Tag Archives: Soccer

Dragging Me Back In: Promotion/Relegation & America

Okay, here is some new vocabulary for the unsoccery people:

Promotion and Relegation, often used together and sometimes abbreviated Pro/Rel. It is a pretty contentious point in American soccer fandom.

So, over in þe olde Ængaland and – well – the rest of the world Association Football uses this system that would be completely alien to Americans: promotion and relegation. What it means is that the soccer season doesn’t end in a championship (there are cups for that) it just ends. Someone comes in first and someone comes in last and there are teams inbetween. What happens is that the lowest ranking team(s) get sent down a tier (relegation) and the highest ranking team(s) get sent up a tier if possible (promotion).

Now this means a lot: first it means that minor teams with enough cash and support can grow and spend even a season or two at top-tier earning extra TV cash. It also means that for weak teams every match is a battle and it ensures interest remains in the club through two general means: first if you lose everything, there is a good chance next year you’ll have a better season (because your opponents will be weaker) and it also means that up to the end fans are watching and praying that you don’t get relegated.

A lot of American soccer fans grew up not watching MLS, but EPL (English Premier League). Now that America’s MLS is picking up in popularity EPL fans are calling for their beloved pro/rel to make the jump across the sea.

People are very divided on this issue and some people (myself included) are divided even within themselves because pro/rel isn’t all good. So lets talk pros and cons and then move onto how I think America can realistically adopt pro/rel.

Some Pros:

First, like I said, it makes smaller clubs viable. It encourages people to root for more than just the big team from the big city 500 miles away. In the USA in every sport there are 20-ish teams and that is it. You have to pick the one closest to you, or the one that your father’s brother’s wife’s cousin played for that one year before blowing out his knee.

If done correctly this means MORE not less money for the the league. FC Butte is almost assuredly NOT going to be a power player. But the people of Butte are probably also not going to too many Sounders matches. They are passively watching on TV or the internet. Stick FC Butte into the picture and likely they’ll go to a few games a year. A supporter or ultra will go to quite a few more. And then they’ll still probably watch the Sounders game on TV. In economics terms: we are far from true market saturation in the United States.

Next – it stops stupid one sided and worthless matches from becoming common OR forces owners to actually invest in their teams. Basically it helps “settle” the market and encourages more investment. A team with an owner who is risk-adverse might settle into a lower tier. If the owner wants to keep challenging other local clubs they’ll have to invest. No more owners taking supporters for granted. If they don’t invest the team might slide and that might mean fewer tickets sold. So in a city like Cleveland, with only the Browns, tier 2 might not be a bad idea. People will still go, the Browns might do better with teams of similar stature and everyone wins. On the flip side the Cubs now need real investment, their in-town rivals the White Sox might steal fans away if they get relegated. That means this whole mentality of “as long as Wrigley is filled” undergoes a drastic change – win or die. That’s good for fans and supporters.

This also could potentially add space for talented players who are not necessarily great. So long as lower tiers pay living wages it means the fear of “do I play the sport I love and risk starving” or “do I get a job I hate and eat every night” sort of vanishes and that might be good for developing talent. However, it means we as Americans have to reevaluate how we look at sports as a career option, which I’ll discuss in the cons.

The Cons:

So as I just said, this requires a HUUUUUUGE change in how Americans view sports as a career option and how players should develop as well as tiered leagues.

Right now in America it is essentially pros or nothing. Yeah yeah, minor league baseball. You know who watches minor league baseball? No one.

What about minor league soccer, Nick? You know who watches minor league soccer? Hipsters and soccer purists. Sorry to say it, but that is sort of it. I know at least one fireman who is likely ringing his fists waiting for a chance to put my neck in there. There isn’t really a market for low tier soccer in the USA. Not enough to guarantee TV spots.

But Nick, Indy 11 is on TV and sold out every game. First: yeah, their stadium is tiny. Second: that really just goes back to what I am saying: the soccer market in the United States is far, far from saturated. So call it the exception that proves the rule. Indianapolis is exactly what MLS should look for in a tier 2 city. Big-ish. Passionate. Lacking in a lot of other sports (they have the Colts and they have minor league baseball IIRC).

A huge drawback is America is HUUUUUUUUGE. Like gargantuan. Germany is one of the larger states in Europe and it is half the size of Texas. HALF! This makes travel really hard and really expensive. Small teams will probably need to have travel subsidized, which no league wants to deal with. In lower tiers, with regional play, travel is no problem. But what happens when our hypothetical FC Butte is promoted to a non-regional tier? Now they are flying to Tampa and El Paso and shit, none of those teams want to fly to fucking Butte (sorry Butte, I’m sure you’re beautiful but I’m not queuing to visit your lovely vistas).

