Family-friendly MLS

Discussion in 'MLS: General' started by Roehl Sybing, Dec 5, 2004.

  1. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    Just came back from International Stadium after watching the first leg of the Suntory Championship - yeah, scored a ticket when a student of mine invited me, and how do you pass up going to a soccer game? As I have said before, the play (and now I will add the reffing, as Yokohama received a giant break on a clear foul in the eighteen that the official called diving) leaves much to be desired, although it was a good and uncharacteristically physical game. I still miss the MLS style of play, but that's another thread for another day.

    What I did want to write about is the atmosphere, which others have called exciting and I have admitted as exciting - although, I have to say, much of the fanfare is mainly of South American tendencies. Surely the supporters of the American domestic league can think of something original to do, but again that's another thread.

    Among the capacity crowd at the stadium was a fair amount of children of all ages. The grown-ups dominated the makeup of the audience, especially within the supporters' sections, but fans of all kinds made the trip. Even the family that invited me had a young daughter accompany them. It only leads me to conclude that whoever said that a soccer game with children in the stands was an impure product is, in fact, lying.

    I have no doubt that it's no playground in the stadia over in Europe, and I would never think that a game in Mexico is a family event, but with an attendance of 64,000+ for a game that was particularly nasty on the field, families made up a sizable part of the atmosphere. The verbal abuse was kept to a minimum - generally when and only when the ref was terrible, which, on the other hand, could have been anytime - and fans were raucous and lively while courteous at the same time. While J-League has maintained the level of intensity of a South American league game, it has kept out the brutishness that soccer purists consider to be proper.

    On some level, this is not difficult to accomplish in MLS; Americans are far more puritanical than those of any other developed nation, and whatever the changes in marketing in MLS over the years, the league on some level continues to target soccer moms and their children. I don't believe MLS will ever be as open and welcoming to everyone as J-League, though - I have seen cursing and "inappropriate" behavior at many a Metros game, but I've also seen as much at basketball and football games. Should we be able to keep it at or below that level, there's no reason to believe MLS can't continue to market its product to parents and their kids.

    As an aside, maybe we can now put aside all the "we must be more like Europe as theirs is a pure game" arguments and ponder on what it's really going to take to get the American mainstream to accept soccer, instead of satisfying a bunch of Eurosnobs who ignorantly embrace the "uniqueness" of the game yet not its variety. But that's just me.
  2. crusio

    crusio New Member

    May 10, 2004
    If you go to METRO games, you see the lionshare of the crowd are kids. Is this the kind of fan base you enjoy sitting around watching the games with? Is this a good atmosphere for you? You have other experiences to compare, so your take would be interesting.
  3. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    I enjoy going to Metros games. Giants Stadium is not exactly filled to the brim, but fill the stadium with more regulars like the ones you usually see at the game and I'd say you got a pretty good atmosphere.
  4. Real Ray

    Real Ray Member

    May 1, 2000
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Maybe they are never going to accept it-how about that?

    People keep looking for some panacea-it is what it is: a niche sport in the United States.

    MLS doesn't need to convert mainstream US sports fans. It just needs to get a slighty larger, and more consistent chunk of "Soccer Nation USA." If they do that, they should do just fine keeping their SSS filled and the league financially healthy.
  5. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    Quitter. You're a quitter.
  6. Pbourgeacq

    Pbourgeacq New Member

    Aug 8, 2001
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    So much for reaching for the stars.
  7. SABuffalo786

    SABuffalo786 New Member

    May 18, 2002
    Buffalo, New York
    I think you mentioned Mexico as not being family friendly, Rohel?

    On the contrary, I hear MFL games have many families go and violence is almost non-existant in the stands.
  8. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    Well, all the better. Not such a mad world out there after all, right? Again, discounting Europe, of course.

    My apologies, MFL is one league I don't pay any attention to, for want of caring.
  9. Real Ray

    Real Ray Member

    May 1, 2000
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    There are more than enough soccer fans in the United States to provide for a healthy MLS. But it is an atomized base. Nicer stadiums, a steady improvement of quality on the field-that will go a long way in getting a nicer chunk of this base. Will they get all of them? No. But there is enough there to make not just a difference in the gate but the atmoshphere.

