"The CTO is a real position," said Doug Vosik, Union vice president of marketing. "The CTO will be another professional resource for our players, just like trainers [and] … nutritionists. If a player wants a tattoo, now they know they can call an artist who can work to their tastes and their specific schedules."
Now players can chill out between games with a protein shake, a massage, and a bit of ink.
"As far as I've learned from our research, we are the first major pro team to have a tattoo officer as one of the services we offer players," said Vosik, who joined the Union last year.
The Union was very serious about choosing a tattooist.
The team announced the position in February and fielded applications from more than 150 candidates. "Shops from around the world and around the country applied," said Vosik. Officials narrowed down the applicants to 13 before turning the portfolios over to players and staff to make the final decision.
The team said Cunliffe and his shop were chosen for their versatility and the overall professionalism of the shop.
The team will celebrate the new CTO Aug. 21 with a mini-tattoo-and-team fest at Bonedaddys (2932 Pennell Rd., Aston) that will include live tattooing demos by Cunliffe and his team of four artists. Dan Czar, one of the finalists in the Union's tattooist search, will make a special appearance. (They will give tattoos to various members of the Union organization, including defender Richie Marquez, Union fan group Sons of Ben founding member Corey Furlan, and Vosik.)
Cunliffe, who grew up in Delaware County, said Bonedaddys will have a one-year contract with the Union that stipulates his artists will provide tattoos for players.
They also will take part in promotional events, said Vosik. "Eventually, we plan to commission them to design a mural and to host fan events where we hope to make them available to fans" looking to get inked, he said.
Cunliffe said he was overjoyed with his shop's new gig.
"[The Union] said they were looking for well-rounded artists who could do a range of styles, from traditional American to photo-realism to Japanese designs," said Cunliffe, 37. "And I like to think I can have that range."
Cunliffe said he's never inked a member of the Union, "though I have tattooed a few Eagles players before."
He said that in the 14 years since he set up shop, he's noticed a rise in the number of sports-related tattoos. "We do a lot of sports team logos. A lot," he said. "We've done all the Philadelphia teams multiple times."
Vosik is a tattoo lover himself. He's devoted his left arm to a growing selection of tats. He said he came up with the idea of naming a tattoo officer when he found himself bonding with a new player, Dutch defender Giliano Wijnaldum, over their ink.
"He didn't speak very much English, and, as we were struggling to communicate, when I told him I liked one of his tattoos," said Vosik. "Then I rolled up my sleeve and showed him some of mine. We had just met, but we bonded instantly."
When Vosik asked players if they'd take advantage of an in-house tattoo service, he received enthusiastic replies.
"Even players who don't have tattoos said they might try it if there was someone available to them," he said.
Having a tattooist on staff is good marketing, said Vosik.
"If you look at soccer fans in America, they are predominantly millennials, 18- to 34-year-olds," he said.
"Our fans are young professional-class Philadelphians, and, in that world, tattooing is no longer taboo. It's very much part of their lifestyle."
Vosik said he'd already heard from other soccer teams — and from fans around the country — who are enthralled by the idea.
"Will other teams take up our idea? We'll have to see."