There is also the potential to introduce yo-yo teams. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be annoying. Usually when pro/rel supporters talk about their system it is this beautifully fluid system with all sorts of teams floating around. But its not. The cream floats to the top, the shit sinks to the bottom. Manchester United is not being relegated any time soon without something cataclysmic happening. Rangers from SPL got sent to (what?) tier 4? And they are rising back to the top with a nearly unprecedented speed. Why? Because the quadruple relegation was unprecedented.

A yo-yo team is a team that is too good for tier n but not good enough for tier n-1. That means one season they are #1 and promoted, the next they are #20 and relegated. Repeat forever. FC Augsburg over in Germany used to be a good example of this. They are actually currently #4 in Bundesliga as of my last update. So I guess a good example (according to wikipedia) is Norwich, I’m sure some Norwich fan will correct me. I don’t see Americans dealing with yo-yo teams. But that goes to the first point: the mentality as a whole is not ready for this system.

So to wrap up this rambling with the biggest con: lower tiers have to fight college sports. Americans love a few things (in no particular order): Guns, Jesus, Reagan, Boobs, and College Sports. Unless you went to Purdue and gave up ever winning a bowl, you fucking love college sports. Fuck I did go to Purdue and gave up ever winning a bowl and I FUCKING LOVE WATCHING ME SOME COLLEGE SPORTS!

A low tier is going to have to fight college sports first for viewers and then for players. The NCAA is a big monster to fight. But this goes back to the very top of the cons pile: we see sports as pros or nothing. These kids HAVE to go to college. They cannot all be super stars, right? They need to have a back up! That is not a mentality or a societal norm that is going to change overnight because someone paid $500 to fly a banner over a single MLS match. That is an Olympus Mons sized hurdle we will have to climb.

So? Where do we go?

So? How does America catch the pro/rel fever? More cowbell? More left-over European players? Jürgen Klinsmann?

No. First there are bigger hurdles to handle. First we need to stop the cluster fuck of trading and DPs and regulations concerning the movement of players between clubs. This is necessary so we mesh better with other leagues. Then we need to adopt the same trading windows. HOWEVER. We should not adopt their calendar. This is mostly because Europe is a lot warmer than the US in the winter, so while they can still reasonably move around in December/February, we cannot. Storms and freeze-ins is a real thing.

I think that We should use the winter as our “off season” period. Summer can be our mid-season break for trading. This gets players out of the sun when the heat is at the worst in places like Texas and California. This way our trading windows sync up with Europe better and we don’t have to travel in the snow. Both wins.

Once we get better trading and a better transfer window the USSF (US Soccer Federation, our version of the FA) will have to work with the existing leagues to be open to the idea of pro/rel. They are going to want to see cash, cold hard funbucks. This means all those people clamoring for pro/rel need to get out to and watch some low tier soccer now. If the MLS/NASL/USSF sees the money at the bottom, they’ll want a piece.

Once they’ve been shown the potential for income they’ll have to restructure themselves. MLS is a “single entity” meaning the owners are actually investors, they don’t own their team they rent it from the MLS. The MLS will have to devolve into a standard league structure within the USSF. This can actually happen over night. The actual guts of the issue is simple – give the people in control actual control. The hard part is getting the MLS to want to let go.

Then after that the USSF needs to come up with a real, official structure. This means a) drawing a concrete line between pro and amateur, no more semi-pro on the pyramid. It also means b) getting these leagues to play along. Same schedule, same windows, same pool of players, and very real lines of promotion and relegation. Then throw in some cups to have fun. The Lamar Hunt Cup is our “Open Cup” and then throw in a few more, one for the lower leagues, one for everyone but the top. That’ll be nice. Cups, for the uninitiated, are tournies that run alongside the season. They are knock out and they let teams play teams they might not normally play as well as funnel some cash into the lower leagues when teams like FC Butte play the Chicago Fire.

I imagine it like this: the NASF (North American Soccer Federation) has four tiers:

  1. Tier One – The NAPL
  2. Tier Two – The NACL 1
  3. Tier Three – The NACL 2
  4. Tier Four – The RPSL
  5. Under this is amateur

The NAPL

The MLS is renamed the North American Premier League, encompassing both the United States and Canada under the newly minted North American Soccer Federation. The NASF will NOT govern the national teams for either country, which is not how it usually works but I think the USA and Canada are best when their sports leagues work together – however at a national level we shouldn’t ever compete together.

