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PODCAST – Dan Rutstein, SVP of International Projects of Orange County Soccer Club

MVP Interactive CEO James Giglio hosted SVP of International Projects, Dan Rutstein on this week’s MVP Podcast. Dan Rutstein is SVP of International Projects at Orange County Soccer Club of the USL, the fastest second tier soccer league in the world. He is a former diplomat for the British Government, serving in Berlin and Los Angeles, and previously served as president of immersive technology company Laduma. In his first career, Dan was a journalist, working as a news and sports reporter for newspapers in England and Bermuda. He currently hosts three podcasts – United States of Dramerica, Screaming into the Hollywood Abyss and America the Beautiful Game.

Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hi everyone, this is James Julio, CEO of MVP Interactive and welcome to the MVP podcast. Our podcast will bring insight to a range of topics involving technology, consumer engagement, experiential marketing, and general business related subjects. This show will host not only our great roster of clients from the professional sports world, along with Fortune 500 brands and agencies, but other entrepreneurs and startups. We hope our podcast brings value. And thank you for listening. For general inquiries or topic requests, please email MVP podcast@mvpinteractive.com. And please subscribe to our YouTube page and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud with account name MVP interacted. And welcome back everyone to the latest episode of the MVP Interactive Podcast. We have a very special guest today by the name of Dan Rotstein, our very first international guest if you will. Dan, thank you so much for joining us today. I know it’s been a lot of back and forth with exchanging calendar dates and what have you, so we’re here. We are here finally.

Speaker 2 (01:13):

Well, thank you for calling me very special and I’m delighted to be your first international international guest

Speaker 1 (01:19):

Now that’s great. So before we learn about your international mystery and how you landed here at the Orange County Soccer Club, you, let’s talk a little bit about your current role as the Senior Vice President of International Projects. Now that is a very interesting title. So for our listeners who are one unaware of what and who the Orange County Soccer Club is talk to us a little bit about that and your background as to what led you there.

Speaker 2 (01:48):

Yeah, so I mean starting with the Orange County stuff, so I don’t mind that some of your listeners will, may well not know who we are. And I think Orange County Soccer Club and the United Soccer League is the league we’re in. We are the second tier soccer team, soccer league in America. So everyone’s heard of mls I would’ve thought here. Now we are the level below that and it’s actually the fastest growing second tier soccer league in the world. Obviously we’re growing from a small place, but it’s a fascinating league. So you’ve got the top level, you’ve got the level below, but it’s a real league. And this is, people ask me this is like are they real footballers? But yes, it’s a real league with real professionals. We’ve got plenty of international players playing for us, people who played in the mls, people who have played in Europe.

Speaker 2 (02:34):

We play in front of sort three and a half thousand people. So it’s not minor sports, minor league sports, but it’s comparable in some ways to sort of second tier baseball in terms of sides of crowd of, I guess in terms of my story, it’d be fair to say have a non-linear career. So I was a sports journalist for 10 years. I did a few years of news journalism, then sports, working in newspapers in England. Then I did a stint in sports journalism, working for a newspaper in Bermuda, which was the most extraordinary opportunity I’m

Speaker 1 (03:10):


Speaker 2 (03:10):

And I thought I must get a real job. So I joined the British government and I worked for a few years in London with the British government in various departments. And then I joined the diplomatic service and was posted couple of different parts of Germany and then moved out to Los Angeles, which was amazing. And I loved America so much, I didn’t wanna leave. So I got a green card left government, joined the real world, ran an immersive technology company for a couple of years who did some activations in sport not at the depth and level that you guys have done. We did other things as we did a lot of trade shows that business was tricky because of the global pandemic and trade shows stopped being a thing. And then I reemerged out the other end working with Orange County Soccer Club and I think it says a lot about the team that the fact they hired an X diplomat with this wonderful job title of SVP International Projects says that we are more than just a small sports team. We’re a innovative sports team with global ambitions and that’s why I’m part of that journey.

