Over the past couple of days there's been a lot of talk about MLS Detroit. First the annoying puns between two ridiculously rich NBA owners, Grant Wahl's breaking of the story, and then a press conference yesterday. While the talk was at first about the potential of bringing Detroit City FC into the MLS, it has quickly becoming apparent that that's not going to happen.
Why should we care?
First, if you ask that question, then you need to read this Howler article on the club and its supporters.
Ok, got it? Moving on. In one aspect it is about fairness. A group of passionate people worked for five years to build a club and connection with the community that is unprecedented in fourth tier American soccer. They may be dicks on twitter and worthy of mocking for their faux hooligan fashion choices (seriously, though this piece wasn't entirely about you guys) but their commitment of time and effort can't be debated. They deserve a shot on a larger stage. They've earned it.
A lot of people in this city weren't Saints fans but it is a miniature comparison. Dave Satterwhite and soccer people in Cincinnati spent a lot of time and effort to try to build something that could eventually move up to something bigger. While the club didn't have the resources to propel it there, another one came in and supplanted it. FCC have been successful so far because they had money to spend on ads, stadium rental, players, famous coaches, etc. That's not right or wrong but it disincentives the hard, grassroots work of building the game in favor of simply finding a willing billionaire.
Life's not fair. I get it. Not to get all hokey and American dream on everyone but fairness is what we aspire to and fairness is what we let people do. "That's just business," completely encapsulates the meh response that some people have towards this but as Bill Shankly said, "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that."
To us this game means more than just business thus the phrase, "supporters not customers."
On a broader scale it is about the soul of the sport. Even though I'm not a soccer originalist, I can see the huge differences between watching soccer ten years ago verses today. The first time I went out to a pub in the morning was in 2012. It was maybe ten guys on the patio at the Pub in Rookwood. Now we've had early morning matches at Rhinehaus that break the fire code and we fit over 20,000 into Nippert. The business rules and culture of this sport are changing.
FC Cincy broke those rules on building a soccer club in America. The process used to be: get a group of diehard soccer fans, get them to commit to buying season tickets, have that core evangelize and convince their friends to commit as well, and then finding a rich guy to bankroll the whole thing. FCC skipped right ahead to the rich guy step (no attempt to contact the local soccer community). I think this fundamentally changes the relationship of a club with its fans. There's less communication and trust, less responsibility from the club to its fans (the fans didn't help build it, they just show up), and less buy-in from both. I don't think this is a good way to go about setting up a club.
This MLS Detroit thing is one step further, actively ignoring one of the most organized soccer supporters groups in the country.
This seems like madness and the only reason I can foresee in doing it would be to have complete control of a new club and thus avoid making deals with fundamentalist soccer fans of the old one. It very well might be successful. I thought FC Cincy would fail without an SG that was active prior to announcing. We can certainly say this new, potential club won't be recognizable as anything like the Detroit soccer that its fans have worked so hard to build.