Ask Hope: Responses to the U.S. Soccer Athlete Council

By | 2018-01-12T08:28:45+00:00 10 January 2018|News, President|0 Comments

Hope Solo recently responded to questions from the U.S. Soccer Athlete Council, a group of 20 athletes who are elected by their peers.

The purpose of the council—as laid out in U.S. Soccer’s bylaws—is to provide a broader means of communication between athletes and the Federation, and make reports and recommendations to the Board of Directors about matters affecting athletes.

Many of these questions also have been asked by media and fans, so for the benefit of everyone following the U.S. Soccer presidential election, Hope’s answers are posted below.

CAMPAIGN INFORMATION

How has your campaign been funded?

My campaign is 100% self-funded.

Who is your current employer? While campaigning, have you resigned or taken a leave of absence (if necessary)?

I am currently self-employed, speaking globally about equality and leadership. I do frequent appearances and speaking engagements for many different national and international companies. I have reduced the number of appearances and turned down opportunities to focus on the campaign.

VISION AND MISSION

The mission statement of the United States Soccer Federation is to make soccer the preeminent sport in the United States. What does that mission statement mean to you?

As President, I will amend the mission statement. The new mission of the United States Soccer Federation will be to make soccer the preeminent sport in the United States and to make the United States Soccer Federation the game’s global leader. To me, that means being the best, the most efficient and the most progressive in every aspect of the game: gender equality, diversity, growth, development, on-field success and governance.

What is your vision for what success looks like in 5 -10 years for the USSF to be able to claim it is successfully living out its mission statement? What strategic initiatives will you implement to achieve that vision, both for the overall organization and per program?

In 5-10 years, we will be holding World Cup trophies for both the men’s and women’s national teams. This, however, will not be the only measure of success in delivering on our mission statement. I strongly believe we should always be ranked in the top 5, qualify for every World Cup, and have more diverse players, with better talent and development.

I know what it feels like to be a World Cup champion. And I know what it took to get there without optimum pay, without optimum playing conditions, without optimum travel and other accommodations for the players, without the total support of the executive branch of the Federation. As President, I will make sure that both the men’s and women’s national teams have everything they need to be world champions.

Doing what is required to win World Cup Championships will be the best strategy to deploy to achieve the vision of becoming the world-leading Federation in the game.   Doing what is required to win World Cup Championships will be the best strategy to deploy to encourage our diverse communities, and our diverse youth, to want to be soccer players in the United States.

We will grow the spirit and the connectedness to the game, socially, and in our youth leagues — infusing the sport with a culture of soccer excellence not seen yet in this country.

ROLE OF THE PRESIDENT

If elected, how do you envision your role as President moving forward?

I believe the role of the president is to provide “vision” to the organization. My vision for the USSF: To become the worldwide leading organization fostering the growth of the sport of soccer; and that leadership and growth starts at home here in the United States.

As president, I will ensure that all stakeholders — those who want to participate in the sport of soccer and in the governance of United States Soccer Federation — will be included in the process, have a voice, and have the ability to contribute to the USSF “vision” and ultimate growth and success of the game in the United States and the world.

I will also reach out to federations worldwide to learn from their successes, while understanding that our size and structure lend themselves to needing our own unique understanding of what is best for soccer in this country. 

In successful organizations, the president provides the vision and the CEOs and those in the executive branch of the organization work with the president to execute the visionary plan. That is how my administration will function.

What should your key roles and responsibilities be for the position and how do you describe success for the President for U.S. Soccer?

Leadership, Vision, and Execution are the key roles and responsibilities for the president of U.S. soccer. In my view, the president must be a strong leader, have exemplary vision with regard to the direction of the organization, and have the strength and the ability to assemble a team of executives that will create and execute the President’s plan of action.

Do you feel that this should be a paid position? Please explain your reasoning.

Yes, I believe the president should be paid because with compensation comes accountability. 
It is my understanding that in recent times, the president was freewheeling, and had no sense of accountability to the Board of Directors or anyone else in this organization. In effect, the president appeared to operate autonomously, autocratically, like a dictator, without any accountability, without really having to report to anyone or seek real input from anyone.

