Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rage against the Kraft-chine

Add my name to the long list of frustrated followers of the New England Revolution, not so much the team but the ownership. Since moving back to New England just over a year ago I have found myself in a bit of a conundrum. Having grown up here and being a stones throw away from Boston I figured it would be a great opportunity to start covering the Revolution for the growing audience we have in this part of the country or any transplants elsewhere who want to keep up on their MLS team back home. I figured with the support and success we have had covering Orlando City of USL PRO from our home base in Orlando that we would have an even better chance to grow by covering an MLS team. I was further encouraged last season when I read an interview with the team's COO, Brian Bilello, about how the Revolution would be reaching out to social network types (like bloggers) to relax their press rules to allow more access to the team. Naturally I reached out to the team asking about single game press credentials so I could get my foot in the door and start generating some material to write articles on about the team. And this is where any feel good parts of this story end.

I was told that we didn't update our site enough in 2011 for them to warrant a press pass for that season. No problem, I had just moved and the content was lagging behind a little bit, I just decided to hunker down and write on a more regular basis. I focused on writing several articles on the New England soccer scene including:
Good informative articles that covered not just MLS, but international friendlies, stadium issues, and history with soccer in New England. With increases in volume of articles, web hits, and followers on Facebook and Twitter I figured it would be a lock to at least get a single game press pass for this season so I could finally start covering my local MLS team. Here's the response I received:

"I took a look at the site and it seems that my concerns from last year are still present this year - lack of consistent content, little to no MLS content, etc.

I do, however, understand the chicken-and-egg phenomenon that can exist where it's hard to write when you don't have access.

Here is what I would suggest... if you do more MLS coverage this spring, reach back out."

This is about the time where I scratch my head and ask, "does this team really want coverage?" It's not a big secret that attendance at Revolution games are down, 4th from last in MLS but 3rd if you exclude San Jose whose stadium only hold 10,000. Then there is the disconnect between ownership and the few regular fans who turn-out at the matches, that being the supporter groups in "The Fort". Last season, after several instances where stadium management and security removed supporters from "The Fort" for violating stadium rules (we use that term loosely) the groups decided to stage an organized walk-out during the July 17th home match. The supporter groups clearly convened to the media that they fully supported the team and players, their beef was with management. Of course there is the nearly decade long discourse between supporters and Robert Kraft for the lack of action on building the club a soccer specific stadium closer to Boston.

New England was one of the original franchises in MLS; Robert Kraft has covered for the team in the good times and bad. He had the foresight when Gillette was being designed to make it a soccer-friendly stadium with considerations that other new stadiums of that time ignored. But as Don Garber said in his interview with us in Orlando last week, the standards that new teams are held to are much higher than previous teams. That would have to be the case because the sad situation in Foxboro would never fly if MLS caught wind of that happening in Philadelphia, Portland, or Vancouver. MLS doesn't have the luxury of the MLB and the NBA where people go to matches just to be around other people and to be seen. It's not trendy to be out at a Revolution match like it is to attend a Galaxy, Sounder, or RBNY match. The brand is tired, the fans are neglected, and from my personal experience, the front office is saying they're supportive of coverage but clearly showing they're not. Blogs like "The Bent Musket" walk the fine line between access to the club and total frustration with the clubs actions or inactions depending on the situation.

We wish the situation would change, we wish the Revolution would light a fire under their own musket and launch something great this season. New fan driven initiatives, community outreach, blogger access, something, anything! The talk of a new stadium and re-branding the team is like the guy who keeps stringing his girlfriend along saying they will get married someday. Show us the ring at least Mr. Kraft, give us a chance to want to love you.


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