Official Meeting Minutes (Feb. 4, 2019)
· Nashville SC Supporters Trust (ST) Chairman David Wasiolek opened the meeting by welcoming everyone. He stated that the purpose of the meeting was to ensure that ST has an ongoing ability to consult Nashville Soccer Club (NSC) regarding key matters of concern.
· Wasiolek then thanked Ian Ayre for his attendance and presented him with an original game worn Nashville FC NPSL shirt as a welcome gift from ST.
· Wasiolek invited Ayre to address the meeting with opening remarks.
· Ayre opened his remarks by stating that on behalf of the club he wanted to assure everyone that the club welcomes the opportunity to have regular engagement on key matters affecting supporters. He went on to say that he had been impressed by the quality of the collaboration between ST and NSC thus far. Ayre also noted that he wants to ensure that the lines of communication continue as the supporter base grows in the coming years, especially with the move to Major League Soccer (MLS).
· Ayre said that he felt it was important to agree on a format for future ST meetings, and that this should include coming up with guidelines about what would and would not be addressed in such meetings. He noted the following:
a. There will be activities of the club that necessitate a level of confidentiality and therefore will not be discussed at ST meetings. Such activities include: brand development work and/or key release dates. Ayre explained that discussing these activities in advance of a formal announcement eliminates the element of surprise and therefore the marketing value of the respective activity. However, he told the supporters that they will be consulted in the process, as appropriate, to ensure that the supporters’ views are taken into consideration.
b. Discussions about player transfers, disposals, player budgets and player strategy will not be discussed at ST meetings. Ayre explained that such discussions are value-based and must be managed internally. He added that the club needs to protect its value and points of leverage in such discussions, and as such these topics are not for public debate.
c. ST should submit its questions in advance of the quarterly meeting to allow the club time to prepare responses and to ensure that relevant staff are available to attend the meetings. He explained that this will ensure supporters hear the answers directly from the source. Ayre also said ownership will attend meetings when appropriate.
d. A record of meeting minutes should be maintained for all future meetings between ST and the club. Ayre offered to house the meeting minutes on the club’s website which will allow the minutes to be available for all supporters to read.
· Ayre then answered questions that ST provided him prior to the meeting. His answers were as follows:
· Questions on MLS branding/identity and colors:
Ayre reiterated the need to preserve confidentiality, but assured supporters that their voices had been heard in the initial discussions about MLS branding. He told those assembled that he was confident the supporters will be pleased with the outcomes once released.
· Questions on youth development academy and access to youth soccer via the club:
Ayre shared that on February 1st he, along with the club General Manager Mike Jacobs, met with representatives of youth soccer organizations from across the state. In their discussions they outlined initial blueprints for a youth development strategy for the club. He made clear that a key objective for the club is to build a pathway so that any youth soccer player from Tennessee and beyond can aspire to play professional soccer for the Nashville MLS team.
He also noted that the club intends to continue to engage with organizations across the state to build a comprehensive youth development program and a dedicated youth development academy in Nashville. Ayre explained that at the core of this initiative is the desire to ensure that any player regardless of backgrounds or personal circumstance, is given the opportunity to participate.
· Questions on the likely use of designated players and player budget for MLS:
Ayre made clear that it is not practical for the club to talk openly about the player recruitment strategy or player budget. He assured supporters that one of the club’s core objectives, and the vision of the owner, is to build a team that competes to win not just take part. He went on to say that the players Nashville chooses, be they designated players or not, will all be chosen based on their ability, their character, their passion to pull on the Nashville jersey and their willingness to give everything for the team.
· Questions on current developments around the new stadium and supporter involvement in key decisions (capo stands/Tifo/other):
Ayre confirmed that stadium planning and design continues to move forward. He assured the audience that the club will invite ST into discussions at the appropriate time this year. Once designs are further along and the club reaches critical points where such discussions are possible, he will let ST know. He also explained that the club has consulted with many other teams to understand what works well for supporters in their respective venues, and he will combine that insight with the input from ST.
· Question about the future of Nashville USL franchise:
Ayre confirmed that the club is considering the future of the NSC USL franchise and its part in the overall future of soccer in Nashville. However, he said that these discussions will take place later this year. For right now the club, the coach and the players are focused on the 2019 USL season, and the opportunity to build on the fantastic first season last year.
· Question about the future collaboration between supporters and the club:
Ayre pointed to his opening statement that the club and its supporters have an established relationship and should continue to develop that relationship for the good of soccer in Nashville. He explained that the ability to keep an open dialogue is critical and that regular engagement between the club and the supporters is important. Ayre explained that the continuation of ST as the liaison between the club and its supporters is an asset to the club, especially as the supporter base grows with the move to MLS and a larger venue.
· Question about a physical memorial to recognize the 1779 Club membership:
Ayre told the audience that members of the 1779 Club that were key contributors to the club will be recognized in some form at the club’s new MLS stadium. Ayre stated that additional discussion on the topic will take place with ST once the club is further down the construction timeline.
· Question about parking at the new stadium:
Ayre confirmed that a full transport study has been initiated in order to address transportation and parking at the stadium. He noted that it is too early in the process to confirm the exact number of parking places, but he confirmed that parking, rideshare and other solutions that create the best possible solution to allow supporters access to/from the facility, will be at the forefront of the club’s thinking and planning.
· Question about tailgating at First Tennessee Park (FTP):
Ayre stated that the club explored ways to permit tailgating at FTP, but it has been determined that it is not possible. He explained that the majority of the parking lots around FTP are controlled by the state, and the state does not allow tailgating in state lots. Ron Deal of NSC was also in attendance, and he shared that the club had been looking at the FTP parking situation for the 2019 USL season. He told the audience that the club is currently in discussions with both the state and Nashville Sounds to provide the best parking solutions based on the demand.
· Questions on ticketing and 2019 ticket sales progress:
Members of the ST commented that ticketing issues had improved significantly since the start of the inaugural season. They noted that issues they had early in the inaugural year have since been eliminated, and they have a positive view about the club’s ticketing process. Ayre told those assembled that supporter section sales for 2019 are progressing well. He did point out that without the high-level MLS announcement like the club had in December 2018, there has not been an initial spike in ticket sales. However, he did state that week-to-week sales are steady and that the club expects to see similar attendance to last season. Ayre encouraged the audience to bring new people to games this season so that they have the chance to experience soccer in Nashville.
· Question about the timing of MLS season ticket sales:
Ayre explained that there are still some moving parts about the timing of MLS season ticket sales. He stated that the club is currently completing its negotiations with Nissan Stadium and is working closely with its ticketing partner for MLS. He added that the club anticipates season tickets going on sale at some point during summer 2019. Ayre told the audience that the first phase will be the migration of existing season ticket holders and preferential and premium customers who committed to the USL team and secured their place in line. He explained that once the first phase is complete MLS tickets will go on sale to the general public.
· Chris Redhage then mentioned that the team will be dedicating the first “mini-pitch” on February 23. He also spoke broadly about his and the team’s desires to work with the supporters and the ST to make soccer available to the entire Nashville community regardless of an individual’s financial condition. There was a healthy give and take with the attendees about what it would take to help make that happen.
· Finally there was a discussion about how the ST, and team could work together to help the Club be successful both on the field and in its objectives in the community.
· Ayre closed by thanking all members of the ST for attending, and he added that he hopes there will continue to be regular and open dialogue between the ST and the club.
· It was agreed that quarterly meetings will be scheduled between ST and the club with dates to be determined.