In my opinion, that is wrong. Given the weight of the responsibilities and duties of the presidency, and the time commitment involved in executing these responsibilities, I believe the president should be paid, report to the board of directors, engage in annual performance reviews, and be subject to termination if the performance of the president is subpar.

GOVERNANCE

Many people have been calling for more transparency from U.S. Soccer, what specific ways do you see in providing this?

Regional State Association Town Halls: USSF Executives and members of the Board of Directors will be invited to participate in regional town-hall style discussions, hosted by various State Associations at which USSF general members and constituents will have an opportunity to meet with, talk to, ask questions of, get information from and share ideas with USSF leadership.

Financial & Budgeting Disclosure & Participation: During the actual annual budget deliberations, conduct “open sessions” at which members of the USSF membership can listen to and participate in the establishment of budget priorities and thereby have actual “real soccer people” input into the ultimate distribution of the financial resources of the USSF.

Limit Board of Directors Executive Sessions: Often times, the most important decisions made by non-profit organizations like the USSF are made in “Executive Session” meetings of the Board of Directors. As President, I will propose that Executive Session meetings of the Board of Directors shall only be convened to discuss “personnel matters” and or any other issues about which privacy protection legal requirements are legislatively (state or federal law) mandated.

USSF Soccer Citizen Oversight Commission: To ensure accountability, inclusion and actual versus “rubber stamp” participation in the governance of the USSF, as President I shall encourage the creation of the “USSF Soccer Citizen Oversight Commission” the duties of which shall be to monitor the governance activities of the USSF Board of Directors in order to ensure direct involvement of each Board member in the actual governance and management of the Federation, and to limit the power and authority of the President.

Rewrite USSF Bylaws & Policies Commission: As President, I shall demand the creation of a Commission comprised of lawyers with an expertise in the governance and operations of national governing bodies of Olympic sports to conduct a comprehensive review and eventual re-write of all existing USSF Bylaws & Policies.

I shall encourage the adoption of the “Plain English” rule, similar to the rules promulgated by the US Congress and imposed on Wall Street investment banks in the early 1990’s that mandated that all prospectus documents disseminated to the general public to raise money for companies via IPO’s be written in “plain English” so that the “common men and women” on the street can read the prospectus and actually understand what product and or service was seeking their financial investment.

Likewise, USSF’s Bylaws & Policies need to be written in “plain English” so that “soccer men and women” who invest their hard earned money and precious time to promote the sport can understand the rules by which the sport is governed without having to hire a lawyer to figure out the actual meaning of bylaw provisions.

For instance, reading the Bylaws and Policies and trying to figure out who is qualified to nominate and actually vote for candidates in this Presidential election continues to be a challenge.

As noted in the sub-head of each daily edition of the Washington Post: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”  I want to shine the bright lights of on all things U.S. Soccer.

The USMNT’s CBA will be renegotiated in 2018 and the USWNT’s CBA will be renegotiated in 2021. What will be your philosophy and approach to the negotiations? What experience do you have that would help you in CBA negotiations?

My basic philosophy is, and will always be equality. The men and women’s national teams should be paid equally, enjoy equal lifestyle benefits, play in equally equipped and appointed venues and facilities, benefit from equal group licensing and corporate sponsorship agreements, and share equally in the monies invested by Soccer United Marketing, (SUM), to the USSF in exchange for exclusive marketing rights to both national teams.

Additionally, since players are the principal assets of the Federation, I shall push for the creation of consistent programs that foster player development, player safety, and continued vibrant player voice in the governance of the USSF.

I shall insist on negotiations that consist of open and honest dialogue between the USSF and the players Associations. Additionally, I shall encourage transparency and honest collaboration and sharing of data and info between the parties, which in my CBA negotiations experience, has been absent in the process. Beginning in 2000, and continuing in 2004, 2006, 2012, and 2015-2016, I have been a very active participant in CBA negotiations in my capacity as a USWNT Player Representative.

