NEW YORK // One of the most challenging endeavours a newly formed professional football club must undertake is establishing and building a fan base, then keeping the fan base happy.
Like any new relationship, the one between New York City FC, the new Major League Soccer franchise and part of the City Football Group family, and its fans has been marked by a few lovers’ tiffs, but nothing that cannot be repaired, says Tom Glick, the club’s president.
“It’s a very good sign, to have this level of passion at this point in our development,” Glick said in the New York Times.
The NYCFC faithful have voiced their discontent, from the design of the club’s kit and its crest to the decision for the Premier League champions Manchester City, the big brother in the CFG family, to retain Frank Lampard until the end of their domestic season.
Fans had expected to see the former Chelsea and England midfielder lining up in the blue of New York City rather than Manchester for their first MLS fixture on Sunday against Orlando City, another start-up franchise.
Glick said, though, that the response from the NYCFC fans has been “very positive” and that the club were delighted by how much New Yorkers have got behind the team. Much of that gratitude should be reserved for the social media team and independent supporter groups, such as the Third Rail, for keeping fans engaged.
The club has already sold 14,000 of their 27,528 allocation for their home games at Yankee Stadium, the fortress of Major League Baseball’s most successful team.
“We are delighted to see so many New Yorkers getting behind our club. The momentum is growing every week and we have sold over 1,000 season tickets in the last three weeks alone,” Glick said.
“New York City FC’s 14,000 Founding Members are the foundation of our club. They’re passionate about this club and passionate about soccer in New York. We can’t wait to start playing for them.”
NYCFC hope to build their own stadium in the city, but they are more than happy to play at their adopted home for now.
The upper tiers of the stadium were supposed to be closed for home matches, capping the capacity to 30,000. However, with 25,000 tickets already sold for the opening home match against New England Revolution, on March 15, the club will open some upper-tier sections to accommodate demand.
“We are excited to be making more tickets available as we see such strong demand for our first ever home game. We are extremely pleased that so many New Yorkers want to be part of history and be there as we kick off in New York City. This is a landmark moment for our club and for soccer in New York,” Glick told the club’s website.
As history has shown, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, has never been afraid of setting his stall out in a city to take on the big guys.
When he acquired Manchester City in 2008, the club were transformed from mid-table no-hopers to champions of England within three seasons.
Alex Ferguson, the legendary manager of Manchester United, famously called them “the noisy neighbours”.
Conquering Manchester, where United were the king pins, is one thing. Taking on the other multimillion dollar franchises of New York is something else.
The city that never sleeps is already home to the Giants and Jets (NFL), the Yankees and Mets (MLB), the Rangers and Islanders (NHL) and the Knicks (NBA), while MLS rivals the New York Red Bulls are just around the corner in New Jersey.
NYCFC must work out how to make enough noise to be heard in their own busy neighbourhood.