RSL looks to reset club culture with release of ‘The RSL Way’ document

Real Salt Lake outlines its core values, philosophies and ideas in a document created by several members of the front office.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake Assistant General Manager Tony Beltran during a news conference at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Tuesday Dec. 3, 2019.

After a tumultuous couple of years that have seen the firings of head coaches and executives, investigations into racist and sexist behavior, and an owner’s decision to sell, Real Salt Lake is looking for a culture reset.

That’s what’s behind Monday’s release of a document titled, “The RSL Way,” which publicizes the organization’s new mission statement, its code of ethics, its cultural values, and several other ideas it wants to live by.

“This is our moral compass for moving forward,” RSL assistant general manager Tony Beltran told The Salt Lake Tribune.

RSL is in the middle of an ownership transition after Dell Loy Hansen agreed to sell the team last August amid allegations of racist comments and contributing to a toxic workplace culture. Major League Soccer took over the sales process after Hansen failed to find a buyer on his own.

But the events surrounding Hansen and chief financial officer Andy Carroll were just some in a yearslong deterioration of what RSL has meant to the local soccer community and the state of Utah as a whole.

Before Utah Royals FC were sold and moved to Kansas City, Craig Harrington was removed as coach. There were allegations that he was “verbally abusive” toward his players — an allegation he denies.

Former RSL coach Mike Petke was fired for directing a Spanish-language homophobic slur to a referee after a game in the summer of 2019. The general manager at the time, Craig Waibel, lost his job soon after that when court documents revealed him criticizing Hansen.

And in 2018, a domestic violence allegation against Mark Briggs embroiled the Real Monarchs in some controversy. The chargers were eventually dropped, but Briggs resigned that August. He now coaches for Sacramento Republic FC of the United Soccer League.

Beltran wrote the document with assistance and input from several in the RSL organization, including general manager Elliot Fall and executive vice president Rob Zarkos. Early in the process, Beltran said, he and Fall discussed the club’s need for a “culture revitalization.” The way the document lays that out is through identifying five core values: Pride, Community, Integrity, Harmony and Industry.

John Kimball, the organization’s interim president, referenced a Martin Luther King Jr. quote — “The time is always right to do what is right” — as what he said spoke to him most about the document.

“When I look at the core values and the things that we can then take down into each department, that’s where the flag in the ground is,” Kimball told The Salt Lake Tribune. “That’s where we’re going to be asking our employees and our players and our coaches to dig deep and to really hold ourselves accountable to these things because that’s what’s going to make a difference. That’s what’s going to change the culture. And that’s what’s going to allow us to be highly successful again on and off the field.”

The document also outlined the club’s philosophies relating to soccer. When it comes to on the field, the document states RSL and its fans “demand a certain level of football” and listed three metrics by which the team will play “regardless of year, personnel or any opposing circumstance.” Those metrics are Aggressive, Selfless and Disciplined.

From a front office standpoint, the document states RSL will “uphold complete commitment” to three ideas: Development, Integrate and Inclusive.

“What we tried to make them representative of is the fact that when RSL has been successful, it’s been for all of these reasons,” Beltran said.

RSL is determined not to let its past mistakes dictate its future. And in a sense, “The RSL Way” was created and released not only to revivify the organization internally and the fan base externally, but also to send a message to whatever individual or group decides to buy the team.

“We want to make it known to whoever buys our team ... that this is exactly who we are and this is what’s good enough,” Beltran said. “Anything less than this isn’t good enough and isn’t going to be acceptable by all of us within or by our fan base as well. This is what Real Salt Lake deserves.”