Speaker 1 (04:13):

Well that’s actually pretty fascinating because the more we’re in and around sports and sports properties, you do get a sense of what the perspective inside the building or the organization is versus maybe what the fans see. And so that’s building the talent and the colleagues within a wide range of skill sets and backgrounds to really put forth a mission of the soccer club for the community. But it doesn’t surprise me quite honestly that with your background and especially with your international knowledge and being in and around sports, whether it’s in journalism or government that it shows that diversity within an organization to show exactly what it takes to build a new organization. And quite honestly, I’d imagine there’s challenges as again, I know that you said above minor league, but a semi or a professional league that isn’t the major leagues how difficult that is from the community relations standpoint and what are the unique challenges because resources may not be there sponsorships aren’t there. So do you have any other experience or maybe examples on your colleagues coming from backgrounds that were anomalous to sports and maybe what your community relations and outreach and some of those efforts look like for the Orange County community?

Speaker 2 (05:35):

Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s a tricky balance because we need to be a be a sports team with the foundation in the community cuz that’s how you build all the best sports teams. And I think the way we like to see ourselves is a of community pulse, but there’s a global vision to what we’re trying to do. So we need to be part of the community, we want want our fans to come from the surrounding areas and see the games. But more than that we wanna be part of their lives and all good sports teams. We have a foundation on the side of the actual sports team and obviously in this past year particularly, we’ve done a lot of work around community relations in terms of literacy programs in local schools and running clinics with our players for the underserved communities and that side of things. And we actually just launched our kit a couple of weeks ago, which is obviously a big moment for any sports team ahead of the season,

Speaker 1 (06:30):

These things

Speaker 2 (06:31):

By a hospital group. So rather than launching the kit with the players in their kits, we launched it with healthcare workers in the new kit as a thank you to them. So we try and not just of talk about community, we try and live the community values and Orange County’s an extraordinary place. We’ve got, everyone’s heard of Orange County, you might not have heard of Orange County Soccer Club, but people have heard of Orange County, whether it’s because of the, I think terrible TV show or they’ve just heard of it. And we have a discovery issue which is a lot of people don’t know about the soccer team within Orange County, so some of the community relations is around that. But for us, we’re trying to build a story and a brand and a depth to the community. So a big part of what we do is around player development.

Speaker 2 (07:18):

So in America, rightly, because college is so expensive, everyone’s obsessed with getting scholarships and going to college, we’re trying to change that pathway because actually if you’re a talented young soccer player in America, what you actually wanna do is not go to college. You wanna go and play professionally in Europe. And we have an arrangement with Glasgow Rangers in Scotland and we have sold a player to them. We’ve also sent a player across to a team in Germany. And a lot of what we’re trying to do is bring up the best players and send ’em across to Europe as part of their football education. And some of that is, as you know, that’s good, that’s good business for a soccer team, but also it’s about community and giving young players a chance to be the next Christian politic or whoever it is over in Europe. So that’s another part of what we’re trying to do. And the international part of that is part of my role, not on the technical side, but in terms of we are building this fan base in Scotland where rangers fans support us and we, we’ve got a bit of a brand and a reputation that we’re trying to build in European soccer as well as trying to build that brand in Orange County as

Speaker 1 (08:27):

Well. Sure. Now that’s pretty fascinating. Now I may misunderstood you, but I just want to ask the question. So when you’re talking about breeding these new soccer players and looking to recruit them and now is this both from US soil to overseas and then overseas to US soil it? Does it work both ways or you

Speaker 2 (08:46):

Yeah, so it, that’s a good question. The partnership does work both ways. So we try and bring talented young players into our team and obviously all good sports organizations, however well you run the business, we’re a soccer team and we wanna win things. We wanna win our championship with the best possible team, but we are also looking to give exposure to these players to give them a chance in Europe. And we’ve say we’ve one player went across the ranges this year, another player went to Germany last year and there’ll be others going in the future. But then as another part of it, we’ve taken players on loan from Glasgow Ranges to play for us. Okay.

