Let’s face it, Wednesday night’s FC Cincinnati vs. Crew SC match is going to be HUGE. The stakes of the game are big, ticket sales are high and the dialogue on social media has been extreme. I wanted to dive down into a topic on the upcoming match that has drawn criticism and praise on the interweb over the past couple days. Why is FC Cincinnati accommodating Crew SC with a large supporters section in Nippert? I wanted to hear the thoughts from the club and SG leaders on what went into this decision for the biggest game in club history. I hope you enjoy.
When it was announced that we had the chance to host Crew SC at home in the US Open Cup, I was ecstatic! An MLS Club coming to play at our house in front of a hostile environment was all I could ask for as an FCC supporter. Now, to be frank, our boys are the underdogs so playing this at home is huge. We as the Orange & Blue faithful can be loud and help turn the match as the 12th man.
Earlier this week a Last Word on Soccer story noted that over 1,100 Crew supporters could span up to four sections in Nippert Stadium on Wednesday. As an FC Cincinnati supporter first and foremost, I was blown away! I don’t want to give the visiting team and their fan base room to negate our home field advantage, especially if we don’t have to. This includes drums, flags, tifo’s or setting aside room for a large supporters section. Many have shared similar thoughts so I wanted to dive deeper into finding why/how an opposing club could have such a large organized presence at Nippert.
I went to two people to help me understand why Crew SC supporters were given help in organizing themselves in Nippert vs. having a smattering of Black & Gold speckles in a sea of Orange & Blue. My first, FC Cincinnati’s Sr. Director of Communications Fumi Kimura, provided me with a statement from the club.
“FCC worked with Columbus Crew SC’s fans much in the same way we do with any other team’s fans and supporter groups. We organize a phone call to get an indication of how many are expected to travel and invite them to use a group portal that has been established, allowing them to sit together. We also use the call as an opportunity to communicate our policies that make up our fan code of conduct.
With the number of Crew SC fans purchasing tickets, we made the decision to remove the tarp in 102 so that they would be able to sit together. Should the response from Columbus continue to be healthy, we would also consider removing the tarp in 103. We are always appreciative of fans who travel to support their team at FCC matches and would do our best to accommodate them to add to the positive and passionate environment fans have come to expect at FCC matches.”
So, point one in understanding this situation is that FCC wanted to give Columbus equal treatment and to create a precedent for future potential matches between the clubs. FC Cincinnati, like in most cases, has been proactive in making sure future problems or concerns would be addressed. Setting the expectations for Crew fans would also allow them to support within our set of rules. Could you imagine the negative press or thoughts at the MLS office in NYC if we mistreated Columbus?
My second contact was Jared Handra, Vice President of Die Innenstadt, one of the larger FC Cincinnati supporters groups. My questions to him were more in reference to the supporters document below. Handra also told me that DI was an avenue Crew supporters used to communicate with the FCC FO so they could plan ahead for the match.
In that document, it states that Crew supporters in the SG sections can bring in flags, two poles, and drums. This was news to me as I was always under the impression that opposing supporters were not allowed to bring these items into Nippert. Handra informed me that “when working with the club, we wanted to give other SG’s certain privileges that we would want if we traveled to their stadium.” As an example, Handra brought up the fact that we get to travel to Louisville twice this season. “If we treat other SG’s negatively, what is to make them allow us to bring our items into their stadium?”
It is a smart way to look at things. “Listen, some of these things can be a double-edged sword,” said Handra. “Yeah, allowing the opponents SG to organize and be crazy could hurt our home field advantage. This is when we really need the Bailey to step up. Imagine if the entire Cincinnati vs. Columbus match can be like the last 20 minutes of Louisville. When I started with DI, that’s what I was aiming for and I hope it can sustain itself in all our matches.”
From additional comments by Handra, it seems that the majority of the Cincinnati SG leadership would like a healthy Crew SC presence. DI has even gone to the lengths of inviting Crew SC supporters to their pregame location at Mecklenburg Gardens. As a team that plays in a different division, I think this is a pretty cool idea. Fostering connections between these two clubs now could help in our growth toward MLS and the Crew’s support in that bid.
To me, our MLS bid is the most important consideration into FCC helping Crew SC supporters attend. Take a look at it this way. What matches does MLS push to their national broadcast partners? Rivalries. Handra brought this up during our conversation. “What is Columbus’ main rival? The Trillium Cup with Toronto?! With FC Cincinnati they wouldn’t have a rivalry that is manufactured and this match could really help create that for the future.”
What could be better for a Cincinnati MLS bid than Columbus Crew SC as an advocate? Columbus has never really had a great location for their supporters to travel to like Cincinnati can offer. 3 or 4 matches every year between these two clubs could bring an added financial windfall for both clubs. Replace a 12,000 attended mid-week match with a 25,000+ attended match once or twice a year could bring excitement and help either club bring in new fans. What are always the best attended Reds or Bengals games? The Cubs or Steelers, local rivalries.
Am I in love with the fact that Columbus will have 1,000+ screaming fans at field level? No. I’d rather stick them up to in the 200 sections separated and away from the field just like several college football programs do. But, I do understand the reasons why FCC are giving them the chance to sit where they are.
“This gives us a chance to measure ourselves vs. a group of supporters that have had 20+ years to organize and learn chants,” says Handra. The Bailey had a solid corps of supporters in 2016, but with Bailey season tickets sold out in 2017, there has been a great positive growth in the organization of chants and noise coming from the north side of Nippert.
So, the cards have been dealt. The Nordecke is going to have a big presence at Nippert. It is time for us as supporters to come prepared and be loud next Wednesday. See you there!