This league would be the cream of the crop, 20 teams and no regional divisions. Once you get this high, you are in, you are the best, you got the cash to travel. Teams aren’t promoted from this league, but they can be relegated.

The NACL 1

The North American Champion’s League 1 is tier two. Their best go up to the NAPL and their worst go to the NACL 2. I like the British style of best/worst 3 with a play off for the fourth spot. This means the teams ranked 20, 19, and 18 in the NAPL are always relegated, 17 and 16 play a two-game series with the loser being relegated. The same applies here for 4 and 5 for going up.  There are 20 teams here as well.

This league will also be non-regional, perhaps needing some about of subsidizing of travel costs. Teams here should be from medium to large markets like Cleveland from the beginning of this rant.

When a team is relegated into the NACL 2, it goes into its respective conference automatically. This means all teams (even those far from the threat of relegation) need to be pre-assigned a region.

The NACL 2

Things get complicated here. This is the first regional league made up of two leagues of with 20 teams each, divided east and west. This should NOT be based around “well two teams in Texas should be in opposite conferences” but rather travel costs. Each region plays their season in parallel. Their respective champions are both automatically promoted. Then the next four teams play parallel tournies to fill the second spot.

I’m just going to copy-paste the wiki article for the English pyramid (with changes as necessary):

The bottom three teams in each division relegated to the proper region as appropriate. If, after promotion and relegation, the number of teams in the East and West divisions are not equal, one or more teams are transferred between the two divisions to even them up again. This should start with teams previously transferred to the “wrong” side, then go go to teams closest to the other league.

The RPSL

The Regional Professional Soccer League rises out of the ashes of the NASL. It is divided into four regions: NW, SW, SE, NE of 20 teams each. Done. NPSL is nearly there as-is.

Six teams are promoted (each of the champions and then the top two from a play-off). There is no more relegation. Teams that fail economically have their place in line sold. Since the league doesn’t own the club, the club’s owners are economically liable as any company would be depending on structure and tax filing status and the league can easily wash their hands of the failure. Not their problem.

Like the above, if after the promotions leave and the incoming relegations arrive the regions are not even, they should be rebalanced as appropriate taking into account the same ideas as above – first move teams that have been moved into the “wrong” region into the “right” region, then start moving teams based on proximity.

In Conclusion

So there. This is not as easy as most supporters of pro/rel would claim, but I also think that those in opposition aren’t in opposition for the right reason. As usual, the real reasons (cultural, economic, societal) are probably the real root causes of why pro/rel isn’t happening tomorrow.

From a business perspective, a bigger pool of players and a bigger pool of teams in a system that essentially automatically sends them to the level best suited for owners should be pretty attractive. the USSF/NASF has a lot to earn with so many more teams it just needs to stop being the dog wagged by the MLStail.

But the hurdles in the way are gargantuan. Breaking down the monopoly of the NCAA is an unspeakably difficult task. I think that a market for both can exist – with the NCAA encompassing the spirited amateur, people who are good but not looking to be pros and the actually pyramid holding those who are good and want to do it for a living.

The hard part will be getting the lower leagues to generation enough income to pay their players a living yearly wage. That isn’t necessarily hard either, but it does mean that people cannot just ignore their local NASL/USLPro/NPSL teams anymore. If you want promotion and relegation in the USA/Canada you HAVE to support your local teams. HAVE to. Stop traveling. Stop supporting a big team because they are closest and biggest. Support what you got. You cannot say: I support pro/rel and I’m a Chicago Fire fan from Indianapolis who has never been to Chicago, been close to Chicago, or have family from Chicago. Because you are shooting yourself in the foot.

So, I hope this was enlightening and look forward to all the good this will do for my traff- I mean standing among people with opinions about sports.

Edit:

It has been pointed out to me that relegated teams are given a “parachute” fund to help lessen the blow of decreased TV revenue. This can actually make relegation lucrative if done “correctly.” I don’t really want to talk numbers or money – first it is easy to get wrong, second I don’t want people thinking I crunched the numbers. How you split TV profits and assist teams being relegated is up to organizations like the USSF and might be handled differently depending on where you go. For example – a big benefit from going from the NACL 1 to NACL 2 in my examples is a big decrease in travel costs, which can help off-set a loss in TV profits.

If you haven’t picked up the nuance and difficultly surrounding adopting a new system from everything above, I’m sure this isn’t going to help it any.

Don’t Forget to be Awesome

Okay.

Deep Breath

Going to start of with a disclaimer. I’m a nerd, and I really like sports. In recent years I’ve learned that that is not a rare combination, in fact a lot of nerds like sports. So much so that a bunch of nerds got together and helped AFC Wimbledon with a massive outpouring of support.

