Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plight of the MLS Team Administrator

Continuing the ongoing series "Plight Of..." I continue to look into those working behind the scenes in Major League Soccer. Think of all the travel MLS teams are tasked with. Someone must arrange buses to matches, flights, hotel rooms, meeting room arrangements and do it all while keeping the players and coach happy. This leads us to the Team Administrator.

Elliot Fall is the man behind the team in coordinating travel, immigration and budgets for Real Salt Lake. RSL has made waves in recent years with their efforts both on and off the field. Elliot Fall is one piece amongst many and yet his role is invaluable. Read on to find out what Elliot's job truly entails and how he manages to keep one of Major League Soccer's most successful teams happy.

MLS Reserves: Your title is Team Administrator. What are your daily tasks in that role? What are your responsibilities and what do you do in that role?

Elliot Fall: My daily tasks are to manage and oversee all of the day-to-day operations of the team. Those responsibilities include everything from scheduling, to immigration, to managing budgets. One of the main things I oversee is team travel. I am responsible for booking everything on the trip (flights, busses, hotels, training sessions, etc.)

MLS Reserves: Can you talk about the challenges that you face in that role when arranging travel arrangements, food, hotels etc?

Elliot Fall: It’s hard to pinpoint exact challenges, as group travel and organization is so fluid. There are things that we can try to minimize the impact of – i.e. weather, travel delays, etc - with proper planning, but at the end of the day, this job requires you to be on your toes and able to react and problem-solve at a moment’s notice.

MLS Reserves: Where do you get feedback from and how do you deal with it? That is to say, how do you know if you're doing a good job or find that you need to improve on something?

Elliot Fall: The nature of this position is such that my mistakes and issues are fairly noticeable most of the time. I am very lucky to work with a group of coaches and staff who are very open with regards to communication and constructive criticism. Our entire staff is very devoted to the success of this team and each and every person, from Jason Kreis on down, is more than willing to pitch in and make sure that things go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Fall, right, looking ever so happy coordinating team functions.

MLS Reserves: Do players seek you out and let you know if they were unhappy with certain arrangements? Be it airlines, hotels or travel?

Elliot Fall: I certainly hear my share of feedback from players with regards travel arrangements and all the accompanying logistics. However, we have a very good group of guys, many of whom have been around far longer and seen a lot more than I have and, therefore, they pretty much just go with the flow, understanding that there will be hiccups along the way when you spend as much time on the road as we do.

MLS Reserves: How did you end up in your role? What type of education or experience is required to do this?

Elliot Fall: I actually started with Real Salt Lake in 2007 as an intern in our communications department, was hired full-time as a member of the communications staff in 2008, before being given the position as team administrator just before the 2010 MLS season. In terms of education, I wouldn’t say that there is any specific route to a position like this. I received a degree in economics from the University of Utah, but I know that other team administrators have come from many different backgrounds. The most important skill to be successful in this position is an ability to adapt, learn and evolve. Things move so quickly in our field that there is always a new challenge around the corner.

MLS Reserves: How involved with the organization do you feel on a personal level?

Elliot Fall: I feel very involved in our organization. With the amount of time we spend together over the course of the season, we all become very personally invested in the success of the team. I have gained a new level of understanding for the sacrifice required to be successful at this level and love seeing the people around me rewarded for that commitment.

MLS Reserves: Say you or the team have had a disastrous experience with a certain organization. In your role as team administrator, what is it you need to do to ensure that something like that does not happen again?
Elliot Fall: I always try to learn from those types of experiences and try to figure out ways to keep them from happening in the future. The most important thing is to make sure that everything is planned out and all of our bases are covered. If we’re in a situation where there are clearly anticipated issues, we generally try to have well developed back up plans as well.

MLS Reserves: How does your role differ from home games to away games?

Elliot Fall: My role is fairly similar both at home and on the road. I manage the team ticket requests and am responsible for the timing of team movements in and out of the stadium and locker room, along with any one-off issues that arise. Obviously on the road there are several more logistics to keep an eye on (pregame meals, busses, hotel needs), but in reality, the majority of my job is done once the game kicks off.

Without Fall, RSL's travel would not be so pleasant. 

MLS Reserves: 

Elliot Fall: I work closely with the opposing teams for needs surrounding every game. Whether it’s ticket requests, training site scheduling or anything else, I’m in touch with a counterpart on the other team for every match. I also work very closely with a handful of people in the League offices to manage the administrative needs of the players.
MLS Reserves: What other things should fans know about the role of Team Administrator or what else would you like to let fans around the league know about what you do?

Elliot Fall: I count myself as being very lucky to have a job that is fun every single day, but also challenges me on a regular basis. This is a job where you can never turn off. I get phone calls and texts at all hours, often with urgent needs. It certainly keeps me busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Elliot's efforts for Real Salt Lake are invaluable. Think of where the team would be if pre-game meals on the road were not thought of or if the training facilities were not prepared for. The Team Administrator is essentially a catch all title, but one which serves an all encompassing purpose. As problems arise within the club, people turn to the Administrator for on the spot problem solving. On any team, the Team Administrator, sometimes called Chief of Operations depending on the level of the club, is the called to put out urgent fires. Without them, the league would not function and it is because of them that fans are able to enjoy the league in such a way. Major League Soccer would go nowhere if not for the plight of the Team Administrator. 


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