I sat down with the Payne Rankin, the President of The Pride, to talk about his group’s formation, their future plans, and relationship with FC Cincinnati and Die Innenstadt.
6DS: How and why did you form your SG?
Payne Rankin: When we first heard that FC Cincinnati was coming, a couple friends and I got together and starting bouncing around the idea of forming a group. We had heard rumors, specifically WSOTP’s article on them, and we thought if we had a group that might push it across the line. For our name, we saw the logo in that article and we said, “Hey, there’s a lion.” Being a part of an SG was something we had always wanted to do before but there weren’t any opportunities until this came along.
Where do you want to go from here?
Our vision from the very beginning is that we want to be a group that welcomes all kind of people, people who’ve been playing soccer since they were kids, brand new fans, so we can incorporate all different kind of viewpoints. We’re building a community that brings a lot of different soccer voices to the table. Our mission is intentionally ambiguous because we didn’t want to plan what our culture will be. If you try to make a grand ten year plan, you’re almost lying to yourself. This points to our mission statement “We Exist: To gather those who want to grow the game of soccer, within our region and across our nation; To welcome everyone; To be faithful, proud supporters of FC Cincinnati.”
Do you worry by being so open-ended, you will inhibit the development of an identity?
Talking to my friends who had first-person experience with European supporters’ groups, the one theme that seemed to persist was that the away fans that they liked the most and want to be around are the fans who were really passionate but also really friendly and fun. So our goal was to be passionate but be welcoming to away fans, so they hate us for 90 minutes but then we can be friends. I think there’s an appeal to being open to everyone.
How many members do you have and what are the benefits?
About 40 and growing everyday but we just started taking memberships so we could double by the time you publish this. For twenty bucks all members get a membership card, scarf, and we’re working on matchday deals at both of our pubs.
You announced in August but we didn’t see much action until recently, what happened during the hiatus?
I think there was so much behind-the-scenes work that we didn’t anticipate. There’s no handbook for how to do this and we had a three-man team to get it done. We really got to work once the new year hit and Die Innenstadt, a rival, showed up. Ryan (Die Innenstadt’s founder) reached out and I told him that I’d absolutely love for him to be involved but we had nothing to show for that potential involvement. There should have been more delegation and more things done in the public eye but it’s happening now. We had no idea what we were getting into. We had a meeting last week and have started a charter and developed some leadership positions, President, VP, Treasurers, Membership and matchday coordinators, etc. Things now feel completely different. I’m really happy with the state of the group and its potential future.
Do you think FC Cincy fans are handicapping themselves by having two groups? Do you worry about ending up with some of the negative issues of the Nordecke?
We’re very close and we work together on things. I know their inner circle and they’re very passionate, just like us, and I think we’ll push each other to be better. I think it allows more people to be involved in leadership opportunities.
A logo, website, etc are pretty critical things, why did it take so long to get those things done?
Honestly, we wanted to do that in the first month. I don’t have those skills personally or I would have done it. The only blessing in disguise is that we have them just as momentum is taking off right up to the season.
What are your matchday plans?
We’re going to meet up at the Brass Tap for home matches (it’s right across the street from campus) and Molly Malone’s for away games. Ideally we’d be at a soccer bar for both but this just worked logistically. We’re going to work with Die Innenstadt on tifos. Again following the core idea of the group we want to be really supportive of any ideas that people bring to us. So it’s intimidating to start a chant but we want to run with those ideas. We want to close South Market Street, like they do for UC football games and have a beer garden so people can meet up there and then march in with DI to the stadium. Beer will be sold in the stadium but what about tailgating? We found out that they’d have to rent a field to tailgate so we will be able to tailgate nearby but not on campus.
If you’re working together on tifos, right next to each other in the Bailey doing the same chant, why not just combine into one SG?
I think we have slightly different types of people and we might develop creative differences on how we want to take our groups. Yes, there’s an appeal of being one group but I think we can do our own thing separately for the betterment of the team.
What’s your next event?
We’re going to Listermann brewery before the Xavier match and then we’re going to walk over with DI. The match will be completely free.
What about events outside of matchday?
We’re taking it one step at a time. We want to hear from our members if they want more outside events. We don’t want to get burned out on going to matches and then have to do other events as well. Stuff like that will probably happen more in the off-season.
What have you talked with the club about?
We’ve met with the club it feels like a dozen times. We’ve talked about what we want matchday to look like. One of the big things we really pushed for was to have the Bailey be general admission. We also asked all the questions everyone else asked; why the name, why the colors, why the crest. We talked about what they’re doing moving forward, what events they have coming up and how can they leverage us to get more people involved with this idea. We had a bunch of events that were going to happen that just didn’t come to fruition (pub crawl, futsal tournament, charity events, etc).
I think from the start FCC was full of excited, intelligent, good business people but were maybe too excited to do soccer right away and maybe didn’t think all of their decisions to a full logical completion. I think I’ve seen communication and roles improve since then.
What do you think about supporters’ group independence?
Although I have been critical of the club, the one thing I’ve been appreciative of is their stance that they don’t want to run any part of the group for us. I feel connected with many people in the front office because I know they care but I don’t feel as if there’s any invisible hand at play. I think that’s going to continue. We’ve wanted this to be supporter run and we’re gonna keep it that way.
Would you comment on a statement from one of your members about the club paying for transportation and giving you smoke machines and free merchandise?
Those were some things that we were told from the beginning from the front office. That was a swirl of excited conversation in the first week and we haven’t followed up on that.
Tell me about the Supporters’ Summit. (FC Cincy hosted a meeting last week with all the SG’s being invited)
I wasn’t able to go but I heard great things. One takeaway was that the club will offer each group an allotment of away fans tickets.
Any last thoughts?
For so long, building support for FCC was this ethereal thing but in the last few months that’s changed pretty dramatically with us and DI. I think that’s really exciting and I have a lot of hope. I know people have bought in, we just have to do the right thing with their buy-in.