving on:

Barra Brava inquired about purchasing a block of tickets, however, they demanded benefits and conditions that are not provided to our general season membership base (i.e. exchange policy, special payment plans). We were unable to grant their conditions and they chose not to purchase a block of tickets under the same terms as the rest of our membership base.

Now, here is the money shot.

My jaw hit the floor--and it was the disgusting floor of the Orange Line train I was on at the time--when I read this.

From what I’ve been told by multiple people, the supporter groups have long been granted the privilege of returning or exchanging unsold tickets so they don’t go bankrupt. While sellout games are fun, sometimes you have a season like 2017 where watching a game is a painful experience not worth making the trek out for on humid, rainy August Wednesday. What happens to those unsold seats? Who eats that cost?

The supporter groups provide the atmosphere, material for official marketing, and act as ground level recruitment teams for free but D.C. United can no longer buy back or exchange 40 unsold tickets for a Wednesday game against Minnesota because… it would hurt their feelings?

I call bullshit.

This is a deliberate rule change aimed at killing the independent supporter group culture.

Is the sliding scale pricing on single game tickets meant to offset those empty Wednesday games?

What an absolutely shitty thing to do to long time fans. All of them. Not just the 45%. This is a terrible situation for the rank and file Screaming Eagles members too.

It doesn’t matter what I say because D.C. United’s current ownership is not interested in a good matchday atmosphere and building a stable, invested fan base. The roll out of Audi Field has more than confirmed that. D.C. United’s current ownership wants a mini-Nats park full of well-to-do paying customers consuming expensive concessions and purchasing merchandise. And they may have that for a little while. But what happens when Own Goal is the leading scorer for the season? What happens when those paying customers get bored because soccer isn’t quite as fun live as the pictures on the brochure and in the youtube videos led them to believe and drift back to Nats Park?

Is James Lambert going to be the one taking charge of a supporters section full of casuals who paid $100 a pop to see Miami Beckham FC? No, he’s not. It's going to be utter chaos and it will be on their heads.

Just like the Screaming Eagles leadership is not taking responsibility for this mess either.

D.C. United is not popular enough in this town or a good enough team to sustain the loss of a good chunk of it’s supporter base and expect that they will be replaced by yuppies drawn to a new stadium. Casual fans are fickle. Yuppies are always looking for the next big thing to say they did it first. These are not the building blocks of a long term fan base and if this ownership group actually cared about the team and this community they would know that.


BDR said...

So glad my apostasy finally happened halfway through 2014 season. Best wishes for yours. Eff United, eff MLS, eff USSF.


Landru said...

I was out 2 years before BDR (I accounted for half of his season tix until then). I very much miss seeing my loud-side friends. But I sure don't miss the club.

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