FROM THE DESK OF ERIK STOVER: EPISODE 5

Erik Stover - From the Desk of

Here is the next installment of Q&A with Red Bulls Managing Director Erik Stover (previous installments HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). Mr. Stover shares his thoughts on the progress the team has made off the field, and  how the team is looking to improve the fan experience at Red Bull Arena, followed by a Q&A from questions you submitted.  Again, we encourage you to submit questions for Mr. Stover to reply to in future additions, either in the comments section or by emailing: nyrb@newyorkredbulls.com (questions only please, as this is a no-reply e-mail address).

June 12, 2009

I’m sure some of you have been waiting for this month’s post so that you can vent about our on-field performance.  I’ll just say that the results so far are unacceptable and I’m sorry that we are not living up to your expectations.  The challenges can only be answered on the field and there are still opportunities to redeem ourselves.  I remain confident that things will turn around.

Off the field, however, we are doing much better.  Stadium construction is about 70% complete; we recently went on sale with our sky boxes and club seats; and our season ticket holder relocation guides have been shipped.  The light at the end of this very long tunnel is getting much brighter.

In recent months, we have spent a lot of time talking about the special features of Red Bull Arena.  While the roof, seats, lounges and sky boxes are all important aspects of the stadium, our most important asset will be our customer service team.  So, let me introduce you to Global Interface Group (GIG).  GIG is a sports and entertainment consulting firm that helps venues meet their specific entertainment objectives and creates rewarding experiences for their guests.

Over the past year, GIG has conducted focus groups, surveys and secret shopper reports for us which have all been created to identify your expectations for Red Bull Arena.  With this information they will design a training program for all Red Bull Arena employees, including custodians, security guards, ushers, concession workers, bartenders, waiters and guest services representatives.

This is a unique approach to venue management since most of these employees are part-timers working for different sub-contractors.  Red Bull New York will be spending the extra time and money to ensure that our game day staff is not only trained in their respective jobs, but also in our philosophy of great guest service.  For example, we expect our custodians to know where the ATMs are located and that the security guards can help you find the closest ice cream stand. Simply put, our staff will always be ready to meet your game day expectations.

To that end, GIG is helping us create a Red Bull Arena Guest Experience Advisory Board.  The Board will be made up of approximately 15 people from a diverse set of selection criteria and they will be charged with the following:

(1) advise Red Bull Arena Management on its Guest Services Programs and services to ensure they connect well with fans.

(2) advise on and assist venue management to develop more functional executive‑level guest and local community outreach and marketing activities.

The most important representation on this Board will be from our season ticket holders.  So, if you are a season ticket holder and interested in volunteering please click HERE.  We are asking for a 250-word-or-less email on why you would be an important member of the Board.  Please remember to include your full name, season ticket holder account number and contact information.  If we consider you for selection on the Board we will contact you with member information such as the meeting schedule and special benefits.

I’m sure you always wanted the opportunity to give management a piece of your mind.  Well, here’s your opportunity!

FROM THE MAILBAG:

Lou Says

The league definitely needs to expand the rosters slightly to make room for two or three academy players, bring back the reserve league as soon as possible so that these young players can develop on the team without having to play in full games, and expand the salary cap.  The sooner this is done the better.  Since all those things aren’t in place right now and because they have to cut someone to have these guys on the team, I would think they should cut Khano or Pietra.

It would be nice to have another question and answer with Erik Stover to see if maybe he knows if the league will be changing it’s rules or what chance these players have of making the team.  If I were him I would be pushing the league constantly to change their rules to fit something similar to what I said because these restrictions clearly hurt our team.  We have arguable the best academy out of all the MLS teams and yet it is nearly impossible to use that talent.

We have invested heavily in our Academy system, more than any other team in MLS.  This year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations will be very important in determining roster size, salaries and academy rules.  The good news is that the academy rules have already been relaxed and we have been bringing Academy players into the first team for trials.