For those not in the know, the short (and heavily biased) story is that Wimbledon had a team with a lot of history and culture. Someone bought it and decided “Fuck all that, I’m moving the team.” A lot of supporters were heart broken. So much so that they banded together, put some money up, and remade their team from scratch. That team is AFC Wimbledon and though I am neither a fan nor a supporter of theirs, I just like what they’ve done.

In recent memory, writer/nerd John Green was playing FIFA and was managing this team, which is high enough in the English pyramid to actually be a selectable team on FIFA, which if we are fair is every team’s dream. John Green and his brother Hank have a large (and highly loyal) group of fans collectively referred to as “Nerdfighteria.”

Personally, I am a casual listener to the Green brothers and don’t consider myself a “nerd fighter.” From my few interactions with other nerd fighters you’d think this is a blasphemy, but I don’t like other people labeling me.

Anyway, I digress, Nerdfighteria has done a lot of great things and I like seeing them succeed. I like that they’ve chosen to side with supporters and fans in helping preserve the Dons. I think they are on the right side of history with this, they often are. However, I am actually slightly miffed by all of this and that is why I am calling out John Green and Nerdfighteria.

Guys, guys… I’m so glad you’ve fought for the little guy. But it pisses me off that you’ll send thousands of dollars over to England and then seemingly ignore teams in the very same position over here in the United States. There is so much more to the sport over here. So many teams that are left ignored, unloved, unwanted. You turn your backs on them to write out cheques to send over to England for what?

A team you tangentially “support” via FIFA? Why? Why do you help a team so far away when so many other teams all around you are crying out and dying hoping to get just a handful of people to care. Teams with a passionate crowd that is lacking in the size department. FC Buffalo, the Cincinnati Saints, next year could see the end of the Atlanta Silverbacks to the  exact same scenario as Wimbledon.

Where are all the Nerd fighters there? Where’s all the support for Atlanta? Fuck it. Can’t look all cool and hip supporting Atlanta. Gotta jump on the Dons bandwagon, I guess.

It honestly makes me sick. It just seems so disingenuous.

It would take five. whole. seconds. on wikipedia to find an NPSL team near you.  I’m even going to walk you through what you need to do to support an NPSL team. Trust me, it is easy.

  1. Find a team. See, we’re already that far. It took five seconds, remember?
  2. Talk to their FO. Be upfront, be honest, be willing to work with them, but don’t compromise. If they complain, point to Detroit City. They won’t admit it, but every FO wants to be DCFC’s FO.
  3. Make some banners, buy some smoke bombs (this is America, it isn’t hard). Get a drum on craig’s list. KNOW HOW TO KEEP A RHYTHM.
  4. Buy a megaphone.
  5. Wear something silly/cool. It’ll always be both.
  6. Get some other people together. Its Nerdfighteria, you can do it.
  7. Come up with a sweet name and a good logo. Don’t feel you have to do it yourself. Talk to people like the NGS’ Sergeant Scary
  8. If you aren’t rude, people will help. But don’t brown nose. Have some spine, especially publicly. Make fun of other teams.
  9. Make a twitter account.
  10. Follow other Ultras groups on twitter. (By the way, you’re an Ultra now, deal with it.)
  11. NEVER MISS A GAME. SOMEONE ALWAYS HAS TO BE THERE.
  12. NEVER STOP SINGING. NEVER SIT DOWN.

It’s really easy. It just means actually having the gall to be the fan the team deserves. It means that you’ll have to do more than cut a cheque. You’ll have to spend money, time, effort, sweat, blood; all those things that don’t come easy. And you’ll only get back what you put into it.

But let me tell you something. The look on the face of that player, when after a bad game, he looks up and there are 10, 20, 5,000 people who do not give a fuck. Who are there to cheer regardless. The pain melts away. You can see it.

And when they score, if no one is there, who do they run to? Who do they cheer with?  DSC6811-copy

Photo: Detroit City

They need you. They need you.

So while I’m thankful that you’ve supported the Dons, for all they stand for in the face of homogeneous sports events, don’t ignore the home front.  Don’t ignore the war on soccer culture that is being waged right here in our own backyards.

AFC Wimbledon is a great success story, but like pandas for the WWF, we cannot ignore the rough and ugly in favor of everyone’s favorite poster child.

So get out there. Do what you can for as long as you can do it. I hate to say it, but “big soccer” is coming for us. They are looking to end it all.

Fight.

Fight and don’t forget to be awesome.

Climb

Photo: Michael Kitchen

Pictures casually lifted from the Detroit City page and the NGS facebook page. Looking for photo credits now.

