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Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ Jeff Garner ‘certainly not against’ more cooperation between club and supporters

File photo courtesy Ed Thompson

Pittsburgh Riverhounds president Jeff Garner has stated he is open to the prospect of more fan engagement moving forward as he looks to build the relationships between the supporters and the board. 

This article is the latest in a five-part series with Pittsburgh Riverhounds President Jeff Garner about the state of the franchise, both on and off the field. 

For those of you who not only support the Riverhounds but also a team in Europe (I’m not going to judge you on which you decided to follow first), then you’ll know that the relationship between the fans and their clubs is, for the most part, very different to what it is in the United States.

The best example is undoubtedly found in the German Bundesliga with their 50+1 rule, which stipulates that the club’s membership retains overall control and voting rights as opposed to an outside influence like a corporation. Not quite at the same level, but still an important step, the English Premier League announced the launch of the Fan Engagement Standard in order to ensure a greater relationship between the fans and executives. 

U.S Soccer does have a ‘Fan Council’, but on a club-by-club basis, there isn’t the same level of engagement that you see elsewhere around the footballing world, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC aren’t against trying to make improvements. 

Speaking exclusively to Pittsburgh Soccer Now, team president Jeff Garner discussed the relationship has with the fans, most notably the Steel Army, what steps the club can look to take in the future and whether or not a Fan Advisory Board within the club would be a feasible option for them to take on: 

“I think there have been times where the club and The Steel Army maybe didn’t see eye to eye, and I think you’re bound to have moments like that. I think our strategy, particularly in the time that I’ve been here is to listen to our fans. We do a lot of surveying, we do a lot of discussions, we listen to the opinions, and we tell people from the beginning ‘we might not be able to accomplish everything, we can’t do everything you might want’. The famous one is the Steel Army wants to have bathrooms under the Paul Child Stand out there, it’s almost impossible to do in our current structure. So that’s something we can’t do. 

“But there were lots of other things that we could do, and so we did them. A lot of those things were easy things for us to do, there’s no reason really why we shouldn’t, just because it was their idea doesn’t mean it was a good or a bad idea, and so we did it anyway. So I think we’ve now developed this relationship with the fans where we’re very open to criticism, we’re very open to positive things too, which is great, especially for our staff to hear those things and reinforce the hard work that they’re doing. And when there’s opportunities for us to add things or change things or update things then we do it, we do it to make our fans happy. That’s the whole point. 

“As far as a Fan Advisory Council or Advisory Board, I’ve actually had some experience with those before, I’ve done it in a couple of different fashions with different clubs I’ve been with, I’m certainly not against it at all. I think for us to move forward with something like that, there would have to be interest from the fans to be able to do that, and we would need to be able to make sure that we could be responsive and that we could prioritize those times. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it but if you’re not prioritizing the time to do it, then you don’t accomplish the things that you wanted to accomplish. And so I think that’s where we’d have to make sure that we’re at that point where we could do that.”


Look for the fourth edition of this series soon, as Matthew Baldwin inquires with Jeff Garner about the prospects of bringing a Women’s Professional team to Pittsburgh

Previous articles in this series include:

Riverhounds president Jeff Garner “open to building relationships” in Pittsburgh after success of 2023

Highmark Stadium expansion a ‘challenge’, but Riverhounds have ‘opportunities to get very creative’


Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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