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Orlando City President of Business Operations Jarrod Dillon Responds to Fan Concerns



[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct some information that wasn’t presented as accurately as it should have been. The number of Orlando City license plate sales needed to initiate production was presented as the approximate number of OCSC season ticket members. I apologize for not catching it during the editing process before it went live. — TML Managing Editor Michael Citro].

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article outlining a lack of transparency from the Orlando City organization. Later that night, I received an invitation from Orlando City SC President of Business Operations Jarrod Dillon to come discuss the topics I raised in the article. I, along with my wife, took the opportunity to travel to Exploria Stadium to talk with Dillon and two of his staff to see what plans the club has for addressing the concerns of those who support Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and OCB.

It should be said that Dillon has only been on the job for about one month at this point. He has been figuring out what resources are available, what has been done previously, and where the opportunities for improvement are to be found. One could be forgiven for suspecting he was annoyed with the issues I brought up, but it was quite the opposite. He saw an opportunity to get more information to help him do his job better, and in return communicate to me some of the ways he intends to make improvements. He was generous with his time given his position in the organization. Indeed, he delayed a meeting with an executive vice president for about 10 minutes near the end of our time to make sure we finished our discussion. 

He was joined by Senior Vice President of Marketing & Brand Pedro Araujo and Senior Director of Ticket Operations & Analytics Mike Yannuzzi. Both gentlemen were incredibly welcoming and engaging as well. Honestly, I came away from the meeting with a feeling that Dillon and his staff are genuinely interested in hearing both the good and the bad regarding the organization’s performance to this point. Given the timing of the meeting, some of what we spoke about has already been announced. Let’s delve into what was covered.

Perhaps the biggest complaint I had in my article was that the preseason matches and practices were closed to the public and mostly closed to the press. Initially, we were given no reason for this, which can be a source of frustration. The reasons given for keeping the matches closed included the following:

  • The opponents wanted the match closed.
  • The matches aren’t like normal matches, more like practices or scrimmages.
  • The matches are often at odd times during the day.

I’m certain you’re already aware that the match against the Colorado Rapids on Feb. 11 is now open to the public. The club is using it as a charity event for the Parramore community as well. It’s a good step and should be applauded, and more importantly, attended. Those in the supporters groups and the season ticket members (STMs) will also have the opportunity to attend the preseason matches against FC Dallas and Miami FC.

“They are opportunities for us to connect with our fans,” Dillon said.

These moves, along with greater press access, show the club is listening to feedback and responding. 

Of course, those of us who support the club wish all of the matches and practices were open, but that simply isn’t going to happen. Case in point: the preseason match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. It’s the last preseason match and both teams will be playing more of their younger players, rather than the starters. It is expected to be much more of a practice-style than match-style affair. As such, OCSC did not want it open to the public. It’s a no go for this year, but points I made about what it could be in the future didn’t go unheard. As it is so often in sports, there is always next year.

Another topic that came up in our conversation was the differences between the various types of supporters and how to meet the different needs of each group. There are the corporate sponsors, civic leaders, community leaders, suite holders, supporters groups, STMs, passionate non-STMs, casual fans, and those who are attending their first match ever. 

“We acknowledge the need to do a better job of listening and acting upon feedback,” Dillon said. “We offer regular surveys and we do study the results, and now we need to look to add other avenues to hear what these groups want, and how we can improve their match day experience and relationship with the club.”

Sharing feedback I’d received privately, I made sure that Dillon and his staff understood the need to treat these groups in different but equitable ways. Talking to Iron Lion Firm, The Ruckus, and the Black Swans is not the same as talking to other STMs. Corporate sponsors are looking for different things than casual fans. This was a point of emphasis in our conversation, and I think people will start seeing the more individualized communications going forward. To be clear, this is something I think they already knew, but was made clearer during our conversation.

Regardless of which group you fall into, Dillon’s mission is to ensure each person attending a match has a world class experience.

“Everyone has different wants and needs,” he said. “We realize and respect that each of these groups, and others, have strong feelings about their match day experience, ticket locations and value propositions. It is important to treat each group’s needs separately, and not try to create a catch all to cover everyone the same. We will get better, and we will do it quickly.”

That means each point of contact needs to be as positive as possible, from security, the ticket takers, and the concession workers, to the people at the top. To that goal, Dillon said he will implement a new training program for staff across the organization, addressing the customer experience. All full-time staff will learn other parts of the business, shadowing someone else and seeing what their job is during a match. And he emphasized that he means all full time-staff, including himself. 

