The Fire have a new president, and she will have a lot on her plate when she begins.
On Thursday, the team announced that Ishwara Glassman Chrein was named club president to replace predecessor Nelson Rodriguez. Glassman Chrein is the first female president in Fire history, and the team said she’s believed to be the fourth woman in MLS history to serve as a team president. She will start June 1.
Like sporting director Georg Heitz, Glassman Chrein will report directly to owner Joe Mansueto. Heitz will continue to run the soccer side, and Glassman Chrein will lead the business operations.
Consulting firm Sportsology, which the Fire used when they hired Heitz, led the search.
In a statement, Mansueto said the Fire believe Glassman Chrein can grow the team’s fan base and be an ambassador for the franchise around the area.
“In Ishwara, we have found a dynamic, experienced sports executive to head up our business operations,” Mansueto said. “She is a passionate and enthusiastic leader that has a proven track record of building businesses and increasing revenue.”
Glassman Chrein won’t be lacking for things to do. The Fire still are working to recover after a decade of struggles under former owner Andrew Hauptman, when the franchise’s relationship with fans crumbled and the team drifted further into the periphery of the Chicago sports landscape.
One of the Fire’s goals is finding 20-25 acres of city land to build a state-of-the-art training facility, which already has proved difficult. Glassman Chrein also will have to navigate an uncertain economic landscape because of the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively push the upcoming new logo and rebuild bonds with diehard supporters while convincing new customers to care about the Fire and come to Soldier Field even if the on-field product continues to languish.
The hire also moves the Fire further away from the Hauptman era. The leaders of both the Fire’s soccer and business sides are now Mansueto’s picks, and their tasks are to rebuild their respective parts of the franchise.
“I am so thrilled to be joining the Fire at such an important inflection point in the club’s history,” Glassman Chrein said in a news release. “I’m fortunate to join a team where the owner loves Chicago, cares deeply about the players and staff and is fully invested in building a successful team on and off the pitch. I’m looking forward to getting started and meeting everyone involved with the club, especially the fans.”
Before joining the Fire, Glassman Chrein was the head of sports partnerships and business development at Yahoo Sports/Verizon Media, where she worked with the traditional top four leagues and broadcast network NBC. She also oversaw gaming operations, evaluated rights deals and worked with sports technology start-ups.
Rodriguez, who joined the Fire in 2015, resigned early this year after becoming club president in January 2018. He was shifted to a business-only role in December 2019 when Heitz was hired.
After Rodriguez’s departure, chief operating officer John Urban served as interim president.