Craters in the Landscape: A Supporter’s Call to Arms

The New York soccer landscape had such promise for this season late into the playoff push last season. As it stood in early November, the New York Red Bulls was slaying demon after demon and making a deep run into the playoffs, New York City FC was making splashy signings left and right, and ticket sales weren’t slowing down, and the New York Cosmos seemed hot on the tails of players who seemed to be big fish for second division American soccer.

As the offseason came, however, bombshell after bombshell landed for the Red Bulls and NYCFC, and all that we as New York sports fans see are the problems inherent in the teams we claim to support. Below is a summary of the current, broken state of the New York soccer landscape.

Red Bull, as an ownership group, does not understand the importance of supporters, and chooses to gamble with their loyalty in a quest for some unknown goal decided behind closed doors in Austria. Perhaps (hopefully), the ownership hopes to accrue value in order to sell the team, at the lowest cost to the front office possible, resulting in stingy funding for a behemoth structure supporting two full rosters and facilities worthy of many European teams.

More likely, the blasphemous decisions of Red Bull have been the latest stage in an international dick waving contest between absentee owners.

Across town, an equally misguided ownership group has begun attempting to wrest control off the New York Market from the void left by the Red Bull project. Currently, this void is filled with eurosnobs, a lackadaisical marketing group in Harrison, and a sub-par product on the field from Long Island. The Cosmos, to a greater extent than any other NASL team, exist to inflate the hubris of a league which refuses to accept its second division status- an insult to the club’s supporters who deserve a realistic front office.

New York City FC was created to pry the New York soccer landscape from the fingers of Saturday morning supporters – day drinkers who prefer to cheer at the television than attend an actual game. Eurosnobbery is rampant in New York, and this is a huge reason that New York is considered to be such a huge untapped market.

The Red Bulls, after twenty years, has been relatively unsuccessful (for want of trying) to make a dent in the ranks of the eurosnobs, as have the Cosmos. While the Red Bulls have picked up their own perpetual momentum, gaining fans organically while not targeting a specific market, Cosmos have specifically focused on the nostalgia of a retro brand to bring around the soccer fans of yesteryear, and inspire the hipster nation of Brooklyn to support a club with history, much like the Timbers have been able to do in Portland.

Instead, the product we’ve been given was an aggressive marketing campaign in the first year of the club’s existence backed by a septuagenarian from the NASL past, and empty lacrosse stadiums filled only partially by the Borough Boys and Barra del Cosmos.

City has been equally unsuccessful in tapping the eurosnob market, as became evident at this year’s super draft. Although the Third Rail appears to be a large supporters group, quantity does not equal quality, as the majority of their supporters seem unsure of what to do with themselves, and organizing songs and cheers seems much more difficult than it should be for supporters.

This may be due to the breakdown of their supporters. While they do have certain offshoots of former Red Bulls “supporters,” these are truly not supporters at all, as any true supporter knows that you do not abandon the team you love for a shiny new toy. The rest of their supporters can be forgiven for being unsure of how to support, as all of their experience with soccer comes from the world cup, and good on them for entering the realm of club soccer.

The Red Bulls is not without sin either. While the club has some of the oldest and loudest supporters groups in New York, the supporter groups can not seem to ever stop bickering amongst themselves, preventing them from truly making a difference in their revolt against the front office. And this is where the call to arms must be sounded. Supporters, this is your city, these are your clubs.

You deserve the greatest clubs in the world in the greatest city in the world, but to have that, the support has to be strong, and be unified. As much as the Red Bulls and the Cosmos and NYCFC will hate each other and love to beat the cr** out of each other, the best thing that can happen for soccer in this city is strong support for every club.

Every supporter has a responsibility to his club and to his supporters group to support his club in full voice, and to grow his supporters group. Introduce your friends and your family to the soccer world. Become informed about the goings on of your team and other teams in the area. Change happens when the informed majority causes change, but the informed majority must exist before that change can happen.

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7 thoughts on “Craters in the Landscape: A Supporter’s Call to Arms”

  1. Im an exredbull supporter. I don’t live in New York and I don’t have a team where I live. I picked to support RBNY because Henry, red bull money, and hey it’s New York. I was done with RB half way through last season. Why keep supporting a “product” that, like you said in your article, doesn’t care abut about the supporters? U.S. open cup and ccl results helped me with my decision. So I was done. Who do I pick next.
    City was the obvious choice.
    For me, Patrick Mullins is a home town boy. Villa and Lampard are on the team. And an assload of money will be spent on the on field product.
    I believe it’s pretty organic that I’m rooting for a team that’s not even played a match yet. No?

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  2. Talk about craters, I would have like to have seen you explore the immense opportunity squandered by Ali Curtis to win the New York market.

    Petke was an inspired hiring and he was producing results. Regardless of his perceived subpar acumen for the technical aspects of the game, he was an inspiring coach who connected with fans, stood by players under fire, and got wins. His connection to the New York market allowed him to transcend the truth that we support a team named after an energy drink.

    He finally injected a genuine pride for who we are and what we stand for.

    New York City FC’s dealings with Frank Lampard showed that the club is just a vehicle for promoting the MCFC brand and that the owners care about MCFC more than they do NYCFC fans.

    Red Bull under Petke was the antithesis of that. Instead of wielding this difference, Curtis decided to be exactly what NYCFC is – tone deaf and disconnected from the fans.

