Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
Soon after the start of the new year, Philadelphia will be at the center of the US soccer community when it hosts the 2014 NSCAA Convention, Jan. 15-19. And while many MLS fans will gather to support their team during the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 16, others will also be in town to work on growing supporters culture when the Sons of Ben host the 2014 Supporters Summit.
Representatives of supporters groups from across the country will meet over a series of six two-hour meetings on Friday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, Jan. 18. Among the topics on the agenda for discussion are partnering with nonprofits, ways of engaging fans by bolstering the gameday experience, issues of surrounding security and travel, and more.
Sons of Ben travel coordinator Kelly Christine Delaney has been the prime force behind the organization of the summit, which came together with the support of NSCAA and the Independent Supporters Council.
Delaney explained to PSP how the summit is an opportunity for supporters groups to share best practices.”The Sons of Ben are looking forward to the chance to get together with Supporters Groups from around Major League Soccer and other American soccer leagues. It’s important that we communicate with other groups from around the country to share knowledge while meeting leaders of other Groups.”
While supporters groups are naturally rivals on gameday, boosting the sport of soccer and assisting in its continued growth in the US is a cause that all supporters groups share.
Supporters summits before 2011 were scheduled to coincide with the MLS Cup final, which was until then was played a previously determined location. With the championship match now hosted by the finalist with the most regular season points, scheduling the supporters summit to take place along with the MLS Cup final became impractical. Delaney sees the NSCAA Convention as a natural fit for the summit, and one that will provide convention attendees, exhibitors, and supporters group leaders an opportunity to make connections that might not otherwise be possible.
“The MLS SuperDraft and NSCAA Convention make for the perfect background for a Supporters Summit,” said Delaney. “It will be nice to be able to spend a couple of days working together to grow the game and supporters culture in America in an environment that is saturated with like-minded people.”
Previous supporters summits were often working under time constraints, as well. Simply put, it can be difficult to cover much ground when a summit that involves representatives from twenty to thirty supporters groups consists of a single two hour session. With indispensable help from NSCAA in securing meeting spaces and hotel blocks for visiting representatives of supporters groups, Delaney believes January’s summit will be a great opportunity to better cover topics of interest.
“No group is perfect by any means and it’s important for us to share our best practices with each other so that every supporters group has the chance to improve the experience on game day and beyond,” Delaney explained. “We are only as strong as our weakest link and it’s important for everyone to grow and improve as the league grows and improves.”
If the 2014 edition proves to be a success, Delaney hopes that that the groundwork will have been laid for future supporters summits to continue to take place during the NSCAA’s annual convention, which in 2015 is again scheduled to take place in Philadelphia before moving to Baltimore in 2016 and Los Angeles after that.
“I hope that things go well enough that the SuperDraft and convention become the setting of the meetings for years to come.”