Speaker 1 (09:23):


Speaker 2 (09:24):

Going out on to play in smaller teams is a well recognized path in soccer, but actually giving these players a chance to come across to America is a huge opportunity. They grow up as people and they get to play in a competitive league a good level and then they go back into Scotland, better players to then go and have their careers there. So it does work both ways and for us it’s a balance cuz we want to generate the next generation of amazing players, but we also wanna win the league this year as well and it’s getting that balance

Speaker 1 (09:56):

Lost. Sure, sure. Well that’s a really fascinating arrangement and wish you luck with that and I think that will be mutually beneficial to both divisions, leagues players and everyone involved in football and soccer. And so talk to us a little bit about the culture of the fan experience in Europe in particular within the Premier League. And I can share a little anecdote from a conversation that I had many years ago, probably about six years ago at this point. But it was with Chelsea ey. And so it was a fascinating point in our sort of business career because it was an inbound phone call that we received from a premier league team and we were this young new, as in many ways we still are this new startup or early stage business, but we were very young at that point. But it was an inbound call and it was fascinating because it was one of the executives from Chelsea.

Speaker 1 (10:56):

And the conversation really led into this philosophical sort of understanding of the culture of what the fan experience meant to folks in England versus what it means in America and how different the game day experience culture really is between the two. Because here in the states we’re very much driven by consumerism. Sports sponsorships are a sheer revenue driver for a lot of these clubs. And so the idea, and this was say call it 2013 maybe when we had this conversation, but here in America the fan experience and the sports properties were really starting to see a shift in that these were theme park attractions. And it wasn’t just about the game, it was about coming early and experiencing what this full day event was going to be for you and your family. And teams were really starting to focus in on that properties were growing.

Speaker 1 (11:57):

If you think back to the new Dallas Cowboy stadium when that first launched, I mean that is a tourist attraction. I mean that is a piece of real estate that is multifaceted and it’s a lifestyle center in many ways. And so we were talking about what it means for the American consumer to watch or participate in a game versus the education really that I received in and what it really meant for fans of Chelsea where the culture was very much you hang out into the pub right into the very last minute, you make a mad dash to the pitch and then you just watch the game and you then you leave. And so I would hope selfishly but also from an experience standpoint, that culture has shifted to a degree. So maybe talk to us a little bit from your experience how accurate that is today or maybe from the past and where you see that evolving and if there is any sort of continue outreach in America here to see what we’re doing to bring over overseas.

Speaker 2 (13:03):

Yeah, so excellent question. So let me just ask you a question. I assume that you didn’t get anywhere with Chelsea in the sense that you didn’t do a project for

Speaker 1 (13:13):

Them. We absolutely did not. And quite honestly it was never about, the phone call was never about that. They just really wanted to talk about what we did and what we saw and what it meant to watch sports in America. It was fascinating <laugh>.

Speaker 2 (13:28):

And so you think that doesn’t surprise me, it’s absolutely fascinating. So people have been playing versions of soccer for 120 something years in the uk and the fan experience is remarkably simple. And as you say it is, if you do it properly, you it’s a three o’clock kickoff on a Saturday afternoon. I mean that’s something that’s changing because of television, but that’s really where it was rooted. You meet your friends at 12 o’clock at the pub, which is obviously not owned by the club in any way. It’s just the pub. You often sit in the same seat, you have a drink or three, you walk to the game at five to three <laugh>, you go in, you take your seat next to the guy or girl that you’ve been sitting next to for the last 15 years with your seating ticket. You watch the game at halftime, if you have to, you go and buy a pie and maybe a pint or the pin’s gone now cuz you can’t drink at games.

Speaker 2 (14:29):

But you go and buy a pie and if it’s a quiet game, you leave five minutes before halftime starts so you don’t have to queue up for too long. But often you just suck up the cue <laugh>, there are very long cues at the men’s toilets and very short cues at the lady’s toilets. And then at 10 to five when the game’s finished, you go home, you might go back to the pub but you might just go straight home and that’s it. That’s game day <affirmative>. And in terms of how it’s marketed, so I’m a fan of AFC Wimbledon. So if we are playing, if AFC Wimbledon are playing Blackpool, the game is marketed as AFC Wimbledon versus Blackpool, that’s it.