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  3. “City has been equally unsuccessful in tapping the eurosnob market, as became evident at this year’s super draft. Although the Third Rail appears to be a large supporters group, quantity does not equal quality, as the majority of their supporters seem unsure of what to do with themselves, and organizing songs and cheers seems much more difficult than it should be for supporters.”

    Have you thought, possibly, that there are a large number of us, supposedly “unsure of what do with [ourselves]” because we are, in fact, new to this arena – finally having a true New York team for us to support? Also, given the way you’ve spent so much time whining about the Red Bulls and their history, how has the Red Bulls’ supporters “high level” of organization benefited them?

    You, we, have a new team, and new supporters group, and everyone attempting to find their voice and niche.

    Admittedly, there have been missteps.

    But I much rather make those missteps and correct them as part of a foundation for larger things to come, than to have them permeate the structure created and feign ignorance about their existence.

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    1. I agree with your points about the Third Rail, and I think that the organization of supporters groups for the Red Bulls has been hindered by the divisions between the separate supporters groups which occupy the South Ward at RBA. The informed minority within the ranks simply cannot get along with each other, and on certain topics, like the Petke debacle, differences have to be put aside and a unified approach is much more valuable and important for the supporters of the team.

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  4. I’d love to know from what lofty perch you wrote this blog, but did you write “God’s Ultimate Guide To Being a New York Football Supporter” before, or after you produced this misguided call to arms? Judging by the last two paragraphs, you mean well, but the blanket judgements that you pass on each of the supporters groups are guaranteed to piss off and alienate each reader before they bet to that part. As a supporter of the EPL I guess I am one of your “Eurosnobs”, but show me where there’s better football and I’ll follow it. Or at least offer me a local club to support, and I’ll do so.

    The Red Bulls do not make the grade, as they exist only to move product. They are a moving billboard for Red Bulls brand. They will do as well as they need to, in order to shine a positive light on Red Bull – and no better. Their management has made this abundantly clear. (NB – NYCFC has similarly been accused of being a billboard for Man City, but that’s for later.)

    The Cosmos are trying so hard to be the little club that could. They are hopelessly doomed to failure – they are in a league with no west coast footprint, no television coverage, no affiliations, and worst yet: their arch-rival league has just applied for the same D2 status that they possess. And that rival has the major affiliation that they lack. They are fighting the good fight, but they cannot win, and they just don’t know it.

    And so we come down to NYCFC – a football pedigree (of dubious quality, to be sure), and playing in a stadium that lends them instant credibility: The Yankees, while far from the perfect hosts, do not associate themselves with losers. So the pressure is on City Football Group to produce from the start. As for them being Man City billboards, if that is the case, at least it is in the same industry. And a bad NYCFC does not reflect well on the mother ship, again in their own industry. So with pressure to succeed on two fronts (not to mention their fan base), I think it’s safe to say that they are motivated.

    As for your criticism of the Third Rail, I’ll say the same to you as I’ve said in the group: chants, cheers and songs need to grow organically. They cannot all be concieved, written and taught ahead of time. Some will be, as we need to have something at the start. But I’m willing to bet that the ones that you hear next year will NOT be those ones. They will develop on their own, as the best ones always do. The expectation that songs, cheers, chants, and a full-fledged supporters group will just be there out of the box is ludicrous and completely unrealistic, and to call the group lacking because of it just shows a rather embarrassing lack of understanding. Perhaps a study of that Eurosnob football history may just do you some good. Liverpool were playing football for 50 years before “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was written. And do you think Chelsea supporters were singing “Celery” on the first day?

    So again, I can’t criticize your intent, but your execution? Yeah, that sortta sucked.

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    1. You reiterate many of my points, but I have to disagree with you about your rebuttal to my criticism of NYCFC. The argument that Yankee Stadium immediately grants the club credibility is one based on… the baseball prowess of a team that “does not associate themselves with losers.” I struggle to see the association, but maybe you can explain further below. In terms of the Third Rail, it isn’t that I expect new supporters to the sport to be full fledged ultras “out of the box,” but one can expect more of a supporters group than silence after they draft their first player ever, and then chanting while he attempts to make his acceptance speech. You would expect transplanted supporters from the Red Bulls, or the eurosnobs who consider themselves to be real supporters to know what was going on and help the new guys get their footing in the supporters world, and put their best foot forward for the rest of the league at the draft. The execution of this article might have sucked, but it has done what it intended to do, to garner debate between supporters, and to rally supporters to their clubs.

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  5. I’ll certainly agree that your intent has been met, and after much discussion with members of the Third Rail, it would seem that many have indeed began internal debates, and have used your article as a rallying cry. With that in mind, if I were wearing a hat I’d tip it to you. You obviously read the landscape much better than I.

    As for my point regarding NYCFC gaining some legitimacy by playing at Yankee Stadium, I stand by it entirely. The agreement between NYCFC and the Yankees implies the Yankees’ approval of the venture. The Yanks are ever conscious of maintaining the brand, and as such do not loan their cherished stadium out to just anyone. As a result of that exclusivity, and with the stadium’s iconic stature, any event connected to the stadium, whether it be a Yankee game, college football game, boxing match, papal visit, or an NYCFC football match, is granted assumed legitimacy by association. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong – it just is.

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