 

Fan v Supporter v Ultra

Maidin mhaith, motherfuckers.

NGS’ foremost photographer,  Dion, has spent this morning keeping everyone in the City spirit. When I am in the City spirit I like to think about time spent prepping, time spent hanging out, time spent bathed in sulfur and fire, and time spent after a match (win or lose) sitting on the benches long after the normal people go home. All photo credits go to Dion.

I love it.

Makes summer go by way too fast.

I have and will keep talking about soccer in the terms of an ultra, because that is what I am. To me there are essentially five levels of fandom (and there is certainly some grey and some crossover):

  • Fair-Weather Fan
  • Fan
  • Supporter
  • Ultra
  • Hooligan

Some of these the average American reader will get instantly, others they might have the wrong idea, and for others there is literally no idea. They might think they know what an Ultra is, but no. They just don’t. So lets go over them all so in the future we’ll be speaking the same language.

Fair-Weather Fans exist in every sport and every culture. Americans know this one as well as anyone else. But for consistency let’s talk about these spineless fucks. Fair-Weather Fans are the reason that a stadium is empty on a bad season and full on a good season. Hell, they might not even show up themselves, but suddenly their desk will have a little “Lions” sign when we’re 11-4 and a picture of fishing with the kids when we are 4-11.

We all hate these guys because they belittle the energy of a good season and amplify the hurt when you lost the big game. To see someone so easily flick the switch from “on” to “off” makes you question your own commitment. If that is “normal” why would you put that energy in yourself?

The only time you should deal with Fair-Weather fans is if you think you can upgrade them to…

Fans. See what I did there? That’s called a fade. Anyway.

From where I sit “Fans” are those people who go to one or two games a year. Maybe more, but they aren’t certain and after the game the energy the spend on being a fan is pretty low. They don’t turn completely off, they might save tickets to great games, they might have some well-worn gear, and win or lose they always have that picture of them and their family sitting in the stands.

Not everyone can be a supporter. Not everyone can spend that sort of time, money, sweat, and blood. We understand that. If Ultras are the Imperial Guard, fans are the rank and file solider. We see them as comrades in arms, but we also know that they are more worried about getting home in time for dinner than drinking with the team.

Never turn down the company of a fan. Who knows, maybe that big project will end and you’ll have a new supporter on your hands. These are the people who look up to you and look to you to make their day great.

Supporters are the next level. When I talk “supporter” I mean the average member of the Northern Guard.

SupportersSupportFor supporters the team is more than a team. The pitch is more than a pitch. The badge is more than a badge. It is who they are. It is a commitment. It is a piece of who they are. They might not return with too many souvenirs, but they hardly miss a game. They never go home with a voice. They’ve spent countless hours at the bar beforehand and afterwards. They’ve been to a scrimmage, they’ve been to a social gathering. They order season tickets the second they come out and they always get an extra for whoever they are dragging with them that day.

A supporter’s passion, enthusiasm, spirit, and  their over-brimming joy just to be there converts many, many fans into more supporters. They might not know who makes the flags or how. They might not want to be too close to the smoke when it goes off. But they want to be there. A supporter gets strength and energy from being in the thick of it. A supporter moves a thousand miles away and never forgets, never moves on.

A supporter doesn’t ditch to catch a “more important” game.

Because there isn’t a more important game than the one going on right now. So if that is what a supporter is, what does that leave for Ultras?

Ultras are what supporters congeal around. Ultras don’t miss games willingly. They might get dragged into family matters, or deal with work and school but they’d always rather be at the field. They apologize for missing that 1-3 loss like they were the reason we lost. An Ultra always uses “we” to refer to the team.

Ultras run the blogs, take the pictures, make the flags, bring the smoke, plan the tifos, write the songs, harass the other guys on twitter, follow the team in the cold months between seasons, march in freezing weather on Paddy’s day. They bring drums, they bring trumpets, they are the first to arrive and the last to leave, often only after helping pick up trash.

An Ultra never stops supporting. Long after the songs have quieted, long after the field goes back to high school gridiron, they are still telling people about the great game or the last game and you’d swear it was yesterday. There is a sparkle in their eye that only exists when talking about their team. Even if the team fades away. An Ultra picked their side, they won’t change it lightly.

Hooligan has two definitions, and this often leads to confusion when talking across the pond. The American definition of “hooligan” is generally the same as an Ultra or Supporter who’s had a few too many. For an American, a Hooligan is that fan who curses and yells and gets thrown out. In Europe hooliganism is something much worse. A hooligan there is someone who comes to the game looking for a fight or to start a riot. So that is how “Hooligans for Heroes” in America is a completely positive thing (check them out, it is a charity that supports wounded veterans through soccer events).