Speaker 1 (15:03):


Speaker 2 (15:04):

And there’ll be a match sponsor in the corner of the physical program. There’ll be a little thing that says today’s game is brought to you by Joe Blog’s pies. Sure. And there might be an announcement on the PA system, there’s probably not a scoreboard and if there, there might be a little flash up there. And that’s sort of it over here as it is an entirely different, it’s an entirely different ball game. And there’s tailgating and every game is featured, it’s military appreciation night, it’s FIEs to the football, it’s Black History month and a series of games around that. There’s always something at every game. Bobblehead night get there early and you get free parking if you turn up at a Honda, whoever’s sponsoring it, there’s always something even though

Speaker 1 (15:53):

Even the bathroom breaks are now sponsored <laugh>.

Speaker 2 (15:56):

Yeah. And obviously there’s all on the broadcast stuff, there’s all the kiss cams and they’ve been doing cleansing cams. One of the teams had a sort of Clorox sponsored thing where oh

Speaker 1 (16:10):

Yeah, we saw that. Yeah that

Speaker 2 (16:12):

Was great. But everything is branded. The fascinating thing is everything is branded over here weirdly except front of shirt in soccer it is, but not in baseball and basketball. They’re sneaking in little logos obviously in England we’ve been doing front of shirt for as long as pretty much people can remember. But it’s a very, very different experience. And obviously the marketing opportunities are different. So the world that you are in of Snapchat filters and clever ar mirrors and AR murals, it’s not in some ways even worth doing that in the UK because people don’t, they’re not gonna look at their phone during the game because they’re watching the game. They’re not gonna turn up half an hour early and engage in some kind of ar mirror interactivity with a player with a frame branded by a local company because they’re at the pub and when they’re not the pub, they’re just sitting down to watch the game and they almost don’t want those distractions.

Speaker 2 (17:10):

And so it is extraordinary here that you the opposite. And you know, look at the Cowboys who you mentioned when they launched the new stadium and the partnership with at and t, they had these incredible AR filters where a giant Ezekiel would appear on top of the stadium eating things and then you could have your very clever AR mirror done with six different players getting involved and people were lining up, that stuff went viral. But you need to do that because people are there two hours before it’s a whole day out. It’s a very different experience. So the opportunities for of interactive fantech over here are completely different. And even though the British teams have obviously got, even despite this year a lot of money and they’ve got very captive fan audiences, they don’t almost need to do that stuff. And that’s what’s part of the date.

Speaker 2 (18:06):

Here’s a different ballgame. We had a fascinating internal discussion at our team. We were planning our promotional schedule and we’ve got a couple of minor league baseball guys who are involved as the president of the club and head of marketing. And we were going through our 16 home games and which one’s fireworks night and which one’s Beer fest and which one’s Dollar Beer night I saw put my hand up and said, Can we not just have a soccer theme night? The theme tonight can be Orange County of playing San Diego and that’s it. And they laughed cause I think they thought I was joke <laugh>. And it doesn’t work like that. And actually a friend of mine owns an independent baseball team up in Portland and he was saying one night of their however many home games they called it just baseball night. And it was the lowest attendance and the lowest revenues of the season. So that just doesn’t work. People don’t just turn up and watch sport here. They demand a lot more.

Speaker 1 (19:02):

And which is fascinating. It is absolutely fascinating and it’s a bigger sociological experiment or investigation beyond my scope. But learning the real cultural difference in terms of what it is to be an American sports fan and what it means. Because quite honestly this transition of heavily sponsored events began in the eighties here. And so many generations, the buying generations now in future, now to the future, this is the expectation. And of course if you’re going to spend $400 on a family of four just to participate and view a game, there wants to be that there should be that memory and that sort of exchange of value in terms of how teams are competing for interest and eyes and views and what it means to watch the game at home versus what it means at the venue itself. And so there’s a lot of challenges here, at least culturally in America that influences all of these ancillary pieces to what the game day experiences.

