The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
The Sounders recently bid farewell to their Media Relations Director Frank MacDonald. Frank is taking his talents from the press box to the scarf world and returning to Sounders fandom in the process.
by David Falk
There was plenty of offseason press in the world of the Sounders over the departure of broadcast voice Arlo White. For those who cover the Sounders as a job or a passion, the recent exit of Frank MacDonald carries as much if not more importance. It was Frank who helped establish and enforce the Major League Soccer Sounders relationship with the media, and for many of us most-importantly the relationship with ‘new media,’ social media, and bloggers.
MacDonald didn’t just happen upon his role with the club, but rather it seems his life developed in such a way that he was born to play a role in the debut of Sounders 3.0.
“You can count me as part of the first wave of Sounders fans,” MacDonald begins as he reflects on his history with local soccer. ”I was hooked after listening to Bob Robertson call the first home game. Once I could drive, it became a regular 160-mile round trip on I-5 to the Kingdome. By 1980 I had season tickets. Then came the transition. In ’81 I interned for the club and the next year I joined the staff.”
The soccer bug made its way into Frank’s life beyond the Sounders. “Initially it was soccer that attracted me to SPU, where I would spend (the year of being age) 23 becoming close friends while working alongside some exceptional people,” he says. ”During that time I also had opportunities to freelance, like writing for Soccer America and handling media for FC Seattle. In ’94 came a great mix of writing freelance while researching and spotting for ESPN and ABC during the World Cup.”
MacDonald has always thought of Seattle as a top tier soccer town, and has worked to make it one. That’s how his MLS chance came about. “I had been active in the initial efforts to bring an MLS team to Seattle in the mid-Nineties. I got to know Gary Wright (Sounders VP of Business Operations) shortly thereafter, and several years later everything seemed to fit together. I’d always wanted to be involved in the formation of a world-class club in my hometown, and I’d always believed our community would support a team in numbers and voice that would amaze the world.”
It’s hard to believe but the Sounders of MLS are not newbies anymore. This is the club’s fourth season already. Mac Donald has enjoyed the journey. His final full season is full of highlights.
“This past year was thick with memories. The trips to Portland and Vancouver were nostalgic for me, and Fredy’s wondrous goals are seared permanently into my brain,” Frank shares. ”I got chills when the ECS unfurled those magnificent tifos and the fans paid tribute to Steve. I’d always admired Sir Alex Ferguson and to meet him during Manchester United’s visit was truly special. The win in Monterrey and the draw at Comunicaciones were huge. Each game was gritty: It was all about the determination to compete, to do whatever it took. You could see the team’s character emerging every week and we all watched this club really come of age. And finally that sensational turnout for Kasey’s final match and the late goals to win it. The world took notice. It was storybook stuff, without question.”
MacDonald could look down from the press box match after match and see the scarves held high around Xbox Pitch. Now he is going behind the scenes to work with a company that is the official scarf supplier for MLS.
“To serve the Sounders these past few years was the realization of a dream. Still, I have other interests, other aspirations in life, and this opportunity with Ruffneck enables me to pursue some of those dreams. I’ll be in a communications role, and I will also get the chance to contribute in other areas. The possibilities are exciting, and I’m thankful to Jeff McIntyre and Erin O’Brien for bringing me aboard.”
Frank will no longer have to issue his traditional request in the press box just before kick off, a line that reminds reporters that there is no cheering allowed in media rooms that overlook the pitch.
“If I’ve missed anything these past couple years, it was the fan experience. My position at Ruffneck allows me to not only become a fan again–I became a season ticket holder last week–it also allows me to engage fans and share some of their stories. And if scarves can be woven into the fabric of those stories, so much the better.”
“I will miss those friends that I worked alongside with the Sounders: The staff, the players and those like myself who operate behind the scenes. We share a lot of memories and many hours together. I will always be available to help the club in any way, and I will always be a Sounder.”
Ruffneck Scarves makes custom soccer scarves and supports local soccer in the state of Washington.