Life After Club
When Eric approached me about his club, it was first to see if our site had any information about his club, Derby City Rovers. I reached out to media figures, other clubs, the league (who were incredibly unhelpful), SG social media accounts - I did what I could, but sadly, I couldn’t deliver any information Eric didn’t have already. The club was silent on every account and site connected to it - Derby City was apparently dead. Eric decided to write about his experience as a supporter of a now defunct club and I very much hope he continues to write with us. His passion and voice shouldn’t be snuffed out by the collapse of a club, no matter how dear it is to him.
- Dan Vaughn
One of the biggest things I’ll ever say, is that no matter how much I may loathe a club, or its support, I would never wish for that club to fold. No one deserves to deal with the loss of their club. But, unfortunately, it is something I’m in the process of dealing with.
My club, Derby City Rovers (DCR), had previously competed in the PDL since 2011. Prior to the 2015 season, DCR were the only club operating at a level above collegiate, in Louisville. That situation changed with the relocation of Orlando City FC to Louisville, to become Louisville City FC. The ripples this move created set the course for what ultimately spelled DCR’s demise.
With the arrival of Louisville City, there was a paradigm shift in the soccer culture in Louisville. Everyone and their brother lined up to hitch their wagons to the new club. As all of the youth clubs, and other junior clubs in Louisville wanted a piece of the sweet sweet professional soccer pie. DCR, however, was not amongst those groups. The club chose to retain its independence and to continue its vision of player development from youth to professional. While I was not privy to what went on behind closed doors, I’ve ascertained that there were attempts made to align the two clubs into one singular vision, but those attempts were rebuffed by the DCR board. This move may have set the stage for issues that were to follow, later.
The story of my involvement with DCR is quite heavily entangled with the story of how Louisville City came to be. I was introduced to DCR via the Louisville Coopers, the supporters group who were the driving force behind Orlando City choosing Louisville as their place to relocate. I was involved heavily in those efforts, helping out where I could. Going to events. Spreading the word. Doing whatever I could to bring awareness to the efforts of the Coopers, and the long-term goal associated with them. Once the spring of 2014 rolled around, everything changed. I was introduced to DCR because of a Coopers event. And gradually from that moment, I drifted away from those roots.
DCR, by its very design, could not compete with Louisville City. It’s like comparing apples to Mick Jagger. As stated previously, DCR fiercely maintained an emphasis on player development. Thus, at times, it would lead to the club having seasons which, by most standards, were mediocre. But, in the five years that I lead the supporters group for the club, four of them were spent in the most competitive division in the PDL. Out of that division, DCR regularly faced three former PDL national championship winners. Those clubs being Michigan Bucks, KW United, and FC London. Unfortunately, now, DCR is not registered for the coming season for the USL League 2, as the PDL has been rebranded. So the future for the club is up in the air.
Supporting a club like DCR was a challenge. There is no glamour in soccer that exists to bridge the collegiate with the professional. The soccer isn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing. And the players aren’t the polished gems that a lot of [televised] collegiate sports would have you believe they are. Add to this, there was a competition for attention. DCR, from the moment Louisville City was announced, had to compete for whatever attention it could get, through whatever means it could find. Which meant that, in a lot of ways, my voice became the way the club was perceived by those who were outside. Using any, and every, medium I could; I would regularly push for awareness of the club. I would regularly advertise for the club. I would share anything and everything I could to bring any attention to the club. Anything really. And somehow, through the most unlikely of events, DCR got coverage from FourFourTwo magazine in 2017. Yet, none of that could boost the number of bodies who lined the fence. Or the voices creating the din. But this was a problem that that club had had, going back to its old River City Rovers days. The club couldn’t afford to advertise. So that made it hard to get word of mouth out.
Even despite all of the frustrations, the politics, the hurt, the anger, the absolute hostility I felt; I still went out and gave that club my all. Even when they were the absolute dregs of the league, doing their based to hold up the weight at the top of the table, from the bottom. It was an experience which taught me a lot. And it was an experience that I was lucky enough to get my children involved in. For that reason alone, all of that was worth it.
Where do I go now? I’m not sure. One of my closest friends and I came up with the idea of a “Supporter for Hire” concept, borrowing heavily from our group name, The Boarding Crew. Take the pirate motif of transience and apply that to how we support clubs. The idea being, that we pick a club wherever we are, and we support them for as long as we are there. Bringing the passion and culture we know, to a club who may not have any.
Something else I’ve found myself involved in, albeit from the fringe, is helping out with the establishment of new clubs. Either through talking about them on the medium of social networking, or throwing around ideas with their founders to try to create a profile for the club that will draw. I remain very active in the soccer culture in the US, working in the lower echelons, trying to help out the clubs I can.
In the time since I learned of DCR not being registered for this coming season, I have found myself being more active, in other means. Through Subbuteo. Through writing for multiple soccer blogs. And through doing my best to help out wherever I can. This is definitely a strange time, being without a club. But I’m still involved. And still putting my energy toward the betterment of the culture in the US, and to a lesser extent abroad. And I’m applying the lessons I’ve learned, in guiding and aiding however I can. There is life after losing your club, it just takes a bit of work to continue.
- Eric Major