It seems like it’s been twenty years since we started this supporters group called the Gem City Squadron.
Ty West and others helped make a few determined and vocal fans become a growing supporters group for the football club the Dayton Dynamo FC. I’ve been a part of this group from the very beginning and I must say it has been a journey. I take in every moment, whether it’s dealing with what chants to use or organizing a watch party. It’s a lot of work through the off season, but when we get close to the first match day we still can’t wait to get the drums in place, get our voices in gear, and be ready to offer support to the men or women on the pitch to keep fighting on.
One thing I realized very early is we won’t be the next Timbers Army (Portland Timbers FC) or the Northern Guard (Detroit City FC) overnight. No, this will be a long process of meeting people, reaching out to the city, connecting with fellow fans, and introducing would be fans to the beautiful game through our group. I wish I could tell you there is some magic dust that will bring throngs of supporters from the city and suburbs to come to be a part of this local soccer experience.
What I can tell you is if you are willing to take the time and effort to make the dream happen, eventually people will be drawn to your group. When your group is having a blast the stands at your team’s match will become the place everyone wants to be. What it will take from everyone involved is imagination, inspiration, insight and inventiveness.
Let me try and walk you through five essentials steps that any organizer should take to raise your supporters group from the ground.
1. What will you name your group?
The name of your supporters groups is as important as deciding to support your new club. The name of your supporter’s group should identify with these key points:
• The history of your city.
• The background of your community.
• The colors that represent your city.
• The identity of your club.
These things are important to establish so everyone can rally around it and cement the group’s presence both with the players, the front office, and the (growing) fan base.
2. What type of group are you going to be?
When you look at supporters groups from around the world there are many types out there. You could be the fun loving type or the celebratory type. Or will you be the menacing type that brings smoke and sound with a hard core attitude to every match?
The best advice is to be actively conscientious of the people who want to be involved in the supporters group as well as your own preferences. What groups do you enjoy watching at matches? Do you like the sound a furry of Timbers Army? Are you drawn to the passion shown before and during the matches from Detroit City FC’s NGS? Do you enjoy what Latino supporters groups in Central and South America bring?
Maybe you want add each element of these groups together and create your own style?
Whatever you and your fellow members decide to do always remember that while you do it to support the players on the pitch and urge them on, you also want to bring a style which draws others to be a part of your group. You have to find the perfect balance between being fervent supporters and genuinely apart of your city’s culture.
3. Have the front office on speed dial!
The one thing every supporters group want to be is involved.
This means within the growth of the club’s presence, identity and exposure within the city. If the owner and the staff is familiar with the area than connections won’t be too hard to make. If not, then sometimes being the supporters group in the area can be that bridge between the staff and the area the team represents. You can be the ears and eyes for them as you let them know of events, people to connect with in local businesses, media, etc.
In return, the front office will know who you are and understand that you can be a great resource for the club. Plus, when planning to expand they will have your group in mind regarding any and all events because a supporters group is the heart and soul of a club.
4. Make Some Noise!
If you are going to be any type of sustained group you MUST…MAKE…NOISE!
Drums, horns, hands, voice; whatever will keep the beat going to help the players and push your club to the next level. When you wear the supporters group badge, everyone has a share of the responsibility to go the full 90 minutes drumming, blowing their horns or leading in chants.
A series of chants you can use throughout the match is key to get the crowd and players synced together. Whether if it is the standard “I believe that we will win”, “We love you, we love you, we love you, and everywhere we’ll follow…”, or some other standard chant used the world over, find a few to keep you and the players engaged.
If you do have a creative person who can come up with a good lyric or two, make up your own chants or songs that are unique to your club. This brings creativity and a certain inventiveness to the table and unique songs give an identity to your group and your club.
Here’s an example of stand out songs to famous clubs:
You can’t imagine these iconic clubs without these songs sung throughout the arena by supporters. Groups starting out can find a song that fits your identity and city or create one which friend and foe can identify.
Find a song that is catchy, witty, and (sometimes) moving. Make it a one of kind song where people can get behind it, especially when your club needs a moment of inspiration to push them forward to win the match. And as someone told me, “make sure it is simple so everyone can pick it up with ease and join in without much work.”
5. Create an identity you are proud to wear
Nothing completes your new supporters group more than having a logo or emblem which solidifies what your group is and what you represent. It’s the type of emblem that’ll make people take notice when you put your logo on everything from stickers to scarves. When you create this look it has to be something which catches people’s eyes and makes them see how much you represent your city.
When creating the logo for the Gem City Squadron the logo played on the “gem” look, the Dayton Dynamo FC club colors as well as the city of Dayton’s flag. From there it is displayed on scarves, shirts, etc. This is but one eay for a young supporter group to create a brand which honors the city and club while honing in on creating a look which people will identify with.
So go on, soccer fans, get your supporter group off the ground.
Launching a new group won’t be easy on any level; you will be working some hard days and nights pulling it all together. But in the long run when you are in your designated section, you have scarves raised in the air, the drum is banging, the ball is in play, and you and your mates are singing your heart out because you want your new club to succeed you will come to the realization that yes…yes, this is our support group and the journey is about to begin.