Seeds Planted for Soccer Growth in Capital CityNorthern California moves to quickly embrace the world's game
by Frankie Devai | Monday, July 22, 2013
And while the owners of its new professional soccer team, Sacramento Republic FC, might not have known about the nickname, the results of their methods show ideas that are helping grow a new team and fan base organically.
It reflects the cities’ moniker perfectly.
July 18th was a special day, dubbed “Sacramento Soccer Day,” as there was an event organized by the new teams ownership to help promote the Republic’s arrival here in the Capital City.
In a testament to the region’s love of soccer, and with a relatively modest advertising campaign, more than 14,000 fans (sellout) gathered together inside Raley Field.
They joined together to celebrate the beautiful game, and at the very least this event demonstrated the hunger for professional sports here in town.
Even more evident was the love this community has for soccer. In-between 2 exhibition matches, the details for the new team were unveiled.
Sacramento Republic FC will play in Sacramento starting in April 2014.
Partnering up with Sac. City College, the team will play all of its home games inside recently renovated Hughes Stadium, a local landmark whose proximity to downtown further helps tie the team to the city.
What creates an avid fan base?
A community coming together to celebrate its differences while also enjoying a shared passion helps create genuine fans – the ones who paint their faces and sing their lungs out for all 90 minutes of a match.
Smart organizations grow a team, and because teams eventually represent their cities, regions and, by extension, the fans themselves, this process must be done delicately.
To this end, the new team has done a very good job of laying down solid roots within the local soccer community. The Republic promoted a vote, which engaged the local soccer fan base to help name the team and select the colors.
Brilliant, really. Because when you name something, don’t you love it just that much more?
Already these efforts have borne fruit in The Tower Bridge Battalion (@Sac_Battalion), which is a local group of hardcore soccer fans who also love their city. And a wonderful effort has been made by SRFC officials to embrace their passion that was just waiting to be unleashed.
The TBB started organizing viewing parties of USMNT games at local bars to build camaraderie; they have written new lyrics to familiar songs that will be sung during upcoming home games.
In the days prior to the 1st exhibition, TBB organized together to paint the large banners, which helped unveil the new logo and name of the team during the exhibition Thursday night.
Organizing the fans prior to the team arriving has been incredibly smart, going so far as to reach out and include them in the following video (I’m still humming along).
Historically, Sacramento soccer normally begins and ends with the Sacramento Knights, (with apologies to the Sacramento Gold, a NPSL team).
The Knights were a professional indoor soccer team that established a decent but ultimately underwhelming fan support during its run from 1993 to 2001. The team even won a championship, but it was an ambitious idea a few years too early. Average attendance rarely exceeded 6,000 people per match.
Additionally, being owned by the Sacramento Kings NBA team sealed their fate. The Maloof Family, which owned the Kings, looked to cut costs in many ways after purchasing the Kings and the Knights were quick to see the axe.
However, the Sacramento region has continued to embrace soccer with prolific high school programs providing players to the college ranks and a few local products have even made MLS.
The ownership group has been very clear about its MLS aspirations. Team President Warren Smith and his group are clearly following the road map drawn out by the Portland Timbers, who also started as a USL PRO team.
The team further signaled its MLS aspirations by hiring Predrag Radosavlijevic or “Preki”, a former USMNT player and a popular one at that. At a special event organized prior to the 18th, manager Preki stated to local fans and businessmen about the team's ultimate goal.
"I'm going to set the bar high,” he said. “When I say that, I mean MLS."
Vancouver, Seattle and Montreal are also clubs that started at the USL level and promoted into the MLS ranks after establishing sponsors and fan-bases large enough to sustain the jump.
By building a passionate fanbase with solid attendance, each of these clubs have promoted successfully to the MLS. Sacramento seeks to join them.