There is no question about the importance of our Academy for long term success.  Just look at the starting lineup for FC Barcelona in the Champions League final.  Seven of the starting 11 came out of their academy.  Enough said.

Alex Curtin Says

I have sat in Section 117 for two seasons. This season the GSS was moved to ESC land and visiting supporters were moved to our side. This has created an atmosphere where we our heckled and things thrown from above at us. GSS kept a balance. You can’t get the GSS back to 117 but could you at least move the visitors elsewhere?

Also…just a random thought., It seems like you bend over backward for rec/youth teams with rally tunnels, center flag, and half-time games, but why not provide more perks for season ticket holder children? My son went to every game as a Fanatic so he could have an on-field experience and 1:1 player experience (that could barely be construed as 1:1) then some random team walks on like they own the place. Perhaps a little equity for your future base.  Thanks.

Regarding the visiting supporters, we’ll reiterate to the NJSEA to watch this section more closely.

You have a good point regarding the on-field perks for groups.  We believe that the on-field experiences help draw new fans to the game.  However, the direction for next year is to modify most of these programs.  We really appreciate all of the group support over the years and we expect to keep those relationships going.  We are actively working on solutions to keep the value high for our groups.  We just need to remember that the pitch must be treated as sacred ground.  The Yankees don’t have pre-game events.  The Packers don’t have mini-games.  Manchester United doesn’t have rally tunnels.  If we are going to be professional then we need to conduct ourselves as such.  Plus, the grass can’t survive with that much extra traffic.

Regarding the 1:1 experience not meeting your expectation, I will check in with our Fanatics staff to see where we fell short.  We never want our supporters to feel short-changed.

Tom Brodie Says

I’m really looking forward to the opening of Red Bull Arena next season.  Do you know if there were any discussions with NJ Transit (or state officials) about reopening the old Harrison train station on the Morris & Essex line that closed back in 1984?  It would make trips to the new stadium a whole lot more convenient for those who live west on that train line.

We started discussion with NJ Transit and the Port Authority.  Mass transit will be essential for the success of Red Bull Arena and we are working on a lot of creative was to get people to the stadium.

Right now there are no plans to reopen Harrison as a stop on that line.  That may change in the future, especially as the population and development changes in the Town.  The good news is that we recognize this weakness and are working on solutions to get people from Newark Penn Station to the stadium without having to pay the extra fare for the PATH.

lakaix15 Says

One question I would love to have answered is, a team like Houston has their games on FOX and Sounders have on KING which are FOX5 and CBS2 in NY/NJ terms.  Why do we have our coverage on MSG and not a national coverage like other teams?

Those stations are not national networks, but their local affiliates.  You are correct, however, in that Houston and Seattle are getting tremendous local support.  Part of our problem is that there are nine teams in the big four sports in this market.  We simply struggle for coverage in the middle of all of that clutter.

This is not an excuse, it is simply the reality.  We fight every day to do better in this market.  I believe things have steadily improved over the last few years, but we still have a long way to go.  Our business model will change next year in Red Bull Arena and this will give us greater leverage in negotiating TV deals.

Richard Says

Love the responses Mr. Stover…

I keep hearing that newspapers and magazines are “losing advertising revenue”

Well…

Help them out by advertising in their publications (NY TIMES), and help ourselves out by getting the team out there!

We do advertise in newspapers.  This year we have focused on the Daily News because of their circulation, demographics and reach.

Mike K Says

I have a couple complaints-

#1- Training facility? What training facility?

#2- Designated players? Juan Pablo Angel, he’s only one person, yes? The other slot is still unused.

The training facility is still part of our plans.  However, you can’t ignore the impact that the economy has had on the growth plans of all companies.

Only seven teams have designated players and with Juan Pablo having the third highest salary, it is a significant investment. Also, we have been clear that we don’t believe that a team can survive in this league with two designated players and the high allocation of salary cap funds that is required for those players.   By using the Claudio Reyna allocation this year we were able to bring in three starters: Carlos Johnson, Alfredo Pacheco and Albert Celades.

