Editor’s Note: We’ll be swapping content with InLaxWeTrust.com from time to time this Summer. Today we have an article called, “Owning Up” that was published on June 22nd on ILWT. from Dan Shirley about the newest franchise in the MLL, the Charlotte Hounds. It’s an interesting take on the name choice and what this could mean for the future of the franchise. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below! Feel like writing a response article? Have something to say? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
On Tuesday, the Charlotte MLL team announced that they would be known as the Charlotte Hounds from this point on. While many of you can be placed into three groups (those thinking that the Hounds is a good name, those hating the name Hounds, and those who don’t really care what the name is as long as they play good lacrosse), I think that everyone should take a step back and look at what just happened.
Jim McPhilliamy, the President of the Hounds, and the rest of his ownership group should all be given a standing ovation for what they did. What did they do other than release the name of the team? Before I answer that question, let me take you back to April 7, 2008 and way over to the west coast to a little city known as Seattle.
In the months prior to this fateful day, many soccer fans in Seattle have been voting on the name of the newly announced MLS expansion team. The city has had a team before (named the Seattle Sounders) but this would be their first time playing in the MLS. The choices on the ballot were Seattle FC, Seattle Republic, and Seattle Alliance. In addition to these three names, there was a spot for a write in. To make a long story short, almost half of the the votes utilized the write in line in order to voice their support for the name Sounders. When they wrote down their vote, they weren’t just throwing together random letters or even filling in a circle. The simple act of writing Sounders showed the owners that the fans wanted their voice to be heard and they wanted their history to be remembered. While originally trying to keep itself separate from the past, the owners realized that they had a fan base that cared, so they listened to them. From that point onward, the Sounders have led the league in average attendance by quite a bit (over 10,000 fans more per week than the 2nd place team, around 34,000 compared to around 21,000) and have been known for their strong supporter clubs.
Now how does that help answer the original question? What did they do other than release the name of the team? McPhilliamy could have just consulted with the owners and told everyone that the new MLL team will be known as the Charlotte Something Other Than Hounds. But instead, he opened up the name selection process to his fans. When asked why he allowed others to vote on the name, he stated,
“We believe sports teams succeed (or fail) because a passionate fan base wants to be engaged on an emotional level with the team — they feel they are part of the team.”
Now that is something that we can all appreciate. Instead of making all of the day-to-day decisions yourself and then wondering why the crowds are so small, he recognizes the power of the people.
Ever since voting opened up, I have been hearing people ask what name others voted for all the way over here in Seattle. SEATTLE! This just sent chills down my spine. If the management is able to generate this much of a buzz off of a team name, imagine what else they have in store for us.
Talking about other ways that they will involve the fans, I would like to offer a challenge to the owners. You have already let the fans name the team just like the Sounders did, now put the coach’s job on the line also like the Sounders. Now, now, let me explain before all of you write me off. The Sounders have this association called the Alliance which you pay to join by either purchasing season tickets or by paying $125. Being part of the Alliance allows the fan to vote every four years on how well the coach has been doing. The Alliance is a positive for the fan because it allows them to finally have someone listen to them other than their television when the coach decides to make a personnel change that goes badly and it is a positive for the club because it brings in extra revenue, puts people in the seats (season tickets), makes people pay attention to the club, and it makes the fans feel like they have a say in matters larger than themselves. The Hounds can give some power to the fans when it comes to making coaching decisions. And hey, if things go south and the fans fire a good coach, it looks like a bunch of the players are trying their hands at coaching…
What did they do other than release the name of the team? They built a fan base.
What are your impressions on how the owners handled the naming of the team and what would you like to see in terms of fan involvement with the Hounds and all the other MLL and NLL teams?