“I’m a firm believer that the better job we take care of our employees, the better they’re going to take care of our fans,” he said.

The other big news is the creation of a new guest relations position. This new position will report directly to Araujo, and thus will be watched closely by Dillon as well. Previously, all the different areas of guest relations from the STM representatives to the janitorial staff were in separate areas of the company structure. Now, there will be someone who will integrate all of it so that there is consistency throughout the organization when it comes to guest relations. 

“Guest Experience will be a major focus for us,” Dillon said. “In fact, we are hiring and dedicating a full-time leadership position to get this started the right way. We will work to implement customer service and guest experience training across all staff, part-time, full-time, and include our service partners in security, food/beverage, etc.”

In response to my article, I heard a lot of people bemoan the lack of tailgating experience since the move to Exploria Stadium. There are many valid reasons for this, including acquiring land or property, dealing with zoning issues, and frankly just having the desire and means to do all of it.

I was assured that the Wilf family wants to create a better tailgating experience, but that is going to take time. Just think about how long it takes an individual to buy property and build a house. Now expand that to the area surrounding the stadium. Patience is the word of the day for a better stadium tailgating situation.

“We have data suggesting our fans would like more tailgating options, so yes we are highly engaged around what that could look like,” Dillon said. “We will be exploring several options to be able to offer this, but (it’s) most likely not a 2022 season project.”

For those readers who are STMs or are interested in becoming one, there is good news on that front. As I mentioned in the previous article, the welcome kit has improved since the lows it hit from 2016-2018. In fact, if you look at the current website, you’ll notice it mentions an Orlando City specialty license plate. I have confirmation that the club will be effectively reimbursing the cost of the state-issued Orlando City license plate.

The threshold needed for the state of Florida to produce the plate is 3,000, so due to there being more than 3,000 season ticket members, this is great news for those of us who have put in our pre-order for the plate — whether an STM or not. It also puts the Orlando City brand on more than 3,000 cars. To quote Ted Lasso, “Yeah, that’s when sports and art combine, as far as I’m concerned.” 

[UPDATE: All STMs will receive instructions on the process of getting the specialty plate, as well as a mini version of the plate in their STM box. STM boxes may run late due to supply chain issues that are plaguing many industries during this time.]

This is not the only change coming for those who invest their money to become a STM. It will take time, but the club is in the process of meeting with focus groups consisting of STMs and the supporters groups to determine how the club can be better. The reason that Dillon calls these people season ticket members rather than season ticket holders is that membership means more.

“STM benefits are under review and we will look to build upon the great benefits we offer now to continue to enhance the STM experience,” Dillon said. “We know our STMs get access to the best seats, with a great discount and very flexible payment plan. They also have access to other benefits but we need to grow that list and make the benefits more impactful.”

That will most likely include greater frequency and quality of events throughout the year. The supporters groups have already built a community, now the club wants to help STMs who are not in one of those groups to do the same. He said he wants the STMs to have a sense of community with each other and with the club.

There will almost certainly be more benefits coming. According to Dillon, the club is looking to increase the return on investment that the STMs make with their money. That includes looking at discounts on concessions, what items come in the welcome packet, and other things that come up in the focus groups.

As you can tell, there is a lot the general public hasn’t yet been made aware of going on behind the scenes, but change is coming. As Dillon put it, if a windmill has been spinning one direction, it will take quite a bit of effort to get it spinning the other way. The important thing is that the club is listening. It’s only been a month since Dillon arrived and he’s already having meetings with those who support the club on an individual ticket level.

“We will approach the clubs as if we are running public trusts,” he said. “Our mindset will be these clubs belong to the supporter groups, the STMs, our corporate partners and suite holders, and the community as a whole. We need to acknowledge each of these groups are different in what they want, value and find important to them. We need to be better listeners to address their needs. We are blessed to have the best supporter groups in our leagues, and we need to magnify that, it creates such a home field advantage for our players.

“Some of this will take time. You will see consistent change, innovation, and progress, but it will take time and will not all happen overnight. I am a true believer that people don’t care what you know, until they know you care. We need to double down and reinvest our time, energy, and resources into making sure all of our supporters, fans, partners all know we care.”

I’m by no means saying everything is solved or that we shouldn’t continue to hold the club accountable. Of course we should, but the signs of good things to come are there.


Reflecting on Eight Years with The Mane Land

A look back over my time with The Mane Land (so far).



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

As of last week, I have been a contributor at The Mane Land for eight years. That’s longer than I’ve ever been at any of my actual jobs in my life. There are literally only a couple of people who have been with the site longer, but I’m still amazed at how long it’s been. This is not to say I’m going anywhere, but rather I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at the past eight years, and look ahead to the future.