We are holding onto the second slot and we’ll see if the rules change next year.

Kofix5 Says

BTW– there is no marketing happening in Brooklyn right now for the team. No posters, no flyers. I live in Williamsburg and there are tons of hipsters into soccer out here.   I see jerseys all the time, (not Red Bul ) and there are league games in McCarren Park almost everyday.  There’s zero marketing being done in my neighborhood. Or on the subway. Or on the buses. Zero.

You are absolutely right that there are passionate fans all over the New York area and we have to do better in marketing our team.  There are so many communities that are passionate about the sport.

Our philosophy this year is to start our messaging in Newark and Harrison.  As the year moves on we’ll be doing more in Hoboken, Jersey City and Lower Manhattan.  We also believe that Brooklyn will now be a viable option with far better mass transit options.  The fans are out there we just need to make the connection.

Thank you for your support of the Red Bulls!

Erik

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38 Responses to “FROM THE DESK OF ERIK STOVER: EPISODE 5”

  1. lou Says:

    Those were some very good answers, mainly because mr. stover proved to me at least, that he wasn’t oblivious to how poorly the team has been doing, and how poorly the team has been marketed. This shows a sign of maturity than i appreciate in our management. As long as I know that red bull is openly not happy with the attendance, advertising, and product i will feel better about things imporving. One thing i had a question on was the Collective Bargaining Agreement thing, that Erik Stover said would be important in determining roster size, salaries and academy rules. When exactly will that take place?

  2. DS Says:

    Lou, from my understanding the talks are on-going all year. They will take effect for next season. So nothing will change this year, but next season there will be a brand new CBA in place.

  3. lou Says:

    That’s reassuring. At least if this year isn’t what it was cracked up to be, the salary cap might be higher and red bull will be able to use their wealth more easily.

  4. Mentz Says:

    I will give Mr. Stover and Red Bull the pass as of right now. Next year all bets are off. Hopefully we’ll have a new collective bargaining agreement and we officially will have our own stadium (it costs us something like $300,000 every time we want to use Giant’s Stadium).

    I’m also glad to hear we’ve put time, effort and funds into marketing strategy and research because quite frankly a bunch of interns walking around in slow motion dressed like Red Bulls made us look straight out stupid and didn’t make us look one bit “professional”.

    We need to market better. No doubt about it. Find the soccer hot-beds and get them on our side!

  5. lakaix15 Says:

    I like this guy. I would say best GM is this league….

    Now if we can get our team on the field as good as our F.O.

  6. lou Says:

    Did anyone see the video of new england mocking our advertising idea where the kids walked around new york in slow motion. I thought it was pretty funnym it’s on youtube somewhere.

  7. Chris Says:

    Why would the economy effect Red Bull. They’re a mutli-billion dollar company out of Austria. If they can build that incredible stadium, they can build the training facility. I don’t care for the excuses I hear every time this situation is brought up. We have guys practicing on turf and it has hurt Angel’s performance.

  8. lakaix15 Says:

    here is a question.

    Mr. Stover,

    I’m sure you saw the Chicago game this past weekend. And the One minute Section 8 had with flares. I have a few family members that are supporters in Section 8 (ages 27, 20 , 21 ,20, 15, 8). And they use marine flares that are harmless to others. Is there any chance in RBA that the supporters could use them in RBA. I am totaly for, the F.O. making who ever is handleing the flare have some kind of certification from the F.O. or HFD to use them. Another way of helping from other people from using flares in the stadium is Having a glass wall so others (non- ESC-GSS) and useing flares and getting in to 101 in RBA. I have heard that we might be able to use Fog machine/ strobe light. but i think it does not give the same effect as it does for the real thing. Also can you let us know what other things the Supporters might be able to use…. mega flags and other supporter stuff would be great….

  9. C. Says:

    We always hear the same thing regarding marketing.

    “Yeah we know we’re bad and we’re going to continue to do so” “We’re waiting for the stadium to open” We’ve been hearing this for years. You can’t just take out a projector once in awhile or paint some annoying, screaming interns faces red and expect people to come out for your energy drink team. Once NYC2 enters the league this team will lose a lot of fans.

