Since the new "ownership" group took over the Timbers, there's been a very uneasy relationship between the management and the Timbers Army. At times, the management will publicly denounce the Army's language and antics, while using the Army to get press for the team. This uneasy relationship seems to be escalating, in large part due to a weak understanding by the organization as to how important football supporters clubs are to the sport and team. I cannot wait to see a true ownership group takeover the Timbers, and I dream of a general manager like Peter Wilt, who understands that there must be a cooperative relationship between the organization and its most loyal and passionate fans.
This message was taken from the Timbers weblog on the Oregonian.
A Letter from the Timbers Army
Posted by bkellett April 10, 2007 10:19AM
Categories: Supporters News
I'm off to media day at PGE Park in a bit and will be interested to see whether the letter below illicits any questions from the media folks. I will report back later on today and hope to have lots of interviews, etc if I can find the time to type them up or figure out how to post audio.
The following letter was sent earlier this morning via email to the Oregonian (Steve Duin, Boaz Herzog, Mark Hester, Jonathan Nicholas, John Canzano), the Portland Tribune (Steve Brandon, Kerry Eggers), and Willamette Week (Hank Stern), and was then subsequently forwarded to the Timbers office (Brad Nicholson, Ripper Hatch, Marc Kostic)...
Dear local media,
Do the Portland Timbers want to silence their most rabid, loyal, and fastest growing fans? A group that started in 2001 with about 10 people, and now numbers about 1,000 strong, grown exclusively through their own actions, time, and money, is increasingly being alienated by the very team and organization they so strongly support.
This morning is Portland Timbers open media day at PGE Park from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, and as a supporter of the team, I'd like to bring to your attention a recent general development trend, as well as a specific event of the past 24 hours.
Timber Jim is the most recognizable icon of the organization, not only an employee, but a true fan, and a friend to many in the Timbers Army. The Timbers Army, in return, has a long standing personal relationship with Jim as both ambassador of the team, but also a diehard fan just like us. The relationship is not confined to game days within the borders of PGE Park. Jim appears at Timbers Army gatherings, and the Timbers Army has donated long, deep, and selflessly to help Jim through extremely difficult personal struggles in recent years.
The relationship certainly extends beyond mutual support of a soccer team. Part of that relationship manifests itself on the very active Timbers Army message board ( www.talktimbers.com ). Jim participates on the board, and is one of the few connections many fans have to the inside of the organization, a valuable link between organization and fanbase.
Yesterday afternoon, however, the organization instructed Jim that he is no longer allowed to post on the board. The Timbers organization is under new management this season, and it has increasingly become clear over recent months that the Timbers Army are seen as a group that needs to be contained, curtailed, silenced, and dealt with. Restrictions on language and flag poles are in place for the coming season, which opens April 21. Many fans are growing increasingly apprehensive about the management tactics and lack of communication, and the decision to force Timber Jim's silence with the fanbase is likely the tipping point for some. Fans are now actively discussing an economic boycott of the team, either through the discontinued purchase of concessions on game days, or by not purchasing game tickets at all and simply watching our team from the fence on SW 18th Street.
It appears that within a couple hours of their decision, the front office may have told Jim he could continue to post on the message board, likely due to immediate and widespread negative reaction their decision caused, but that doesn't change the fact that the organization's initial thought was to treat their own fans like outcasts and sever Jim's ability to interact with us.
And maybe that's the ultimate end game of the new management -- the end of the Timbers Army and the disappearance of 1,000 diehard fans from the north end of PGE Park on every game day. But we don't know because the organization would rather put restrictions on us and curtail our behavior instead of communicate with us, even through the face of the organization, Timber Jim, on a fan message board.
Besides helping Jim in our own little way through his tragic family events a couple years ago, the Timbers Army has raised thousands of dollars for various charities, volunteered together for Habitat for Humanity, raised money to help other Timbers Army friends through medical struggles, and immediately raised money recently to give to a Vancouver, Washington couple who had been scammed out of thousands of dollars by an ex-Timbers player. The Timbers Army, as a group, are active and supportive members of the community, not just a group of people who sing, swear, and wave flags for 90 minutes every week during the summer. Additionally, the Timbers Army has appeared on the front page of the Willamette Week, the cover of the Oregonian's living section, and a two-page color spread in a prize-winning edition of the Oregonian's A&E section. Three years ago, former General Manager Jim Taylor was asked to speak at the league's annual meeting specifically on the topic of the Timbers Army, how it works and has grown, and how to start similar support for other clubs in other parts of the country.
And finally, under three consecutive management regimes, the organization has used the Timbers Army in their marketing and promotional efforts (via photos on their website and t-shirts promoting the Timbers Army sold in the team store), so they must feel this fan group has some value to them, yet at the very same time they then turn around and clamp down on the group. It's hard to tell what the organization wants: if they want a vibrant, passionate fanbase, then the increasing efforts to silence that group make little sense; if they want the Timbers Army to go away, then it's hard to justify the continued use of the Timbers Army name and image from within the organization to promote the team.
The organization has shown they can't generate a fraction of the public goodwill and publicity the Timbers Army has created within the community, yet they continue with their efforts to halt our growth, and now even our communication with Timber Jim.
- Why is the fanbase that everyone in Portland and beyond associates with the team being made into pariahs?
- Why is the man who most people in Portland and beyond identify as the symbol of the team not being allowed to interact with the very same people who have worked long and selflessly with him, not just as a team representative, but as a personal friend?
- How is the loudest, most visible, most passionate, and most envied section of the fanbase a detriment to the club's operations and public image?
- Is management's ultimate goal the elimination of the group, which consists of approximately 20% of game-day attendance?
- If the team hadn't immediately back-peddled on their ill-conceived effort to quiet Timber Jim, what would have happened to Jim if he said "no" and continued to communicate with the team's fanbase?
Again, the open media day event is today at PGE Park from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. We hope you will have the time and interest to pursue this event and story.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
A supporter of Portland Timbers Football Club and the Timbers Army