Speaker 1 (20:09):

So we did have one experience where we were perfectly able to balance what the cultural adaptation of watching a US sport team Washington football team played in England a few years ago. And as you can see and know that the NFL is making a concerted effort in crossing the pond, so to speak, to bring NFL culture to England. And so we had previously developed a VR experience for the Washington football team where it was this 360 experience where you as the fan had this opportunity to run out of the tunnel, go onto the field and you were immersed in 360. And so we were able to equip that team with mobile VR headsets at the time it was the Samsung 360 gear that they brought to their pub event overseas prior to the game. And so it was such a perfect balance of infusing fan experience technology to the culture of what Londoners were or how they consumed the game day or how they connected to a team and really merging that.

Speaker 1 (21:21):

And so I thought that was a great experience for everyone involved. The content produced or performed very well. The team was extremely happy with the outreach. And we also had a bit of a survey in terms of post experience in how at that time, and this was call it twenty fifteen, twenty sixteen where VR and headsets weren’t widely available as they were now they associated being able to experience that technology with a football team and say, Hey, I’d heard about vr, I’ve never had the opportunity to really experience it. So now my affinity towards the team is even greater because they brought this opportunity to me that I really got immersed and I got to experience vr, now I can talk to people about vr. So I thought that was pretty clever and a really great experience for everyone.

Speaker 2 (22:11):

And it’s interesting because so when I was in government, one of my jobs I managed the NFL relationship with the uk so bringing the games over was a big part of it. And we had the fan fests that they used to do where they’d close off parts of Pedestrianized streets in London and do fan fests. And interestingly, my last company did exactly the same thing with the Jacksonville Jaguars with the VR experience, which thousands of people used. And it was interest, it worked because it was American football. So it was sort of okay to do that stuff.

Speaker 1 (22:41):

Interesting, okay, so they let their guard down if it’s an American activity to a degree.

Speaker 2 (22:48):

And some of it wasn’t at the game in the same way and almost these were fan fests that they were running ahead of these big games that just sort wouldn’t work on a day-to-day soccer game. Now it, it’s gonna be interesting how things play out because we’ve had the year without fans effectively for soccer teams and obviously fans are coming back now. I don’t think they’re gonna necessarily immediately demand a richer experience, but people are, I think there’s almost a chance to reset and start thinking differently about our people

Speaker 1 (23:20):

Look like. Absolutely, absolutely.

Speaker 2 (23:22):

And I lot of America particularly, we are expecting, our season starts next month, we’re expecting fans to come back in droves in the way that you’ve seen on tv, the sports that have started recently, the baseball season started up, there’s a few thousand people in these games and depending on which state you’re in, some of them are pretty much full mean people are just desperate to go back. But there’s gonna be a point where some of that initial desperation is over and then they’re gonna be like, Hold on a minute, life’s gone back to normal. I can now choose to go to a concert, a sporting event or whatever else it is. Make it worth my while. What are you offering me? And not even, I don’t, And obviously some people economically have struggled, but obviously plenty of people in a strange way. So the people who wanna go back and it’s not about reduce the price, the value proposition

Speaker 1 (24:17):

In which the experience. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a very good point and it’s something that’s within our purview in terms of really forecasting what the future and outlook looks like for a business like ours in where we’ve been banging this job well before the drum even existed in this fan experience using immersive technology as a part of the game day experience. And so being out in front of the market was a very challenging growth schedule for us. And so here we are continuing to fight the headwinds of the lack of live events, but the way that we look at it is now that we have this eight, nine years of foundational experience and expertise to know when the lights are coming on, the body of work and technology that we have at our sort of repository is going to be a huge benefit to everyone in terms of how teams are going to look at what the concourse actually means in terms of game day activation.

Speaker 1 (25:13):

And we always felt that it was the artery to the game day experience. And so we’re excited about that. And to your point of this odd found disposable income where folks were really restricted from spending maybe outside of food, alcohol and some Amazon purchases, by and large you’re starting to see that in the housing market and then supply chain issues with construction and what people are investing in. And so yeah, I think good for folks that were able to navigate and really tighten things up and save. And so yeah, that’s a very good point in being able to sort, hey again, we speak to that consumer culture here in America where it’s like, hey, go out and spend. And so yeah, properties should see this as an opportunity and brands involved because a lot of the market research that we see here in our business is that experience outweighs the transaction of the purchase of whatever that is.