  10. afrim Says:

    if RB wins over the harrison/newark and i’d even throw passaic in there too since its down rt.21 area then NYC2 can have their fans.

    the potential for those 3 cities alone is second to none

  11. Mike Says:

    lakaix15:

    stover is not the GM. technically, we have no gm since the titles are slightly different with agoos and jco each having a say in the players we bring in and out but i agree, i think stover has been a positive influence on the F.O.

    chris: two things.
    1- THE TEAM DOES NOT PRACTICE ON TURF! They train at Montclair state which has two grass fields as well as the turf field that their football team uses which is the newer type of fake grass type turf. As you can clearly see in the preview videos that appear on here/the team website the boys train on the field which is closest to the train station which in fact is GRASS. there have been times in the past where they have gone on the turf due to weather and depending on the type of surface they will be playing on in the weekend im assuming. the majority of the time is grass, though ive seen the one field and its not the best but it is better then turf.

    2) Im as frustrated as you are , and others im sure, about the training grounds. I think it is important to remember that while Red Bull CORPORATE in Austria is a billion dollar company, RBNY is not, by any stretch. If memory serves, havent there been reports with how much the team loses a season which was a couple million PER SEASON? The biggest reason for that is the sheer cost it takes to play in GS and then of course crappy attendance. With the company losing money, what sense does it make to take a bigger hit by building RBA and the facility? The most important is the statdium which as we all could tell is getting done!! Hopefully once that is done then the FO will focus on the training grounds.

  12. Bright Idea Says:

    Here’s an idea. How about Red Bull New York – you know – markets the team IN NEW YORK!! I know, I know it’s a crazy idea.

  13. thisisvictorkim Says:

    “As the year moves on we’ll be doing more in Hoboken, Jersey City and Lower Manhattan.” I love how I root for this New York MLS team and yet “lower manhattan” is one of the last and only true NYC areas to get advertising.

    RBNY, I am losing faith day by day.

  14. NJMetrostars Says:

    Is anyone here annoyed that a NEW YORK team is playing in NEW JERSEY. I’m from Jersey City and i find it annoying how NY claims it’s their team. At least with the metrostars it had NJ in it. Same with the NY Giants and NY Jets.

    • thisisvictorkim Says:

      it’s not new yorkers claiming it to be there team, it’s rbny claiming to be a new york team. for the most part my fellow new yorkers, whether they be from li like me or nyc have failed to acknowledge rbny as their team, partly due to the lackluster advertising and marketing in the state and city that they claim to represent.

      RBNY, i am slowly losing faith…

  15. jason Says:

    why cant we get a good player like toronto has de ro dallas has cooper chicago has blanco . we have angel but it is just not wroking out for him any more

    get a world class player and they should have built the stadium in newyork not newjersy last time i checked the team was called the NEW YORK RED BULLS not the new jersey redbulls

    • C. Says:

      Angel has earned the right to retire here if he chooses. He’s better than all those guys. He just needs proper service and forward he can work off of. If we still had Van den Bergh and Jozy he would have 10 goals by now.

  16. lou Says:

    “havent there been reports with how much the team loses a season which was a couple million PER SEASON?”

    No mike there hasn’t, there have been rumors, but the only reports have said nothing about that. Garber was on fox business and showed the most profitable mls franchises, New York was 4th on that list with an annual gain of 10 million since the takeover. Perhaps he was exaggerating that figure to make it look better on tv, but he couldn’t have completely stretched the number because someone could do the research on their own and call his bluff.

