Vocal fans of Sacramento Republic FC have made one thing very clear in the last 24 hours: they stand by their club.
"SRFC, the club for me" has even more meaning tonight. We will sing it louder than ever. #NoRepublicNoParty— TowerBridgeBattalion (@Sac_Battalion) February 1, 2017
But what happens if the shocking and asinine movements between Kevin Nagle’s Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings and Major League Soccer actually lead to a new club? Can Nagle and his investors bury the hatchet, swallow their pride, and dance with the one who brought them? Only time will tell.
What’s more certain is that if they don’t, the fallout will be tremendous. In Detroit, we have a living, breathing example of what happens when a swelling, passionate fanbase is left out of plans to bring MLS. The big difference here, of course, is that the Sacramento fans both wanted, and actively supported the jump to MLS. Pulling the rug at the last moment just adds insult to injury.
Where in Sacramento does Nagle suppose he is going to find fans to replace the many thousands who have parted with time, money, and pieces of their hearts in exchange for a long-term relationship with a soccer club that was aiming for the stars? Surely some will come along with him, but in those who don’t, does Republic FC have enough to survive?
Even on a bad day and cut in half, Republic draws more fans to Bonney Field than some USL clubs dare dream about. It’s conceivable that with a swift and strategic shift in marketing, the club could hold its place in the league and the local market, and indeed even make life difficult for a nascent MLS organization. Passion runs deep, but the question that will face each fan individually - and can’t possibly be answered by me - is whether they were in it for Republic from the beginning, or for MLS.
If I were a betting man, I’d wager that support for soccer of any size was latent and properly tapped by Republic’s front office long before MLS took notice, and will continue regardless of outside circumstance. I said as much today on Twitter, when someone unfamiliar with the situation took aim at what he perceived as a fanbase that existed only to be “promoted” to MLS. The fans were treated to quite the whirlwind first season, but they earned it, and I suspect that as long as the front office wants it bad enough, the club itself will live on.
I really want to know what you think, Republic fans. Dig deep and tell us if you’d support your club in spite of a newer, “bigger” toy in town. Warren Smith and company are going to read this, and if you’re going to be around, this is the time to say so.