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Fire Fire Peter Wilt, Fans Protest At Season Opener

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 19, 2005 5:18PM

2005_04_sports_chicago_fire_logo.gifLast week, the Chicago Fire's owners -- Anschutz Entertainment Group -- fired Peter Wilt as president following 7 years with the club and replaced him with New York MetroStars VP John Guppy. The Club's GM since day one, Wilt has helped build a franchise that won 4 championships and also oversaw the deal providing the Fire a permanent home stadium in Bridgeview. Although he will remain general manager until the end of the season, his contract will not be renewed at the end of the season. Chicagoist admits we're not much of a soccer fan, but his credentials certainly sound pretty damn good. In fact, maybe a few other teams in town could benefit from hiring him. So we're not sure why he got canned.

Seems even the hard-core Fire fan don't understand either. So it's only understandable that the fan base of the Chicago Fire is very upset over this move. To protest Wilt's firing Section 8 Chicago, an independent Chicago Fire supporters' association, organized a variety of visible statements at this past weekend's season opener at Soldier Field.

2005_04_sports_fire_wilt_protest.jpgAmong the symbolic actions of displeasure were: waiting until 8 minutes after the game started to take their seats in Section 8, the wearing of black, and even the draping of the section in black fabric.
Section 8's website offers a number of photos documenting Saturday's protests.

According to frequent Chicagoist commenter Chris Costello's open letter to John Guppy, it seems that Anschutz made this move to bring in a salesman to replace a soccer guy. It doesn't matter what sport you're dealing with, that kind of move rarely succeeds. Same with business for that matter. But as Costello mentioned some think good salemen can sell anything. Guess Anschutz feels the need to sell the citizens of Chicago on the Fire leading up to their new stadium. However, putting a winning team on the field and letting their biggest fans organically sell their friends, family and others on the team is the way to build a true fan base. Hopefully this move won't backfire on the team.

Thanks, Chris

Image via Section 8 Chicago