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Jersey sponsorship a top priority for Hinchey, Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Getting a jersey sponsor in 2012 remains a top priority for new Colorado Rapids president Tim Hinchey. And coming so close last year to securing a deal makes his motivation even stronger this year.

Hinchey told MLSsoccer.com last week that the club was inches away from getting the job done last summer. Although he didn’t reveal the company that balked on the deal, Hinchey said the club appeared to have an agreement in place for the first jersey sponsor in franchise history.

“It was the first time in 20-plus years on that side of the business that I had a handshake and it didn’t go through,” he said. “It was personally very disappointing. I think we felt we had the decision makers in the room but, apparently, there was one other decision maker who didn’t support it.”

Hinchey, the club’s former chief marketing officer who was appointed president after former managing director Jeff Plush left the club last month, said he would be revisiting that same potential client this year along with other avenues.

The jersey sponsorship remains the club's ultimate commercial goal.

“Last year, we were up double digits in every other major aspect,” he said. “It’s all very good but, it’s a bit like the [MLS] Cup. If you don’t have the shirt sponsor, that is what people aspire to for success. We have new business coming through, we are ahead of last year in new season tickets, we are making great progress but, ultimately, we have to get the shirt deal done. It’s on me and it is an absolute focus for me in 2012.”

Hinchey said he will also be doing as much as he can to ensure increasing numbers of fans come through the gates at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. While he said the recent appointment of new head coach and former Colombian international Oscar Pareja was not a direct attempt to attract more Hispanic fans to the Rapids, he hopes it will have such an effect.

“I am optimistic that, with Oscar getting us playing the beautiful game the way we would like to play it, maybe we will draw a little bit more of that Hispanic community,” said Hinchey, who insisted there will also be increasing amounts of bilingual signage in the stadium in 2012.

Hinchey’s personal goal in his first year on the job, meanwhile, is to continue a trend of being more available and transparent to the Rapids fans. He’s an ardent user of Twitter and he took to social media in the days leading up to Pareja’s hire to let fans know a big decision was coming.

Transparency is something in which he firmly believes after his days in the NBA, when he worked in the front offices of the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets.

“My objectives are to be as transparent and accessible as possible, both internally and externally,” he said. “We want to get out there and let people know who we are and be as transparent as possible to our fan base. One of our old clichés in the NBA was we have a plan for every fan.”

Hinchey also spent more than three years as vice president of commercial affairs for Derby County, the English Championship side. He said there could be opportunities to explore with his relationships there, and that he intends to try and grow the alliance with Arsenal as well as deepen relationships with a number of clubs around the world.

“We certainly want to grow our partnership with Arsenal,” he said. “At the end of the day, it has to be an authentic connection. It is up to us to work with them the right way. Is that youth development, coaching exchanges? It is not Arsenal’s job to see we are taking the right steps, it is up to us to take the right steps.”

The club will not train at Arsenal’s training facilities this year as they’ve done in the past, and will instead travel to Hawaii on Feb. 19 to compete in the first annual Hawaiian Islands Invitational from Feb. 23-25.

Players report to camp for physical examinations on Thursday and will open training on Jan. 23.