    I think this is where the league is going-but there is no need to think that it can't or won't still be family friendly. A good example of this was the Milan-Juve cup matched played at Giants Stadium. Kids all over the places, great soccer atmosphere, but none of the craziness. That's possible for MLS without having to "convert" mainstream US sports fans. That is a Quixotic venture, that I think even the folks at MLS/AEG understand.
    If you know anything about Phil Anschutz...I mean whether we like it or not family-friendly is part of the deal. AEG is not going to tolerate anything that has a whiff of a rowdy, hooligan feeling. But they are also making changes that incorporate a more international flavor. Throw in the inertia that is American culture...I don't think the question of the league being too family-friendly is an issue.
  10. metrocorazon

    metrocorazon Member

    May 14, 2000
    All soccer stadiums are family friendly to some extent. The problem is these places dont treat the event like its a "Morning Zoo" and constantly play down to their crowds. They market towards the Hardcore fan and in turn that hardcore fan brings his kid to the stadium. Here its the other way around, we do things for the kids(which makes you look like Chucky Cheese) and expect them to drag their parents in. The kid doesnt know what going on, the parent doesnt want to be there, and that makes for a lousy fanbase. Yes you got their money, but you couldve gotten their money and their attention another way and actually attracted a fan that would be into the game and team and still bring in his kid and his/her friends.
  11. flowergirl

    flowergirl Member+

    Aug 11, 2004
    panama city, FL
    Columbus Crew
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    very good points. i agree. it doesn't have to be one way or the other, either. while basketball and football aren't usually all that family friendly, baseball(except for the chair-throwing incident earlier this year) is an example of a sport that has both hard core fans and a casual, family based core as well. it's not implausible to meld the two. but corazon is right, you need to start with the parents, not the kids.
  12. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

  13. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    No one's trying to say otherwise, what's important is that there must be some way to get them in the same place, allowing the hardcore fans to have their place while converting the uninitiated parents and their children to the game at the same time. Because, really, if Super-Duper Fancy Soccer Nation USA actually cared about American soccer in the past nine years, attendance would be a different story.
  14. AndyMead

    AndyMead Homo Sapien

    Nov 2, 1999
    Seat 12A
    Sporting Kansas City
    After 9 years, the hard core "supporters" groups account for around 1% of MLS's attendance. That's a "fact". If MLS were banking on terraces filled with adults singing for 90 minutes, the league would've died years ago.

    The key is to take the long-term view, and hope that all these kids going to MLS today become the generation of adults that sing and support in the future.
  15. eplkewell

    eplkewell Member

    Aug 27, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI
    It's easy for parents to bring their kids to MLS games because the tickets are cheap, especially compared to NFL, NBA, etc. Also, soccer is a game that is growing fast in the USA which means that the majority of the players, and probably fans, are kids.
  16. nyrmetros

    nyrmetros Member

    Feb 7, 2004
  17. metrocorazon

    metrocorazon Member

    May 14, 2000
    It is a fact but it also a fact that while MLS says it does things for the "hardcore" fan it really does the opposite which is why there is such a small number of them around the league. You know as well as anybody how hard it is for supporters to actually be "supporters" in stadia around the league, even in SSS, which is pretty surprising to me. We all talk about how great its going to be in SSS but the minute someone gets one the same problems arise such as in Crew Stadium and LA.

    I think the only place people have been able to TRULY be hardcore fans is in Chicago. And you can see how even families get into that.

    Also Im not saying you have to do one or the other, many clubs around the world(even the most serious ones) have programs for kids. The difference is that most of the way the team presents itself is in a serious manner, and grown ups(aka everyone over 14) need that in order to feel that what they are supporting is not some kiddie "thing". Thats why kids have almost never translated into teen fans. Because after a certain age there is nothing there for them.

    Look this league is 9 years old. If you were 5 when MLS started you are now 15, why would you go to an MLS game now? All they do there is Dribble Pass and Score play jock jams and you end up sitting among hundreds of other 5 year olds. Yeah thats what a 15 year old on a Saturday night wants to be, around a bunch of 5 year olds and their moms.

    People say there just inst enough hardcore supporters out there. I say there is, but that MLS hasnt given them the chance to or has made it hard for them to be fans. I personally know atleast 50 people who went to the stadium 5 years ago and were willing to become fans of the team. They came to every game sang their hearts out like it was the team they were BORN to support. But circumstances with the Stadium, Front Office and the Circus rules of MLS just turned them away. Its not even the "bad quality of play" sheeet, most of these people grew up support sh!ittier teams on sand pitches, and wooden bleachers, it was the way MLS showcased it self and who they decided to make more valuable. And it showed, and for people who were ready to be THAT devoted, to a brand new team with sh!tty play, the disrespect was enogh to drive them away. They felt that if they were already making sacrifices to support the team and all the team did was throw them out of stadiums, take away their flags and told them to shut up and sit down. THey just got fed up with it and went home. It wasnt fun anymore.

