The sun is out, and the temperature is quite moderate for the time of season. Fans, or supporters as they are commonly referred to, are lining up at places such as The Golden Lion, The Bricklayer’s Arms and The Crabtree with its picturesque scene along the river. Friendly banter and loud cheers emanate from those enjoying a few pints. It’s Saturday. It’s London. It’s matchday.
These pub dwellers are getting amped up and anxiously awaiting today’s match against a foe whose own stadium is not more than a 10-minute drive from their own. Fulham FC’s home of Craven Cottage is a mere 1 and a half miles from Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium. Both football (soccer) clubs are immense, each with huge fan following. This isn’t a rarity; this is the scene everywhere in London.
The city is home to at least 31 professional football clubs. Names like Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Crystal Palace and of course Arsenal are well known worldwide. But there are other, lesser known, clubs that boast a large throng of supporters locally. Clubs such as Charlton Athletic, Millwall and Leyton Orient to name a few.
These London neighborhoods were perhaps the pioneers of “buy local” with their support of their community football clubs. So, while “buying local” isn’t a new concept, it is one that has, in recent years, become a greater priority. Even national chain grocers such as Whole Foods, stock goods that were created within the local area.
As sustainableconnections.org points out about the recent push to buy local:
“Small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, connected, and generally better-off across a wide range of metrics. When we buy from independent, locally owned businesses, rather than national chains, a significantly greater portion of our money is then cycled back through our local economy – to make purchases from our friends’ businesses, to aid our neighbors in need, and to support our local farms – ultimately strengthening the base of our whole community.”
So, what does London and “buy local” have to do with the Select League and Kansas City? It has everything to do with the league’s vision. The clubs located all around the KC metro area can create a rallying point for their local areas, a true sense of community bonding and pride.
An Australian report claims local football clubs create better mental health, social outcomes for communities. The report also found that local clubs “led to improved employment outcomes, personal development, physical health, civic pride and the support of other community groups.”
In a time when mental health has come to the forefront as a great need in society the study done by Professor Hoye states, “You’re more connected, you’re able to access social support and you’ve got greater wellbeing because you’re amongst a group of peers doing something that everyone likes to do.” Working together as a team where there has to be face to face interactions and verbal communications in an age of text messages and emails can be positively life changing.
Sponsors are and continue to play a major part in the operation of a football club. Local sponsors of a local football club can benefit greatly from local support in a facet of ways. Besides brand exposure and customer loyalty, the sponsor can benefit from prospective employees. It is common knowledge that as of late, finding employees (let along quality employees) can be challenging. According to Professor Hoye, local football clubs allow supporters and players “access to job opportunities through other club members offering them opportunities or a reference or some sort of support.”
Soccer, or football, clubs are unique in England in that their members comprise not only of players, team staff and administrators, but also of their supporters. Supporters are able to become members of their clubs in a way that residents of Green Bay can be owners through stock in their beloved Packers. It’s because of this unique design that supporters actually get a say in how their club is ran. They have “skin in the game”.
These football clubs can become a point of civic pride and community bonding. Much like other clubs such as the Lions Club, football clubs can work to link the public with local businesses and local government. It’s this strong bond that the Select League hopes each of its member clubs will build upon. Not only is it good for the club, but as highlighted above, it is good for the community as a whole.
Check back with us often for a club starting in your community and join either as a player or a non-playing member. Make friends, socialize… all around the great sport of football (soccer).