    “I think it is important to remember that while Red Bull CORPORATE in Austria is a billion dollar company, RBNY is not, by any stretch. ”
    If red bull new york doesn’t get their money from corporate than where do they get their money from?
    Red bull Corporate absoletly does have the money to spend because they are a billion dollar company, red bull new york get’s everything from red bull corporate, hence the name. I don’t know if they would choose to spend that money on the training ground right now since the last thing they need is to drop another 100 million right away after they used 200 million on the stadium. I would rather see them use that money to advertise so that the stadium is more than just a half empty shell of metal.
    As for Mr. Stover he isn’t exactly a GM, more like a stadium manager, and while having him serve as the higest ranking guy between us and austria is a good idea because he is the best guy for taking care of this stadium, and that’s really all red bull cares about this year, after this year i would hope he retains his position with taking care of the stadium while someone else who know’s his way around the soccer world serves in an equally important position.

  17. Alle Says:

    NJMetrostars, I hear you loud and clear, we need our state represented!

    Here’s a question for Mr. Stover (dunno if it has been answered or not):

    Why should ticket prices (most notably the midfield secton) be expensive when we just aren’t producing on the field? If you look at leagues in Europe, we don’t even see these types of prices (even if they are in Euros in some places). This explains why attendance at Giants Stadium is dwindling, and it will surely explain why some seats won’t be filled next season at Red Bull Arena. I’m sure you watch the news and follow the current economic situation. The simple problem here is that many fans simply can’t afford to give up $45(that is, if they want a good view of the match) or even less for some of the other seats because of what is going on at the moment. You want a real crowd? Lower the prices! At the rate we’re going results wise, is there any chance of a price change or will that be final? If we keep playing like this, not even a working class family would want to throw a minimum of $20 dollars in the garbage to see us get blown out 2-0 or 3-0, you have to be realistic here surely.

  18. Alle Says:

    Forgot to mention, the atmosphere is something I always like when I go to see games, ofcourse seeing the other side of the stadium not so packed is a bit worrying, but the gameday experience is great besides the rowdy people you tend to see every now and then (more of a concern for the youngsters). If we get a better attendance at Red Bull Arena, you can be assured it’ll feel more like Europe!

  19. lou Says:

    That would be great to sea NY/NY red bulls next year, considering how heavily red bull are marketing in new jersey, adn that both the stadium and training facility are going to be located in NJ.

  20. kofix5 Says:

    geez lou your spelling is so bad it makes me laugh. you just spelled an acronym wrong. hahahahahaha sea yu shud lern how too speel yu hav lats two say.

    Thanks Mr Stover for your response. If you are not going to really market in the 5 boroughs or on the MTA you might want to throw Jersey a bone and put their name on the team. They are the recipients of your serious marketing campaigns after all.

  21. Chic C Says:

    Mr. Stover,

    Your favorite journalist, Steven Goff, has hit back at your own “reply” towards him (soccer inside, June 9th):

    “Then again, the club is run by some guy named Eric Stover, who has no direct soccer experience and whose expertise is operating inanimate objects (stadiums), which, in the Red Bulls’ case, are largely empty. If only MLS had a respectable product in its biggest market….”

    I trust you have a suitable, stinging retort.

    (His email is goffs@washpost.com)

  22. Chris Says:

    No one outside of New Jersey would ever buy a New Jersey kit. People from all over the world respect NY, so if the brand grows the sky’s the limit. Then again, who would buy a kit with the Red Bull logo for a crest??? Shouldn’t this team pay us to wear their kits?

  23. nydasofine Says:

    Eric Stover seems very honest. i have a problem with one of his answers when he said he concentratin more in NEWARK. IF IT is a NY TEAM we should get the first piece of the pie.
    instead of investing in Newark, i would prefer u cut a deal with THE NY TRANSIT. tHOUSANDS of people take the train and bus everyday. furtthermore invest in those local most listening radio please

    • thisisvictorkim Says:

      AGREED! red bull had no problem putting up red bull ads for the snowboarding event earlier this year, of course that was IN nyc and not nj, but still, it’s not that tough for RB corporate to contact the MTA to do some advertising..

  24. Mike from linden Says:

    I agree with Kofix5,

    I live in the Elizabeth NJ area and I always see guys in the 15-25 age group playing pick up games in the park and in their drive ways. WHY ARENT WE TAPPNG INTO THIS????

