Eric Newendorp, New FC Edmonton President and General Manager

The hockey team General Manager played in the NHL from 1977-1985. The Edmonton Football team GM played college football. The Edmonton basketball club GM transitioned into coaching soon after his collegiate playing career was over.  The theme suggests that General Managers played their respective sports before trading in the jersey for a collared shirt.

I’m excited to talk with the new General Manager and President of FC Edmonton Eric Newendorp who breaks the mold that the Edmonton sports scene is accustomed to. Newendorp’s resume boasts terms in Soccer (MLS, NASL), hockey (CHL), basketball (NBA D-League, USBL, WNBA), tennis (WTA), and golf (OGA) in roles that focused on sales.

Newendorp has helped to start up or re-brand nine professional sports franchises, and helped to open seven new or re-furbished sports stadia and arenas. With the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League (CHL) national attendance records were set whilst winning two league championships. Source

Ladies and gentleman, this is exactly the right man for what FC Edmonton needs. Welcome to Edmonton Eric, honoured that you’re taking my questions.

The first question is obvious after gleefully shining a light your sales career, how do you manage the actual soccer team?

In cooperation with Head Coach and Director of Soccer Operations Alan Koch. I oversee Alan making sure that his operations represent the owners and city in the best way possible and to provide him and his department with all the supports he needs to give him the best chance to win.

Working for him my role is to help evaluate players. We evaluate players based on heart and ability. I trust Koch’s opinion more on a player’s ability. I primarily structure and negotiate contracts, sometimes that is directly with the player and sometimes it is done through the player and their respective agent. 

The long fancy title of President and General Manager is to try to convey that my primary responsibility is to oversee the general health of the business. The core product which is the soccer team has to be taken care of so that the rest of the business can function. The GM title ideally makes sure the core product is working properly so the rest of the business can thrive. The responsibility of the President title includes looking after all the other aspects of the core product.

Plans to refurbish or readjust Clarke Stadium must be going through the FC Edmonton office. What can you share?

Yes we are looking at areas to improve the stadium that do not include “brick and mortar” improvements, example being we are not building a roof, we are not expanding press boxes or building a deck of luxury suites. Ideas are more about re-purposing existing structures to maximize sales opportunities and fan experiences.

I’ve looked at different places for team branded signage and graphics. We are bringing in and going to display international flags. Probably going to have some sort of family interactive area. It has been tried in the past but more of an area where young people can work off some of their energy. We are going to look at bringing in a ‘terrace seating option’ in the West stands.

The idea behind all of it is to convey more of a feeling in our stadium grounds that we are a major league sports franchise using what we have to work with. All of this dependant on budgets and approvals from ownership and city management.

Chats I’ve had with River Valley Vanguard (RVV) Supporters Group leaders, my comments have always been about incorporating chants into the gameday production a la hockey and football to help fans shake off years of “crowd training” and commence “supporters group” training. I’m sure in due time you will learn all about what our Supporters Group has been and wants to be but please talk about your previous Club’s Supporters Group and if/how you plan to incorporate this element into the gameday script.

We as a Club will always be open to ideas and ways to help the RVV grow. We want to be seen as supporters of the RVV. I’ll stop short of saying partners if they want to maintain their independence which I respect.

Right now there have been no discussions about incorporating items into the gameday script but that does not mean we won’t. We have talked about printing chant lyrics into our game program and we have agreed to move their physical section closer to the big blue grandstand. This way the RVV and the Eddies crowd can feed off of each others energy.

All three of my previous professional soccer clubs featured Supporters Groups that were always plural. There were groups not just one group. Like any other Supporters Group, the vast majority of the members were passionate, loyal, dedicated fans of the Club and we of course welcome them and always wished and hoped for 10,000 more just like them. However there has also been certain members of the Supporters Groups that were counterproductive in their support. I’ve been witness to some very unfortunate and ugly scenes at matches coming from these members.

We as a Club encourage the RVV to grow their ranks. I believe that fans who identify themselves as members of the Supporters Group, as well as all fans in attendance, are there to do a job. That job is to lift our players up so that they feel the energy and support that gives them the edge to help us win. Any actions by fans that do not have this effect is counterproductive to that goal. That does not mean that fans cannot or should not be critical, we welcome peoples opinions but I also think there are methods and ways to voice those criticisms without undermining the role and goals that Supporters ideally are supposed to play for the Club and the team for which they support.

Now to address the elephant in the room. For everything you have mentioned, for all the hopes of fans attending games, discuss preliminary backup plans to backup plans in terms of Covid-19?

Every possible scenario is being looked at and contingency plans are being made for each scenario but specific details won’t be known for a couple of months.  We can take deposits on future memberships based on 14-game seasons or various versions of season memberships or flex packs. Everything we do is schedule based. Until we have a schedule we won’t know what sort of shape the season will take.

Specifically regarding Covid-19, we will follow all the provincial guidelines which may determine capacity allowances and safety protocols but fans should know that when the time comes to host matches at Clarke again we will provide an absolutely safe environment for them to attend. We fully anticipate hosting matches at Clarke Stadium in 2021.

Thank you Eric for the phone call interview. Looking forward to the opportunity to meeting you in person. Hopefully at Clarke Stadium!

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