I sat down with Ryan Lammi, founder of Die Innenstadt, the newest FC Cincinnati Supporters’ Group, to talk with him about how the group got started, what they’ve got planned for matchday, and his thoughts on the club.
History & Purpose
6DS: How and why did you form your group?
RL: After the initial announcement of FC Cincinnati, there were three groups, The Pride (a general one), The Den (families), and The Cardiac Cats (college students). Without kids and not being a student, I only fit in The Pride. I sent them a few messages, but they didn’t have any ways for me to get involved and I didn’t see a whole lot of movement with events and meetings. I was worried that the ideas that I had wouldn’t happen so I thought I’d see if there was any interest in a second supporters group (SG). I put the idea out on Reddit that I was interested in starting a new SG, not a general one, but one focused on love of the city and Downtown, OTR. Based on response, eight of us met in December. We came up with a name and Ronny Salerno (who runs a cool blog called Queen City Discovery and just published a really good FC Cincinnati article) did the logo. We inadvertently went public in January when I followed Wrong Side from the group’s twitter and then it was everywhere.
Why did you want to make a SG?
I was excited when the team was announced and my passion for soccer keeps growing as we get closer. I wanted it to be an experience that I was going to have a lot of fun with. I was a Reds season ticket holder. It’s great. I love the Reds, but this is more exciting and the fanbase of soccer is about community. I wanted to just join a community but since it wasn’t happening, I decided to push forward. I really love our city and its motto, Juncta Juvant — Strength in Unity — and want to make it a feature of the things we do. I think it would be cool to unite everyone in support of our team.
Why the name?
It means “The Inner City” in German (pronounced “dee inn-inn-stahdt”). It was a tough process choosing it. We were throwing out a ton of names with parts like inner city and urban basin and downtown. We wanted to keep that as a focus but (the name) being in German was a way to point to the city’s roots but also to keep it open to interpretation. We don’t want people to think that if they live outside of downtown, they can’t join. It also doesn’t pin us to any individual neighborhood or as Eastsiders or Westsiders. I also think it sounds pretty cool.
Do you have the goal of being the largest SG?
If we were the biggest, that would awesome. As a number, we’ve ordered 150 scarves and I think we will pretty easily sell out. It’s a friendly rivalry with the Pride; we’ll see where they shake out. Competition is good, right? Our goal is to get as many members as possible. I was at the MLS Cup Final and there was a lot of controversy with the division among the Crew groups versus the unified Timbers Army. We want a big turnout. We want to coordinate with the Pride. We want to be huge against our local rivals, Pittsburgh and Louisville. With Louisville being the second match, we think we’ll have a big turnout for that and that will help really drive us forward.
What is your personal SG experience?
I’ve been in the Nordecke and Saints things and I played soccer growing up, but I think my strengths are coordinating people who have experience, drawing people in. We have a Borussia Dortmund season ticket holder and we’ve got Crew supporters but there are people in the city who will be drawn to us because we’re passionate and willing to do the work.
Why are you against sponsors?
We take the independent thing pretty seriously, especially with how the club has already gotten flak for its corporate nature. People already accused us of being an in-house fabrication. We’re not going to be “Die Innenstadt sponsored by Whoever.” We don’t want to create any kind of arrangement where we would feel obligated to act a certain way or do something that our members didn’t want.
Why Rhinegeist & the March?
I wanted a home base that was true to our mission of supporting the Inner City and that was the closest to the stadium. I came up with an idea of marching from Rhinegeist up the steps of Ohio Avenue to Nippert Stadium on Matchdays. I thought a march would be fun and unique, a way to be visible to the public, and be a way to really unify our group with an experience. I don’t think anyone else does something like that.
What are your Tifo plans?
Our Dortmunder has really taken the reigns and is leading in this area with a couple other people. We’ve got some cool ideas and a mini-tifosweat working on them. A lot of our members are Crew (supporters) and we will probably draw a lot of the things that we like from that mentality. We’ve ordered a ton of flags as well and are looking into a drum. We specifically chose the section of the Bailey across from the away fans because we want to prove that we’re louder. We’re working on shirts and other merchandise, too.
How do you feel about Capos?
I think it’s important to have people who are willing to be excited to start things, but I don’t necessarily want official capos. We plan on writing a charter this summer and we’ll review at the end of the year and we’ll see what the members vote for.
Are you an ultra?
No. It’s going to be a while before we have a gameday identity. We’re gonna have smoke bombs and flags and we’re going to be loud, but we don’t want the anger and aggression of that.
What events plans do you have?
Before it was just me planning events and coming up with things to keep it moving, and this group was never going to get off the ground. We now have a better structure. We recently had 15-20 people show up for a planning meeting and we started to divide out responsibilities and set up different committees for events, matchday, merchandise, etc. We are walking in the Bockfest parade (March 4th). It’s my favorite weekend of the year. It’s the weirdest weekend in Cincinnati, and being there will really show our connection to OTR, the inner city, and it’ll be a good opportunity to be in front of those people.
We’ve split ownership of the preseason friendlies with the Pride, so we will be leading on the next match vs NYCFC at Rhinehaus (2/24 at 5pm). We also want to do an event with the EPL community at Rhinehaus and Molly’s and reach out to those supporters and hear what they want from an SG. Talking to different people in that community, a lot of them haven’t really been contacted by the club or other SGs, and it seems obvious to try to get some of the biggest soccer fans in Cincinnati involved.
What interactions do you have with the club?
They invited us to a meeting in the next week or so but other than that, pretty minimal. We haven’t asked them for anything, and at the moment we don’t really need anything from them.
What are some concerns you have with the club?
They started off pretty poorly, they continued to not do themselves any favors. We got a lot of “why aren’t the SGs telling the FO to get it together” online, but we’ve had so much work to do that we haven’t even had time to do that. I do think they’ve started to change things a bit; hiring DJ (Switzer, of Wrong Side of the Pond fame) was part of that. Events would be the best thing that they could do, things geared towards soccer fans. If I had to guess, it seems like the team thought soccer fans would just rally behind them and they didn’t need to market to them, but I think their marketing actively turned people away. I hope they’re listening to our concerns, but it seems like their tune has changed even if their actions haven’t.
What is the best thing that they’ve done?
The team looks great with former MLS players and internationals, a great staff, but the biggest thing is getting the fans into the stands. Our job is to get fans in the stands and get people excited and have such a good environment that we are able to build from there.
Anybody who has been cautious about getting involved, hopefully the next few weeks with pre-season matches and events and the first couple home matches prove that we are invested in the team and the city. We want to be the voice of people who don’t feel engaged right now. This whole thing is about community and bringing people together and I think our group will be successful at creating that through events and matchday experience. You can still be involved without getting a membership, but if you’d like they’re $20 and come with a scarf.