Speaker 1 (26:17):

And so more and more, and especially in younger generations, we’re talking about Gen Z and millennials where experience goes beyond an actual purchase. And I think it’s smart for brands to alternatively connect with a consumer through these experiences where it doesn’t feel as obtrusive or anti. And I, I’d really be interested to learn a little bit about the culture overseas and in terms of is there brand resistance when it comes to advertisement because we’re starting to see some of that with younger generations where it’s not the TV commercials that stick anymore, it’s not the print ads that stick anymore, it’s these sort of memorable event-based experiences that really seem to resonate. So curious to hear your thoughts culturally what that resistance to brand engagement is overseas.

Speaker 2 (27:12):

I mean I think in Britain particularly, we always see the American obsession with consumerism as a bad thing. So we will have no trouble buying a football shirt with whatever is written on the front it, that’s not a problem. If Liverpool’s sponsored by standard charter, then you buy a shirt and you’re walking around with a big advert for standard charter. But that’s okay cuz that’s the arrangement. But what I remember when I first moved to America, I found it fascinating. So you’re watching the football game and then it’s obviously there’s more breaks in American sport, but when you get to the break this time out is brought to you by Bud Light or whatever it is. And this weird thing then now trying to make it native but it’s not native where I was watching a Lakers game the other night and I think there was something around Jack in the box if there was five, no it was in a baseball game, if there was five strikeouts you get a free So it was Dodgers.

Speaker 2 (28:15):

Yep. You get a free something or other there’s like, yes, I really enjoy my Jack in the Box chicken sandwich. Yes I do as well. They’re amazing. And so they’re obviously paid to read that stuff out and it just sounds awful. And that would never wash in the uk. It would be jumped upon. And when Peyton Manning mentioned a beer in his post game speech at the Super Bowl app was not well received. They was well received in America. It certainly wasn’t well received in Britain. So we, our football teams are built on advertising. We like to watch the game and then during half time there’ll be an advert from a, it’s actually a lot of gambling sites, we’ll say it, it’s four to one with William Hill that there’ll be a yellow card in the next 20 minutes. We don’t mind that stuff. We just don’t want people reading out weird fake adverts and really pushing unnecessary things in your face. We just want a shirt with a name on it and seeing the advertising boards around the ground. And that’s sort of our comfort level reached.

Speaker 1 (29:19):

So it really seems to an au authenticity issue, you don’t want to be force fit anything. It needs to feel organic. It needs to quite honestly tie into the passion of the club itself where the sponsor is secondary because your involvement and your affinity is to the club first. And then like you said, you accept sort of sponsorship or adverts that just are just a part of the holistic relationship. So I would argue that I would love to be able to disrupt that through technology because I think that’s exactly our point in our mission in terms of breaking down those barriers where it doesn’t feel inauthentic. If you are experiencing a VR experience that gives you access that’s unprecedented to your normal everyday life and then there happens to be some sponsorship messaging. And so I think if you can get smart with how you connect with the consumer or connect with the fan when you’re leveraging the sport asset first, it’s really powerful. And I think from our perspective that’s what we root for. That’s what we are when we connect with these properties. That’s really our value proposition

Speaker 2 (30:34):

And it is this sort of personalized native advertising. So one of the most successful, certainly the time Snapchat campus was the Gatorade being poured over your head filter. So it was shared millions of times cuz it was fun and it was engaging. So I would send to my friend, I mean I didn’t do it, but people one would send to one’s friend Gatorade be pouring over their head now they don’t care about the Gatorade, they care about the hilarious filter <laugh>, but Gatorade’s on the side of the big orange pale. So that is, that’s genius. That’s where it works. So if you are at a game and you’re walking through the concourse and obviously you’re there early, you know are going through the club shop, you are buying the food and drink, that’s great. If there is a augmented reality experience where you can stand in front of a mirror and you can have your picture taken the ball to your favorite player. Now obviously the shirt spots will be on the front of the shirt. Now in soccer, if around the frame it’s sort, this experience was brought to you by ex company and that’s just on the frame that you have to share with your friends. Some people will try and squeeze the picture