Ultras and Supporters in the United States might often use the term “hooligan” to refer to themselves, but if you are European or just more used to the European phrase, understand that 99% of Ultras and Supporters in the US are committed to eradicating hooliganism. Violent or unruly people are often removed from the stands. Racist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory language is nearly universally banned.

As an added bonus let me also talk about Squatters. A “squatter” can be any of the above but there is one problem: they aren’t loyal to a team, they are loyal to a league or a future. A Squatter will come and cheer, they might even bring a drum or hang some shitty banners made on bed sheets. But don’t be fooled. They aren’t there to support the team that is playing. They are there to support getting a “better” team (usually an MLS team in soccer) to replace the one on the field.

Usually the first sign is that their group colors clash with those of the team they are rooting for. The second is they often distance themselves on their public media from the team. They talk a lot about “growing the game” and their news might concern anything but the team. They are really fond of teams like Seattle, Orlando, and Atlanta despite the fact that two of those teams have never played a game in MLS and one has never played a game ever.

Often they don’t see “what the big deal” is. They talk about quality of play and how cool it’ll be when they are all on TV. If you call them out for squatting they might quickly release their gear in team colors but they never change their logo.

A lot of fan conflict in American soccer is between Ultras and Squatters because despite a long history of soccer and soccer leagues in the country, to 99% of Americans it started in 1993 with the MLS. And that’s how you get a tier-four team with more history than an entire league put together.

 

Edit:

Dion and I have been chatting about squatters because that’s what we do. He’s made some good points so here are some updated thoughts.

First, some squatters are good at blending in. So they might wear the team colors and you’ll only tell they are squatting from actually talking to them. In Detroit the squatters here wore the colors of an old team (Blue and Orange) which clashed very obviously with Rouge and Gold.

Squatting, like any opinion is also not permanent. Someone might go “I only root for MLS. Oh, wow. This is awesome” and never look back. Don’t think that a squatter is a lost cause. They are just misguided.

Fair-Weather fans are often likely to be a “low-level” or “passive” squatter, though maybe unconsciously. In America there is usually only tier-one sports. They don’t understand that anyone would root for anything but a tier-one team. I don’t give them much grief for this, its annoying – sure – but they assume that this is what everyone wants. It is your job as a supporter or an ultra to tell them why this is wrong, and to do so constructively.

But you should know that already. Supporters and Ultras should want more people to become crazy like them. This isn’t supposed to be an elite club of people who “get it.” The team needs fans and fair-weather people to survive. Season tickets are often heavily discounted. If you support a team you want to keep supporting that, and that means tolerating anyone willing to cash in. Except active squatters. Fuck active squatters.

Because apparently I am a soccer blag

So this went live on Crain’s of Detroit recently so I thought it was about time that I selfishly post my desires for Detroit City FC in the coming season and the coming years. Especially with word that the NCAA’s move to a year-round system could potentially kill the NPSL and that might spell the end for Detroit City.

If that happens expect this blog to go quiet for a while as I pick up the shattered pieces of my life.

But first some of the good from the Crain’s article:

  • Games will be live-streamed – Huzzah, this is awesome and means it can be easier to share the love with friends and family.
  • We’re back to the plastic cards for season tickets – there are actually negatives to this, like it is harder to hand out extras and unused tickets which are great for getting noobs to show, but damn if they don’t look sweet.
  • We sold more tickets in the first 24 hours than we did in the first month last year – that means growth and that is awesome.
  • The servers didn’t burn like last year – this is purely a professionalism thing, but great work!
  • DCFC has begun an ad campaign between English soccer games on Saturdays – perfect.
  • Keyworth stadium is under serious consideration for 2016 – I’m not a fan of Keyworth, I think it is too small. But anything to move upwards.
  • They are looking to diversify investments – this is a big deal with the uphill battle ahead.
  • Andy Appleby, Detroit local and owner of the English side Derby County FC gave us a good word – this will be controversial to some reading, but this is good; it means there is good will there and it can only help or at least keep our FO confident of their progress.

One more thing before the wishlist: NCAA year going round? Well, I can imagine two likely scenarios:

1 – It doesn’t happen. This is completely possible still. It might fall through. The NCAA might be too picky and stuck up to make for a good bedmate with anyone. The USSF might eventually grow sick of trying to deal with it and prefer the tiered system already under their feet. There are also a lot of owners in the NPSL and PDL who have stakes in its continued existence. They might fight back. Might. But probably not.