Finally, the objective will be to negotiate CBA’s that will provide Men’s and Women’s National Team players whatever tools and resources required to become and remain perennial World Cup and Olympic Champions.

What specific actions will you take to improve gender representation and pay disparity at U.S. Soccer? Please address the difference in salaries of the USWNT and USMNT teams.

First, being elected the first female President of the USSF will be the first, and most immediate “improvement” with regard to gender representation at the USSF.

Second, taking whatever actions are required to make certain that women are “in the room and at the table” at all levels of USSF governance and policy making.

Third, since the USWNT is the “economic engine” that powers and finances the Federation, ($17 million surplus, 25 million television views of 2015 World Cup Final), I shall create a Executive Women’s Council to deal directly with all things women that arise at the USSF and in the sport of soccer, and to provide the female perspective to the process of idea-generation and execution at the Federation. Regarding the differences in USMNT and USWNT salaries, my position has been crystal clear: Equal Pay for the USWNT, Equal Bonuses, Equal television contracts.

The current CBA is intended to be convoluted, making it difficult for the general public to understand that USSF is STILL not abiding by federal law, and the women are still in a fight for Equal Pay with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If this was an important issue for the Federation, it would have been resolved by now. U.S. Soccer has failed our nation in becoming the global leader in pay equity. This historic feat belongs to Norway and Iceland, and I’m sure other countries will follow suit.

What is the relationship between U.S. Soccer and Soccer United Marketing and how does it affect the players?

The USWNT asked this question last year during the CBA negotiations; United States Senators Feinstein, Klobuchar, and Murray asked this question, only to be contemptuously snubbed by SUM and the USSF. After five months of negotiations, the USSF finally told the USWNT that in exchange for the exclusive Marketing rights to all things USSF including both the USWNT and the UWMNT, SUM pays the USSF $100 Million Dollars over a four year contract period. But we do not know how the USSF distributes that $100 Million to the USWNT and the USMNT. As a result, it’s impossible to determine what impact SUM money has on either the USWNT or the USMNT.

In short, we need transparency with regard to SUM and its financial relationship with USSF. However, the conflict of interest between and among SUM and USSF executive officers and members of their respective Board of Directors, and in this Presidential election are quite clear and troubling.

Sunil Gulati: President of the USSF, Member of SUM Board of Directors, Member of MLS Board of Directors, Presidential Nominations and Governance Committee

Kathy Carter: Chief Executive Officer, SUM Candidate: President of USSF

Don Garber: President, SUM; President, Chief Executive Officer, MLS; Member, Board of Directors, SUM; Member, Board of Directors, USSF; Chairman, USSF Presidential Nominations and Governance committee.

USSF Conflict of Interest Policy for your reference:

Conflicts of Interest

No Person shall act in any manner which causes him or her to have a direct or indirect interest in or relationship with any outside organization or person that might affect (or that might reasonably be understood or misunderstood by others as affecting) the objectivity or independence of his or her judgment or conduct in carrying out the duties and responsibilities he or she has in connection with the USSF’s activities.

For purposes of this Policy, “outside organization”shall not include any constituent or affiliated member entities of the USSF provided such Person holds elected office in or is directly employed in a full-time capacity by such outside organization.

This above paragraph prohibits Gulati, Garber and Carter listed above from acting in a way that causes him or her to have a direct or indirect interest or relationship with any outside organization or person that might affect, or that might reasonably be understood or misunderstood by others as affecting the objectivity of independence of his or her judgement or conduct in carrying out the duties and responsibilities he or she has in connection with the USSF’s activities. This is also why I will immediately hire an independent ethics committee as well as bring the conflict of interest policies into the 21st century.

What experience do you have that has adequately prepared you to lead an organization of this size (more than 150 employees) and a budget in excess of 100 million dollars? Where specifically would the budget surplus be best spent and how will you measure the success of those investments?

