Utopia United or Anarchy FC? Supporters aiming to start their own NPSL club
Nashville FC is looking for you and a couple hundred of your buddies to help start a team in the NPSL. So if you’ve got $75 burning a hole in your pocket, you could own a slice of a soccer team.
An ambitious group of soccer fans in Music City are looking to start the first supporter-owned club in the US. If they are able to pull it off, it could be a great achievement in supporter culture or an anarchistic dumpster fire.
Either way, it’s going to be interesting to watch.
I don’t know how close they are to their goal and their spokespeople aren’t saying just yet, but it’s fun to dream, isn’t it?
From all of my research (five minutes spent on the Googly-tubes), an NPSL team costs about $45,000 a year to run. This includes travel, equipment, league fees and other institutional costs. So even small time soccer is no small feat.
Pardon me for getting nerdy for a moment, but the numbers matter here.
Assuming the home team keeps all of the gate (and I don’t know that to be true,) to cover the $45,000, give or take, that it costs to run a club like City ever year, attendance has to be a little more than 1,200 per game.
That last sentence, by the way, was typed with one hand while I used the other to count the number of teams in the NPSL who can put up those kind of numbers for each match. Oh neat, I still had my finger and thumb left over so I could take a drink of coffee!
For every DCFC, Tulsa, New Orleans and Chattanooga there are many more teams that couldn’t make it like Detroit Arsenal and Zanesville Athletic (oh wait, they’re still around?)
The successful clubs have been able to engage with their community, forming a bond with supporters that goes beyond the play on the field.
Here in Detroit, as they ramped up, the owners were out at pubs on Saturday mornings talking to fans who were there to watch European soccer matches. Going directly to the supporters before they hit up the mini-van set was a savvy move and built a loyal fan base. The nucleus of owners in Nashville should be out doing the same.
So what happens if this dream becomes a reality?
Raising the money and drumming interest is going to be the easy part. Sustaining a successful team is where it gets difficult. Owners need to stay committed to the community. That’s where the ownership groups like that of Detroit City FC do so well and the team trying to bring an MLS side to Detroit seems to be floundering.
Responsible and responsive ownership is the hallmark of any well-run sports team and the owners of DCFC have been just that. Meanwhile, the Apostolopoulos group has tried already and failed before. Additionally, just this week it has come out that they are tearing down a historic Detroit landmark, after previously saying that they would preserve it. This demonstrates a disconnect from the community that makes one wonder how responsive they would be as MLS owners.
I would relish the chance to support an MLS side, but I’m certain that DCFC ownership have no intention (nor the resources to do so) and Steve Apostolopoulos doesn’t have the capacity. That’s not for lack of trying though, as he seems to have plenty of money or ambition. Where he falls short is his knowledge of Detroit.
He’s been spreading the love for DCFC supporters groups on Twitter, but he doesn’t understand that we love our city even more than our club. One of the reasons we fell in love with DCFC is because of its strong ties to Detroit. It’s difficult to understand that if you’re not one of us.
So from the idea that he could put a successful team in Pontiac to not being forthcoming about his plans for the State Savings Bank and many other things in between, he’s shown that he’s not the owner for us. That’s what makes Detroit City FC so great and hopefully that is what will make Nashville FC successful.
Being a supporter is more than just having a team to cheer for, it’s a commitment to city and club that goes beyond the excitement of the big stadium. Love of city and club is indifferent to the league from which its competition is coming. Any successful owner, whether they be in the NPSL, MLS or elsewhere, knows that.