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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

EDITORIAL: "It's all gone quiet over there!" TFC adopts a quiet approach to the off-season

You have no idea how hard it is to find a mouth-closed picture.

Perhaps Tim Leiweke and his posse down at BMO Field have been listening to Rob Ford's faux-bravado "actions speak louder than words" phrase - or maybe they're all on crack. It's your call. One thing few TFC supporters won't deny though is the strange sound coming from the local football club... silence. While the off-season is still young, the usually overly verbose club has been noticeably muted.  

Now this is not in any way a complaint, we are definitely fans of substance over style but it is a glaring difference from the past seven years. While there has so far been little to speak of surrounding the club (apart from the latest high profile DP to turn their nose up at The Reds) it is unusual for the Lakeshore House of Promos to stop flapping their gums for this long. Is this an unexpected maturity from the club or is there more to it?  

The front office has indeed had a change of personality, with the likes of former public faces such as Paul Beirne and the well-liked Asif Hossain moving on to greener pastures, but other aspects of TFC winters are missing as well. Gone are the pub crawls, post-season wrap parties and often hilarious town halls of years past. While we here have never been massive fans of any of these glad-handing events, other fans have rightfully enjoyed them. Some of these fans are now feeling a lack of "personal presence" from their club.

The question thus becomes: Is this a blip in club culture during a time of massive front office transition, or, are TFC now keeping their fans at a pre-determined arms' length? Perhaps it is a concerted effort on the part of the club to give fans some breathing space -a respite from the drama of off-seasons past. Or, perhaps as the corporate face of the club's ownership has changed, so has the way it sees its fans. For TFC supporters who have enjoyed a fair amount of access to the club, it may be alarming to now feel kept at a velvet rope separation which their brethren, fans of fellow MLSE teams the Maple Leafs and Raptors, have always been.  

Beyond the "community outreach" aspect, TFC has nearly no official presence in the social media world in comparison to years past. Tracking back to the end of the season, the only communication via the club's website has been about the odd "Goal of The Year" competition or players growing moustaches. Enthralling stuff. Again, this isn't necessarily a complaint - it isn't the club website's place to be "reporting" on transfer rumours and the like, it just seems unusually placid. While the assembled local media and blogs do more than in most MLS markets to breathe life into a TFC off-season, the silence from BMO Field is... well... different.  

"If you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all" is not the worst policy. It was only a short while ago that we were bemoaning the gaping maw of Tim Leiweke that we converted into the handy hashtag #LeiwekeLeaks. We don't want to hear useless blathering and more false promises. We have all had more than enough of those to go around. Respite from that - we are very grateful for.  

Again, this is all more of a curious observation. Is this the canary in the coalmine for the way TFC interacts with supporters from here on out? Will those that enjoy the "close-up" relationship with the team now go wanting? For a club that has always pushed sizzle over steak it would be a great surprise. However, if moving away from the "grassroots" engagement that helped create the club's early success is the plan then it may not be the wisest of decisions. For a club that has slipped so far off of the local sporting radar can they really afford to be any more "out of sight, out of mind"?  

No doubt the TFC Sound Machine will be up and shooting shirts through cannons at us in no time but this has been an exercise in not realizing something was there until it's gone. Whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing likely depends on your tolerance for noise over free swag. Either way, it is a change. Time will tell if it is a "New TFC" direction towards communications and community... and whether or not it is good or bad.

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