Speaker 1 (31:50):


Speaker 2 (31:50):

Out. Absolutely. Most people will just send it because the experience has value. And I think that’s where it gets really interesting for brands. But they force their way effectively to be shared by people. And I think that’s part of the fan experience I am would have no problem being at game, an un clever AR filter where there’s branding in the background. If it’s something fun that I’d wanna share with my friends and nothing, that’s the sort of stuff that you want to see rather than half time is brought to you by Cheetos. Right,

Speaker 1 (32:22):

Right. Okay. So we’ve talked a little bit about our differences here. Let’s talk about some similarities from your perspective being able to have really frontline experience overseas and here in America when it comes to maybe less about the consuming the sports, but maybe the community. And have you identified similarities with what the US fan is versus what the British fan is and what kind of connective tissue is there, if at all?

Speaker 2 (32:53):

Yeah, so I think the secret is to, and this is something we are trying to do at the club and there’s some tensions because we have to do all of the American themed things, but we want real football, we want soccer fans hands. We want people to come and watch the game and enjoy the game. So in baseball there’s statistics about what percentage of fans leave after seven innings and never know a score at the end, the soccer’s different. It’s not a very long game. There’s not many natural breaks. You’ve basically got half time and that’s it. It’s 90 minutes of action, which the balls in play for about 60 minutes. It’s meant to be fast-paced. We want people to come and watch our games to enjoy the soccer. Now we know we have to do dollar beer night and beer fests and touch a truck and all those things around it, but we still want the real soccer fans to just come and watch the game for whatever the theme is that night, come and watch the game and enjoy the game.

Speaker 2 (33:54):

So we have to make sure the product works on the field, but we also need to generate people like football cuz it’s a simple game and they look at people playing and they try and recreate some of those moves at home and so on. So we want real fans to come for the football and or come for the dollar beer and stay for the football and real football fans like watching football. If we’ve got a team who are winning that ultimately will probably do more for ticket sales in the second half of the season than if we have half price hot docs. And I think that for us is a big part of that. And we want our players to be part of the community. We want them to be accessible. Now covid means you can’t do certain things in terms of players walking through the crowd signing things, but as a season wears on, the more people are vaccinated, some of that will change.

Speaker 2 (34:47):

But we want our players to be doing community appearances. We want the kids to come on at halftime and try and score a goal against our mascots or the goalkeeper, those sorts of things that engage fans. That’s a big part of it. I think for me, there’s a sweet spot and teams in the MLS like L AFC Atlanta and Portland particularly have found this, where if you go to the game, it feels like a proper football game. When I proper football, it feels like a European soccer game. The noise, the crowd fan experience be that you want as a fan is there. But in Portland where Joey Timber cuts off a piece of wood when they score like that wouldn’t happen an English game, but that’s okay, I don’t mind that. You know, don’t need cheerleaders and some of that stuff you sort of want good football on the pitch and then something American to boost it a bit <laugh>, it doesn’t have to just all be craziness and people go home at half time because they’ve had the free bobblehead and whatever they wanted and they don’t know the end the score. We want ’em to be proper fans with some extras rather than just the extras and not caring about the actual sport.

Speaker 1 (35:55):

Well, I think we can all agree that the community around the team itself and what it means to be connected to that team as a fan, as a colleague, as a community, that’s really important. I had the opportunity last football season to attend a Philadelphia Eagles game, and you’re mentioned C and there was maybe two games of the whole year that we had that small win window that they were letting limited fans in. So I was able to get in and I can tell you it was great to be back in the stadium, but not having the community and the fan base and a PAC stadium completely took away from the overall exp and it was a great game, it was a great game on field, but the camaraderie that was missing there really took something away from me in terms of what it meant to attend that game.