2 – The NCAA system is chosen and is implemented in the 2016-2017 school year. This gives the NPSL the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a swan song. I’m sorry, but if the NCAA goes year-round the NPSL will collapse. Since most teams are based entirely on unpaid college students, losing them all will doom the system to being nothing more than an adult rec league with stiff travel requirements. This means teams with higher aims better work fast otherwise 2016 will be the second date on their grave stone.

I’m more or less assuming in my head that #2 is the one that will win, so consider that as you go through my wishlist.

KITS

  • Two words: Hooped Kits.
  • Okay serious, concerning kits: start developing a style. That means home kits should be easily recognizable and only differ a little bit from year to year. Experiment with the seconds but try to keep it under control. Have fun with the thirds. Here are all of Newcastle’s home kits from 1893 to now. I can already hear the snoring, but that is what you want.
  • Still on kits (I’m a huge kit nerd, one day I’ll post my Newcastle collection): okay, okay! We are young, we should experiment. Hoops. Moving on.
  • An aside (after a bit of a twitter exchange,): Celtic has been using their white and green hoops since 1889 with the only major change in being to switch from vertical stripes to horizontal hoops in ~1903. Newcastle has been in magpie colors since 1894, switching from blue to black shorts in 1920. Consistency, bitches.

STADIUM

  • The stadium. I looked into the price of aluminum bleachers and my reaction is: “Holy fuck-balls.” The cost for renovating Keyworth Stadium would be $1,000,000 and it is likely not coming from our FO’s pocket. I have ideas on who might be coughing it up (I’ll resist rumor mongering) but regardless of who it is I’d really rather spend the money on something we’d own that is still in Detroit proper. Hamtramck Public Schools will still own Keyworth and that makes the deal iffy to me. However; the railroad tracks and Keyworth’s general ragged look is amazing.
  • If I had to choose anywhere, I’d love a stadium in Cork Town. There is a large Gaelic streak through many of the North Guard and the area has a great number of bars that would help feed and lubricate fans before a match. Plus we’ve already marched through Cork Town so no more cherry-popping homeowners. Eh… maybe that is a bad thing. Bwuhahaha.
  • I’d want 10k minimum with space to expand to 20k or 25k easily. Serving alcohol is a must.

LEAGUE

  • The NPSL is part of our blood. DCFC wouldn’t be half as crazy if it wasn’t for the fact that we come out every week for a tier four team that is cheaper to run over three seasons than Messi’s left testicle. When the Galaxy’s supporters are once again caught only singing when in the lead, they are half-heartily supporting a team with a huge budget, once hosted Footy-Spice, and at the time was sporting “Legend” Donovan. Yet when the Revs tied it all up you were dead silent. Do better. Fucking casuals.
  • I really want to aim for the NASL while keeping the NPSL team alive as a feeder. It let us remain connected to our roots and let the hard-corey of the hard core NGS faithful to have “easy” days. Right now that usually means the often downplayed friendlies against local clubs. When it is just 100 of us we can try new chants, have a bit more fun, and of course attempt to eat nachos.
  • The NASL, I think (and I could be wrong) offers a lot of what the MLS does without the fucking MLS. I fucking hate the MLS. I hope that our FO stays FO and continues to allow the NGS to do what we do best – fuck shit up. And when we are done fucking shit up, building a stronger community through charity games and Hooligans for Heroes.
  • We need a time table for this and it is going to be one hell of a climb out of this fucking hell-hole. I am not a fan of the USL Pro, partially because it is affiliated with the MLS which could potentially make the switch NASL difficult. But also don’t see a reason to go to USL Pro – it seems like an overly expensive NPSL. None of the benefits of the big leagues or the small. Just the negatives.

THE FRONT OFFICE (FO)

  • I actually have a very few “wishes” from the front office. So far in three years they’ve proven to be pretty hands off with the supporters and encouraging of our shenanigans. Now, some people might say “Of course Nick, that is what pays the bills” and to those people I say “I know, seriously.” A lot of owners and even whole leagues in the USA get this so, so wrong. So very, very wrong. It is crazy. But we, the fans of DCFC, have some great owners and a great FO. So “thank you” to all of you. Even Donovan who learned to love/fear me at try-outs. I love you, man.
  • However! However. I would like that they communicate more in the sense of not doing this one week heads up for friendlies and charity events. It doesn’t give us a ton of time. I know they are probably waiting on hearing back, but even a cryptic “save the date” sort of post would work wonders.
  • This goes for the DCFL too.
  • I wanted to play in the fall league, but couldn’t get a team together in the week we had.
  • I’d also like a fan/FO gathering, so that we have a public fora to ask these sorts of things. But I can understand that the FO cannot answer everything, no matter how much I beg.
  • You didn’t do Noël Night, fine. Some of us were looking forward to it but whatever. Fuck up Paddy’s Day and I swear from Cork Town to Cork City I’ll be rather upset.
  • Speaking of Paddy’s, Green kits. Just saying.
  • And an official tartan. I can make that if you want to commission it.

