“When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.”
– Dennis Bergkamp
I planned on writing something on Dan Duggan’s USL Pro to Detroit ambitions when the news first broke, but never got around to it. In the wake of his live chat on freep.com, now seems like a good time to comment.
1. First off, this is not a done deal. The plan still has to be submitted and approved by the league. Given USL Pro’s stated expansion goals, it seems to stand a good chance, though there may be questions over the stadium issue and competition with DCFC for fans (see #2).
2. I’m obviously biased when it comes to this, but there are statistics to back me up. DCFC’s 2013 regular season average attendance of 1484 was higher than 5 USL Pro teams (out of 12), and there is every reason to believe that number will go up this season. Simply put, even if Duggan’s proposal goes off without a hitch, there is no guarantee that his new team will automatically become the top dog in town. They will be playing catch-up with a club that has already captured the hearts and minds of many of the area’s most fervent supporters.
3. Building a 5000-seat stadium in 90 days is apparently possible from an engineering standpoint. Getting through all of the red tape regarding zoning, land ownership and usage, amount of public and/or private funding, among other things, will take much longer. Having the project fast-tracked would certainly raise questions concerning Duggan’s relationship with his brother, who just so happens to be the Mayor of Detroit.
Putting those issues aside, the idea of stadium-sharing with DCFC is intriguing. Given the growth rate of support, Cass Tech may be outgrown sooner rather than later. With few obvious larger sites (Wayne State?) readily available, the only other option would be for DCFC ownership to pursue a stadium plan of their own. That should definitely be a long-term goal, but in the mean time, becoming a tenant of the USL Pro Detroit stadium seems like a decent temporary solution. And how much fun would it be to outdraw the home team in its own house?
4. Overall, I think this dynamic of competition can have positive effects. A new team will force DCFC to avoid complacency and continue innovating to maintain its success. If both teams thrived, it would show that there is enough support in Detroit to go around for each. If not, well, may the best club win.
5. Duggan seems like a nice, friendly guy, but some of his statements show how out of touch he is (emphasis mine):
I think all the fans of soccer in Detroit want professional soccer in this city and eventually want an MLS team. With the very limited schedules the Bucks and DCFC play in May-July, that is only a small sampling of soccer that the Detroit fans want.
Plenty of people want to see an MLS team in Detroit, but it’s incorrect to assume that we all do. Early on, I strongly hoped that DCFC would attract enough attention and financial backing to eventually move up to MLS. As time went on, though, I found myself caring less and less about the league they played in, and more and more about the club itself. I’m not dead-set against a future NASL or MLS move, and it would be nice if the NPSL season lasted longer, but for me, it’s more about quality over quantity. Allow myself to quote… myself:
…my foremost concern is that we maintain the enjoyment and sense of belonging we currently experience on gamedays. I’d gladly take a season of 8 home games with a raucous atmosphere over one with 20 or 30 where standing and smokebombs are prohibited.
Finally, Duggan’s most clueless comment may be this one:
DCFC’s success in the stands show[s] that there are lots of people that are looking for a soccer team to follow in the area.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m a monogamous supporter. City is something special, not a placeholder. I have a club and I will follow it ‘til the end, wherever it may go.
“In his life, a man can change wives, political parties or religions but he cannot change the football team he supports.”
-Eduardo Galeano *
*(H/T to Jaime Ventura)