  25. lou Says:

    haha my bad kofix, i don’t really check what I write. I kinda just type it and submit. I meant NY/NJ for anyone who didn’t already figure it out.

  26. jason Says:

    i heard this a few times before on yahoo sports saying that zidane wants to be apart of the team and henry i think said that to but probably false rumers

  27. Cris Says:

    I can’t quite remember when I last saw a red bulls game. Every time I seat to watch it, they end up loosing and playing like a high school team, without any discipline nor attitude to win and score goals. I don’t know wether this team needs all new management or all new players, but one thing is certain, they need to start winning games and bringing a MLS cup and satisfactions to it’s fans. I don’t understand why they are building them a new stadium when they can’t even win a game. I believe red bulls management is more focused on appearance and future planing, but they don’t take into account that it is now when they need to be making smart and strong decisions if they really want to see a good future for this club.

    • thisisvictorkim Says:

      they’re building a new stadium sothey don’t have to spend 6 figures a game to rent out giants stadium. there are so many things wrong about playing soccer in giants stadium i’m not even going to begin to list them.

  28. nydasofine Says:

    CRIS….. u absolutely rite. i don’t bother to watch them anymore. i rather watch a good high school soccer game than watch REDBULLS playing; i see more highlights and more completed passes
    Everything that the team does is cheap. i can’t blame the management all the way Osorio is half part of. He always sign some unskillful washed up players and waive the good ones or burry them on the bench
    if th team managment give us a good product that could compete nationally and internationally i bet you Giants Stadium would be packed

  29. lautmund Says:

    I’m with Kofix5 100% There is nothing being done in Brooklyn in terms of marketing. I play soccer in McCarren Park and Prospect Park every week. What about doing something there, where there are ALREADY soccer fans. Stover’s answer makes it sound like he/they think Brooklyn is a million miles away from the PATH train and cable tv.

  30. the penalty spot Says:

    Question for mr. stover

    for those of us that view the webcam on a regular basis, can you give us a timeline of when to expect notable events. example, when will seats start going in, grass, etc.

    and please, please, please use the money that the team spends to rent giants stadium, and give us something to cheer about. do that and the stadium will be filled every game, not just when beckham is in town

  31. DonZorro Says:

    It is absolutely sickening what I read in these forums, so annoying…like at this point in history with technology (ex texts) do you think freaking spelling is a criteria to get your point across …oh just use your stupid head as tiny as it is, what are you using a translator? Are we getting graded, what the $$#$%! Who cares man, a goal is a goal right, if it wins a game for you who cares if it was an ugly goal right…..It is like you have nothing to say, so you are like….ahhhhh DUH, “your spelling is wrong”, gee that changes everything. Call the spelling police…Soooooo New Jerseyan man, narrow minded dim wits ….

  32. OSCAR A GARCIA Says:

    HI MR ERICK.
    I’M FROM ARGENTINA BUT I LIVE IN NEW YORK.AND SO I LIKE VERY MUCH TO SEE THE RED BULLS SUCCESFULL,WICH IS NOT THE REALITY.
    I’M THE SOCCER BUSSINES AS PART OF SCOUTING AND FIFA AGENTS WORKING WITH PLAYERS OF ARGENTINA AND BRAZIL.
    I LIKE TO OFER TO YOU MY EXPERIENCE AND WHAT EVER YOU CAN NEED FROM THE SOCCER RELATED TO PLAYER TO BRING THEM TO THE US,ALSO I LIKE TO TELL YOU I HAVE A FRIEND SHIP WITH CARLOS BILARDO 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONS WITH ARGENTINA IN MEXICO, AND SAYS TO US HE WILL LIKE TO HELP THE RED BULLS IN ANY WAYS YOU MAY NEED.
    SO PLEASE DON’T HASETATE ANY QUESTION ,HERE IS MY CELULAR IN NEW YORK IF YOU LIKE TO MEET ME # 347-603-3665.

    BEST REGARDS OSCAR GARCIA

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