I continue to work and corroborate with world leaders, and leaders in many different fields. I have already compiled a great international and national support system of some of the most successful people in their particular field. The best leader is a leader who admits to not having all of the answers, but who listens to the will of the people. Everybody must have a voice, and I intend to listen to all states and all members. Sunil Gulati did not have experience running an organization with 150 employees or a budget of $100 Million prior to becoming president. The key is knowing how to bring together a team of people and knowing how to listen to the needs of others. That is what has been missing and what prevents us from being the global leader in all categories.

Just like any new Chief Executive or President of an organization, I will spend the first 90-days of my presidency conducting a comprehensive assessment of the existing current operations and personnel, talk to the essential employees, and obtain their input and views about what is working and what is not working and use the information to create a comprehensive plan of action for the future of the USSF.

With regard to the prospective expenditure of any budget surplus dollars, first, I ask the various constituencies (Adult, Youth, Professional, Life members, etc.) if and or how they think the surplus should be spent, but I will give heavy consideration to utilization a portion existing surpass dollars to proves the seed financing of a USSF Fund designed to provide funding to diverse youth clubs to pay for kids participation in local youth soccer clubs.

PLAYER AND PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT

What should U.S. Soccer’s role be in player development? What governance structure(s) would you create to improve player development across all programs?

What are your plans to lead all of the various youth soccer organizations so player development is the priority?

I will foster communication between all organizations. The current focus is less on what’s best for the youth, and more on how to reach new monetary heights through participation and registration fees. There needs to be a direct path that is not confusing for parents and players alike. We must all work together to come up with this path, and realize that there may be some financial losses but at the benefit of player development, increase in participation, and more success with our national teams.

What other Federations have you researched that we can we learn from in terms of creating the best environments possible for the players to develop?

I continue to meet with Players Unions from a number of different countries. This past year and a half has given me the opportunity to visit, meet and research other countries football environments.

What are your specific plans for the Beach Soccer, Futsal, and Paralympic National Teams?

Every team will be given more support, and no player will pay out of pocket to represent our country.

For decades, due to Title IX and pioneers of the game, the Women’s National Team has had an abundance of success. What are concrete ways that you would look to advance the women’s game in the United States so the success continues for years to come? Also, please address the state of the NWSL.

The rest of the world is catching up, and that’s a cold reality we all must face. As with the men, the women also need to continue to develop at a faster rate and at a younger age. The national team had an abundance of success in the nineties because many other countries were not developing their women’s teams. Their success was not just because of Title IX or the mere fact the United States is better at soccer. The competition is on the rise, and its time to advance the USWNT at a faster pace to keep up with the rest of the world.

I will also ensure we have a clear path to Paralympic success with a national feeder system. While we currently have programs like TOPS for people with developmental disabilities to feed Special Olympics success, we do not have a national program for the Paralympics.  Paralympic soccer is the highest level of play for people who have physical disabilities who are other otherwise developmentally able, including athletes who who have suffered some sort of brain injury — cerebral palsy, stroke or traumatic brain injury.

How do you address the problem of soccer being a “pay to play “ type of system that we now have? What specific plans do you have to increase participation and make soccer less expensive and more inclusive?

We are a nation with great resources and great diversity. We are a federation that has a surplus of money to reach out to communities that have not been tapped into. Many State Associations should be commended for the work they do within the underrepresented communities, but they could do even more with help from the Federation. The leaders and presidents who have been involved with the youth programs in individual states have many ideas, just a lack of resources. I will use their expertise to devise a plan on making soccer less expensive and more inclusive. It is an embarrassment that soccer in America has become a “rich white kids sport.” We have made it exclusive and not inclusive, and in doing so, we will never be the preeminent sport in the United States, and we will never be global leaders.

Support Of National Teams

“Support” of National teams is not indicative of how many games one has attended. In my view, this is shortsighted. I have attended and watched a handful of games throughout the past year, but I have fought for 20 years as a member of the Federation for equal and better treatment. For the past two years, I spent my time meeting with other federations, studying the state of the global game, and working with youth to gain a more complete perspective of the state of the game in America. I continue to fight for a Federation we can all be proud of, and I continue to learn from many other federations and teams. Most of the time, taking a step back, is the only way to see things with a clear and unobstructed view.

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