Anyway, I need to wrap up and work on my Gaelic. I’ll end with a fun little anecdote about Mr. Powell. I think it was the first game against Cinnci, a pal and I were wandering around behind the bleachers looking for trouble. Donovan asks how we got back there (because the gates had been locked behind us) and we just laughed and said “Used the gate.”

So to finally answer your question: we walked in before they closed the gate. Hope it doesn’t ruin the illusion.

Dear National Premier Soccer League

Dear National Premier Soccer League (aka NPSL or NP$L),

If you have to include the exact words “yet another team” in your press release about yet another fucking team you’ve added… YOU’VE ADDED TOO MANY FUCKING TEAMS.

Consider for a second every other time you’ve ever used the words “yet another” anything. I’m guess it was negative. That’s because this is negative, and your poor story writer knows it. They know it. You know it. We all fucking know it.

Stop.

Just… just stop.

You rejected Grand Rapids, I think that one was questionable leaning toward a good idea. You turned down Real Ann Arbor Athletic Association Football Club United Town, that was a really smart idea.  Then you let in FC Indiana because… not enough teams north of Indianapolis? Need to capitalize off the Indy 11 and Chicago Fire just a little bit more?

Come here. Come here!

National Premier Soccer League, come here this instant!

The fuck?

The. Fuck?

The Midwest is full. We have enough of these fucking “grow the game,” no fans, no fun, no smoke, crush the spirit of everyone around teams, that do nothing to grow the game but make it slightly less socially acceptable to support anything lower than first-tier soccer.

This league is full of joke clubs and joke owners who want nothing more than the satisfaction of wanking off to the idea that they own a sports team. That some how because they pay $10k a year or whatever and throw eleven college-aged players and maybe a dinosaur or two onto the field they are the next Dan Gilbert or Mike Ilitch.

They do NOTHING to grow the game. NOTHING to grow the league. NOTHING to become a part of their community. They are coasting by, riding the coattails of the few teams that actually manage to try.

Teams who know supporters, not soccer moms, fill wallets and seats rather than just seats. Teams and owners, who like their supporters, likely dream of a day when they can move to a league that doesn’t add or lose a dozen teams a year.

Stop watering down your product, NPSL, even Budweiser thinks you’ve gone a bit too far.

But thanks for killing those insufferable twats in A2.

Sincerely,

Nick

 

PS/EDIT:

completely forgot to add Fuckyouazard! So here he is:

Fuckyouzard

Game Day

Newcastle plays today.

We have some good form behind us after months of suffering. Today’s opponent is QPR, one of the worst in the league. A month ago they were ahead of us, today they are half a table behind. We have a good chance today to push forward, though many of my fellow toons are worried. It wouldn’t be unlike Newcastle to lose this one.

Kendal Town plays today as well. They are already one up on their opponents.

Detroit City’s season is a far off tropical island, its alluring and sunny shores calling gently to me through the wind and ice.

Game day is one of the  few times I completely block off from any writing. During the DCFC season that might mean not writing all day. I spend all day in downtown drinking, reveling, partying, and supporting.

But in the midst of winter, when my beloved magpies play, things are different. As of writing we are in the 37th minute, 0-0, though we’ve had plenty of good chances. Something has to break eventually. Hopefully in our advantage. Since I don’t live in England, I don’t go to Newcastle games. I might comment and commiserate on /r/NUFC and that is about it. I’ll chance that eventually.

There are Newcastle fans in Detroit. I’ve met  a few through DCFC, including one of the fan-favorite players: Dave Edwardson, who is a Newcastle native.  Unlike clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and the Manchesters; there really aren’t Newcastle watch parties in the USA. There aren’t more than a handful of us in any given city.

2 minutes of stoppage.

As I sit here, not writing in my book but writing here and watching the Newcastle game, I think about travelling to Newcastle next year and catching a game in St. James.

Half-time in Newcastle, all tied up 0-0.

On an only tangentially related note I should learn Arabic. That way I could understand the commentators on this stream. I’ll add it to the list after Hindi, Farsi, and Urdu so I can understand the other engineers at work.

Half-time in Kendal Town, all tied up 1-1.

Going to call it quits for a while. Writing resumes after the game. This is my little sports break for the week. I can’t spend all my time working.

Sláinte.