Speaker 1 (36:47):

So there is a lot of value with the traditional, hey, what’s important is actually what’s happening on the field and nothing else matters within those timeframes. So I get that. And so are, geez, I think the whole world is looking forward to a time and a place that we can get back to that environment. And I will say today I think we’re one step closer. We can announce that the CDC for vaccinated folks, we can be unmasked outside. So we are getting closer to that normal again. And so I think I can speak for everyone that we’re all looking forward to that. So Dan, we’re getting close to time here, so I do want to end this on a bit of a promotional point for you in the ocean or Orange County Soccer Club. You had mentioned your season starts next month. Why don’t you tell us and where can you attend a game, where to buy tickets and what we can look forward to with the club itself?

Speaker 2 (37:48):

Well, thank you. So yeah, so we’re in Irvine in Orange County, the season starts, our home opener is the 22nd of May, and we’ve got restrictions on fans for the first few games. But if people are to be believed and we believe them June the 15th, California opens up and then we’ll baby back at full capacity. And I think for me, the most exciting thing about this is I cannot wait, having, I grew up watching football, I had a season ticket with my team for years. I cannot wait to walk into that football stadium on the 22nd of May where there’ll be probably 1500 people because that’s all be allowed. And there’ll be families together and friends who used to sit next to each of these games who may not have had a chance to do this for a year, come together. And because it’s Orange County, our corporate areas cabanas because why wouldn’t you watch football from cabanas if you’re in Orange County, <laugh> and have all these people together, drinking beer, watching football, enjoying the soccer, buying the merchandise, wearing the colors, beating the drums, all that stuff that the noise even a relatively small crowd can make.

Speaker 2 (39:06):

We’ve seen this in some of the teams have let people back in, it’s just gonna be extraordinary. And for 90 minutes plus maybe the hour of tailgating, that’s important here in America. People can forget about this terrible year they’ve all had. Absolutely. And just focus on being together with their families, with their friends, enjoying sport, enjoying being with other people. At our home open, we’re gonna do a tribute to the healthcare workers that we work with on our kit launch. So there’ll be that moment to sort of remember what’s gone before, but this is the summer of returning to normal and building our lives back again. And frankly, for someone who’s grown up with sport, watching football together, all those people and sport back, it’s an important part of giving people normality in their lives and sense of community and hopefully will win as well.

Speaker 1 (39:57):

Absolutely, absolutely. Well, I look forward to the day and I cannot wait. Speaking of the West Coast, I usually am in southern California once a quarter and it’s been <laugh> a lot of quarters that I haven’t been out there, but I’m looking to make a trip upcoming in June, so it’s music to my ears. When you said June 15th, it’ll be after that date. So it’ll be wonderful to be able to travel again and then hopefully I’ll catch a game.

Speaker 2 (40:26):

A hundred percent. Okay. I will send you off pictures if it works. I would love nothing more than to have you as a guest in our cabanas, drinking a nice whiskey, watching a great game of

Speaker 1 (40:37):

Football. That sounds amazing. Dan. Dan, thank you so much. And before we head out here, why don’t we tell our listeners where we can find you personally. I understand that you’re a bit of a podcaster yourself, and so why don’t you give a shout out to your podcasts and where we can find you.

Speaker 2 (40:53):

Thanks, James. So I’m on Twitter at Dan Rotstein, and then I’ve got three podcasts, United States of Dr. America, which is discussion over a glass of whiskey. And James, you are going to be a guest

Speaker 1 (41:09):

On that. Yes, please put me down. So

Speaker 2 (41:11):

We’ll share a whiskey for that one. Then I’ve got a soccer podcast, America the Beautiful Game, and then I’ve got a podcast about failure and rejection in Hollywood called Screaming Into the Hollywood Abyss, which is a completely different subject but fascinating

Speaker 1 (41:25):

Nonetheless, when in Southern California you have to, you can’t go without it. <laugh>.

Speaker 2 (41:30):


Speaker 1 (41:31):

All right, well thank you so much, much everyone. Until next time, thanks for tuning in to the MVP podcast.

Dan Rutstein Orange County Soccer Club


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