    MLS couldve had all these fans if it just devoted more attention to them and made it easier for that kind of support to exist. That kind of support if treated right can do more for advertising than ANY ad in ANY newspaper would, because alot of these fans are also players and alot of these players are also coaches, parents, brothers, and uncles, who will pass on their love for the team onto the younger ones. Instead now you have them telling their kids how MLS is stupid and go watch X league instead. And TA_DA you have your American Euronob!

    Right now what you have set up is not building a culture or community with people. Its just used as a babysitting tool and once the kid grows up VERY few will ever comeback. MLS is shortchanging itself its doing the "easy sell" for RIGHT NOW, and its not even panning out. If it was you wouldnt see 5K show up on a Saturday night in NJ.
  18. ETSC

    ETSC Member

    Jul 5, 2004
    mainstream US sports fans

    No such thing. For example: NBA fans are a very different demographic from college football fans. There is no monolithic block of sports fans who will accept MLS and give it wealth and legitimacy. MLS is more likely competing with non-sport entities for fan dollars.

    Soccer moms and kids buy product. Figure a new set of cleats, uniform, warm-ups, ball and other related soccer crap every year. Does anyone think Adidas would be shoving a pile of cash at MLS without the soccer kiddies? It's all about the money and atmosphere doesn't pay the bills.
  19. metrocorazon

    metrocorazon Member

    May 14, 2000
    yes but what if you made that soccer mom THE fan isntead of the kid? Wouldnt you think since she loves the sport and team so much she'll put the kid into soccer teams, and buy him cleats and take him to games?? Or better yet make that older brother or sister that kid emulates a fan?Thats the way soccer is marketed in other places. And its why it works and grows and continues to grow.

    MLS can still do youth programs , it just shouldnt be 99% of their effort. Maybe they could balance it out a bit more to target both areas.
  20. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    Exactly what do supporters' groups expect from MLS, a stack of bills? Is hardcore fan support conditional all of a sudden? Were we waiting for the league to provide something other than the product already on the field?
  21. Rommul

    Rommul Member

    Aug 26, 2003

    Good post. And its not 5k its really 15k. Your eyes are lying to you.
  22. Real Ray

    Real Ray Member

    May 1, 2000
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Madrid
    Nat'l Team:
    United States we get to the point. See you're part of the "support MLS because it's you're duty to American Soccer" brigade. :rolleyes: If you think people are voting "Yes" for soccer but "No" for MLS because they some kind of Eurosnob...sorry, your just wrong. The situation with the Revolution might be a primer on this topic.

    Sorry, it doesn't work that way and the same problems that keep away the base you mock, are the same things that will keep your beloved "mainsteam sport fan" away.

    And sorry, it's still a niche sport here.
  23. DoctorD

    DoctorD Member+

    Sep 29, 2002
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Great to find this thread the day after attending my first game at De Cuip.

    Supporters cards necessary when playing the "biggies". Against NEC yesterday they were not necessary.

    Plenty of kids in the stadium. I was on the visitor's side, so I can't speak for the make-up of the Feyenoord Legion section. There were at least two youth groups attending.

    Stadium was about 2/3 full.

    I don't know about profanity since I couldn't understand a word they said anyway. My section was mostly empty.

    Chants by the visitor's supporters, cooped up behind their plastic screen, were very impressive.

    Lots of banners draped around the stadium. But if my company was paying good money to advertise there, I wouldn't like to see a banner over the ad for the entire game.

    Cannon fire for the goals and kickoff, some flags.

    But I REALLY missed the drums of RFK. And no matter what the sentimental value of "You'll never walk alone", it can't beat "Back in Black".

    Finally, not to hijack this thread, I was not dissuaded from thinking MLS quality = Eredivisie.
  24. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Guest

    The problem is people like you would rather keep it that way. A Eurosnob...and a quitter.

    I get to mock the soccer base because they aren't going anywhere, and if they haven't come yet, well they ain't coming at all. They've had nine years to make a statement. There hasn't been any. That is fact. If you don't want to support MLS or American soccer, that's fine, just don't be surprised if you get ignored.

    In the meantime, while we wait for the cows to come home (and in some attempt to slowly bring this thread back on track), what is so inappropriate with exploring different ways of targeting different kinds of people to come to these games? Why must MLS look like Europe - re: atmosphere - in order to be considered real soccer?
  25. metrocorazon

    metrocorazon Member

    May 14, 2000
    Thats what Im SAYING!!! But MLS is only doing 1 thing right now.

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