an interview with professional club executive peter wilt

If you were to survey supporters groups from clubs around the globe about their biggest gripe with their clubs, I’d be willing to wager that the leading complaint would be that there isn’t enough communication between themselves and the club’s executives. Take a walk around the American soccer landscape, and you’re bound to hear it too. And while there might be other popular gripes — such as ticket prices or on-field management — the avenue for the fans to have those complaints heard often isn’t even there to begin with.

Peter Wilt of Indy Eleven

while i’m not really the reporter interviewing indy eleven president and GM peter wilt in this picture, i did speak with him on a variety of topics.

So when you see clubs that actively engage with their fans, asking them their opinions and looking for input on a variety of club matters, it’s usually applauded far and wide. The close relationships that exist between club and fans in Orlando, Seattle and Philadelphia are well-known, but until rather recently, were far from the norm. But the lessons learned in those markets isn’t falling on deaf ears, and more and more clubs are slowly starting to reap the benefits of working closely with their most ardent fans to help grow the team’s popularity and stature. But where did the idea come from in the fist place?

The man many would pin as the pioneer of this emerging trend in American soccer: Peter J. Wilt.

Best known as former president and general manager of the Chicago Fire, Wilt has attained legendary status for the transparency with which he runs his clubs and the open communication channels he holds with supporters. A frequent participant in discussions on fan message boards and an ardent Tweet-a-holic, there’s arguably no other executive in American soccer that the average fan has an easier time gaining an audience with.

Case in point? After recently launching the successful bid to make Indy Eleven the latest franchise to join the rapidly growing NASL, I reached out to Peter to see if he might be interested in an interview. He accepted my request in less than five minutes.

So with the Milwaukee native’s ear at my disposal, I asked Peter to dish on his plans for the newly formed Indy Eleven, the state of the game in North America, and even on his hopes for the beer that will be available at the club’s future matches.

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the WSOTP soccer pub atlas project

Thanks to its rise in popularity over the last decade, it’s never been easier to watch football in the United States than it is today. Most Americans with a digital cable subscription have at least one full-time soccer channel at their disposal, meaning watching a load of live European matches per week from the comforts of one’s own living room sofa is a reality for a huge percentage of the country.

soccer pub

if you want to watch football, and you want to have a beer, but you don’t know where to go… you came to the right place.

But if you’re anything like me — aside from taking in a match in person — there really isn’t a better place to watch football than at a pub with your friends.

Now, I can understand why some might think that’s just me attempting adopt the customs of our European contemporaries on the other side of the pond. And while that’s true to a degree, taking in a basketball, baseball or the other football game at a bar is pretty much ubiquitous stateside too. The only thing that’s odd about my game day bar habit is the time in which my game kicks off.

Finding a bar that will open up for those early morning kickoff times, though, can be a bit of a task. Luckily, over the years nearly every major city in the country has answered the call for a pub that will open its doors early enough for us to come in, have a beer and support our football with others like us. I love soccer bars, the atmosphere they provide and the community they can create. I even interviewed one once. But while we all know the best local spot to watch our teams play, if you ever leave the safe confines of your home city… you might need a little guidance.

Now, there are loads of websites out there that are attempting to list every “soccer bar” in the country. Some of them are advertising based, others are free. But not one of them offers quite what I’m looking for in a football pub directory. My requirements aren’t that crazy, but they are rather specific:

  1. Does the bar open early enough for me to watch Premier League matches as early as 7:00am? If they do, you can pretty much guarantee it’s a solid place to catch a match.
  2. there are certain elements characteristics an establishment must have to be a great football pub.

    Are there any supporters groups that call the bar home? It’s always nice to know who shows up to watch the games there. You know, because as a Spurs fan, I’m at least slightly wary of getting my ass kicked if I accidentally stroll into a hardcore Arsenal supporter’s bar.

  3. Do they have a decent beer selection? Because while I can settle for a Bud Light if need be, I’d really prefer to get my hands on something a bit more tasty. The more taps, the better.
  4. Will the game I want to watch be showing on one of their TV’s? Do they carry any soccer specific channels such as the Fox Soccer suite, GolTV or the newcomer BeIN sports? And are those channels available in HD? Bonus points for having the ability to carry live streams!
  5. And lastly, I want a directory that’s map-based. Even better, the map should be easily accessed by phone so that I can easily locate and navigate to the closest establishment offering soccer enjoyment.

I don’t feel like that’s a lot to ask to know about when trying to find a bar to watch a game. But if you have a look around the tubes, none offer quite that combination.

Until now, that is.

Today, I’m launching a brand new soccer bar endeavor, a Google Maps based project called the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas. So far, I’ve kicked off this project by doing a short write-up including all of my requirements above for each of the soccer pubs that I’ve attended over the years. Each has its own placement on a map that can be accessed from any smart phone, tablet or computer. And I’ve added it to the site’s main navigation bar, making it even easier for you to find. Pretty slick, right?

Well, I’ve got just one problem with this task I’m undertaking. I can’t possibly visit every soccer bar in this country, even if I wanted to. And while I’ve got about 10 pubs on the list already, they’re mostly concentrated in the Midwest/Ohio. So — my dear readers — I’m inviting you to help get this project off the ground… the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas project will be a crowd-sourced one. All I ask is that you provide a short write-up including the information I mentioned above, and I’ll add it to the list. And hey bar owners, this is a chance for some free advertising if you hadn’t yet noticed!

So, about that map… do you want to have a look at what I’ve started so far?

So if you’re trying to find a spot to watch, take a gander at what we’ve got in store so far. But, even better, if you want to get more fans in to take a match at your local pub, why not share it with us? You might just make another soccer fans day, or at least mine if I’m ever out your way. Which would be awesome.

To submit a bar or pub to the directory, either fill out this form or send me an email. Please be sure to include the following information: Name, Address, If they Open Early, Beer Selection Comment, TV availability (channels/quality), and any other relevant information. See the map for examples.