Unlike some, I didn’t come to be a supporter of Orlando City until it was announced that the club was joining MLS. At the time, I was contemplating picking a club to follow in MLS, but being in Tallahassee, there were no nearby options at that time. I considered FC Dallas and D.C. United, given the two were geographically closer in proximity to me than any others. Fortunately, it was literally while I was considering my options that the announcement was made regarding Orlando City’s jump to MLS. It was an easy decision.

As I do in many aspects of my life, I immediately started researching my new club, which led me to the content being produced by The Mane Land. There was also an article on the site titled “Join The Mane Land Staff.” I had often over the years internally bemoaned that I rarely used my Bachelor’s degree in English, and the desire to write welled up in me so much that I emailed the staff. 

In response, one of our former editors, Andrew Marcinko, contacted me and said “I think your voice would be a great fit on TML.” He asked me to submit a Fan Post (those went away with our presence on SBN), and then another piece for review. Following that, our founder and managing editor, Michael Citro, emailed me to welcome me to the staff. I had no idea at the time how big a part of my life this blog would become.

I started out writing Monday’s Lions Links — often one of the more difficult days to write — and a feature piece. It’s been many years gone by now, but there was a time when the feature piece was “Pride Pub,” an ongoing series that paired craft beer and good food based on Orlando City’s opponent. I can tell you that the research for that was very enjoyable, and I still use some of the recipes I found to this day.

Eventually, I started contributing more match coverage and analytical pieces. Staff came and went, but I never thought to leave since I was enjoying myself. Sometime after that, I was promoted to senior columnist, for which I’m grateful. I can without reservation say that I’m a better writer thanks to my time with the site, and from working with such excellent staff.

In November of 2016, Michael asked if I wanted to give co-hosting The Mane Land PawedCast a try. My first recording was for Episode 71. We just recorded Episode 354, and with the exception of maybe two or three episodes, I have been on every single one of 283 episodes over the last six plus years. Michael and I have spent a lot of time talking on and off the podcast over the years, and I’m proud of what we have produced and to call him my friend.

We recently added an Orlando Pride-specific podcast called Skopurp: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. For years we wanted to give the Pride the time and attention the club deserves. Now, it is a reality, but one that I ask you to listen to and share. I’ll even put out that although Michael and I are the current hosts, we merely consider ourselves stewards and are hoping to get others to come onboard and eventually take it to the next level.

When I started with The Mane Land, the site had just made the move from a free WordPress site to the SBNation network. It was a big deal, and for many years it was a good partnership. Of course that all came to an end not too long ago, and our blog went the independent route thanks to the incredibly generous support of our readers and listeners. In fact, if you want to be one of those supporting our efforts, please go to our Buy Me A Coffee site to become a member. The move has allowed a flexibility we didn’t have before, but I really want others to have the same sense of joy and accomplishment that I have as a member of our staff. 

At one point we had nearly twice the staff that we do now, and as you know, many hands make light work. The opposite of that is also true. I genuinely believe that there must be others out there with the same passion for Orlando City as I have — with the same desire to have their voice heard, whether through the written word or on a podcast. I promise you there is an opportunity to contribute here with us. Our internal discussions are informative, engaging, and often funny. Please consider joining us, as I did eight years ago. I haven’t regretted it and I know you won’t either.

I want to thank all of those who contributed to The Mane Land over the years. There are many that I am still in touch with, though they are no longer a part of the staff. Of course, the current staff are a pleasure to work with, and I appreciate their dedication to what we are trying to do.

Finally, I want to thank the readers and listeners over the years. From those who regularly comment on our articles, to those that I’ve personally met at matches or even randomly on the street, you are a big reason that we do all of this. You are a big reason why I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. it is always a genuine pleasure hearing your thoughts or simply sharing a moment of joy together — U.S. Open Cup final, anyone?

So, thank you. I look forward to many more years of this journey together.

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Orlando City

The Mane Land Announces Membership Program

Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.



Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.

You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.

The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.

The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)

Supporting TML helps build a better TML for you to enjoy, so you’re really subscribing to your own Orlando soccer fandom.

Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)

We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).

For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.

Current Benefits

The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.

Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.

TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.

Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.

The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.

Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration

While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.

We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.

Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.

The Most Important Part of This Post

Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.

The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.

No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.

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Welcome Home!



Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.

I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.

Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.

Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.

We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)

I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.

Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.

Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.

We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.

Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.

For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.


Michael Citro
Managing Editor

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