Disclosure: I worked at the Alouettes’ head office for almost 2 years somewhere over the past five years. I wish to remain anonymous and may be vague with certain parts. You may choose to think that more proof is necessary to prove that my claim is actually true and I respect that, but my goal here is just to relay my experience and remain anonymous. I have since moved on to another industry and have no affiliation with the team. See this as an inside look if ever you wanted to work for a pro football team in Canada as a long-term career as a young person coming out of college or someone who wants to know how business actually works inside the organization’s office without media bullshit obscuring the truth.
A big issue that I saw every day was the cliques and the backstabbing. People had their 3-4 friends and wouldn’t interact with anyone else. These friends helped out each other and almost always ignored everyone else. About backstabbing, there was no formal sales method and it occurred on more than one occasion that people would attempt to steal away client sales in order to pad their commissions. This caused constant tensions between certain people and created a very toxic environment.
Training was almost nonexistent. No manuals, no documents, no consultants coming in. We had to rely on our instincts alone. Sometimes this would work out, sometimes it didn’t.
Finally, a little gripe of mine. People were on facebook/sports websites constantly. This was extremely demotivating and promoted an atmosphere where people can just be lazy and it’s okay.
My Feelings about Robert Wettenhall and Mark Weightman
Yes, it is true that owner Robert Wettenhall saved the franchise from implosion in the late 1990s and he is overall a great human being. The big problem here is that he lives in the US and my impression of him was that he had no idea what was actually going on at the front lines. There was always a feeling that he was just putting money into the system and not actually making sure operations were running correctly. He seldom actually visited the Montreal offices and we received one, maybe two emails from him a year. Another big issue was the fact that his sons were Alouettes board members, but again we never saw them or heard anything from them as they are consultants living in the US. Above all else though my biggest issue with him was his penny-pinching tendencies. We had no budget to actually reward clients, create hype events or hire top talent. More about this below.
Mark is a nice guy, but again, very detracted from front line people. Objectives would be set, but we would have no idea how to implement them or what was expected of us to achieve them. My impression was that he was always promoting a ‘‘good old boys’’ club within the company, where it was hard to advance unless you were in this clique. An example of this is the Compass contract they had. Compass is a food provider that also does the Canadiens games. We would have clients calling in all the time saying that the hot dogs taste like crap, or that there isn’t a good menu selection, that we often ran out of food or that everything is grossly over priced vis-à-vis the quality. Compass never made any adjustments, because the upper management never told them to or at least never put their feet to the fire. This buddy club among upper management and big suppliers remained for the entirety of the time I was there.
The Football Business in Montreal
Terrible. It was just god awful. Clients constantly telling us they were switching their season tickets to Impact tickets as those were more affordable and the events were more entertaining. Upper end clients of ours would switch over to the Habs at the first opportunity they got. The quality just wasn’t there anymore, and I’m not even talking about the team itself. The show just wasn’t interesting and companies didn’t see value in spending tons of money every year on tickets anymore.
This is where I feel the Alouettes organization struggled the most. While managers held a weekly meeting, there was rarely any communication about those meetings to the rest of the employees. No newsletter, no substantive team huddles. Lower level employees desperately wanted direction, and they weren’t getting any. One department department director in particular was nonproductive, leaving the office early almost every single day, not getting a good assessment of where the employees were headed and just staying in his office all day.
One small detail I almost forgot, I just feel like the company never engaged sufficiently with the fans. We never took advantage of the league forums, reddit, etc. Sure we had a great facebook page, but it never really felt innovative.
Our relationship with Football Operations
Seemingly very little. We rarely took advantage of the ‘‘star power’’ of some of our players and staff in football operations to promote synergies. The reason being? Money. Always money. There were always excuses where we would ask for help on a project from some of the players. ‘‘We’d have to pay them’’, etc, etc. Ok then pay them? Well that answer would always be no. Again, penny pinching was the norm here.
A disappointing reality for me was that we’d never actually see any of the coaches or management staff (ie Jim Popp). Actually talking to them could have given us good business ideas or what ever, but it was just something that never happened. Football ops stayed in their cavern at the Olympic stadium and we stayed downtown, and that was it.
Pay and turnover/HR
Atrocious. We were asked to worked extremely hard while being paid McDonald’s type salaries. This caused another problem where we could never recruit top talent out of university as who in their right mind would want to work for $30k a year with limited benefits. Yes, some people had degrees, but a lot didn’t.
Another big issue issue I had was their practice of hiring young people as ‘‘unpaid interns’’. There was nothing ‘‘internship’’ -ish about these jobs. They were quite literally the exact same job as the full time permanent one, however the ‘‘interns’’ would simply be paid nothing. This to me was them just taking advantage of young people who desperately wanted to work for a sports team. Terrible policy and very unethical.
Finally, turnover. Over the time that I was there, I’m pretty sure about 50-60% of people moved on to other jobs that paid better. We lost so many key employees it was absolutely ridiculous.
After working at the Alouettes, I learnt never to trust the Journal de Montreal again. I remember them running a headline called something like ‘‘consistency and stability’’. I found this absolutely hilarious considering the company was treading water financially, losing a bunch of office staff and coaches leaving halfway through the season. The media seemed either completely unaware of what was happening inside the organization or was willfully lying to the public.
I’m sorry if this sounds like a rant. My purpose here is to share my experience and tell a story that is never talked about in the media. I do wish the team the best and hope that they recapture their glory days of the early 2000s, but I think right now they just have too many structural problems where a solution is going to require new management/ownership. The sad thing here is that I should be the exact type of person the team courts to come see some games. I used to watch a whole bunch of games live and on TV, but rarely keep up anymore. I do miss a lot of the people I was working with and a lot of them are genuinely wonderful/intelligent people. I also think the players were absolutely amazing with all of the community service they were doing (hospital visits, etc.). I just wish there were more positives to discuss. Anyway, you guys can ask me questions below if you want and I may answer some of them.