DC United Inter-Supporters' Group Meeting Held

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

On 7 April, a supporters' group meeting was held in the basement of DC's Northeast Branch Library. Meeting was attended by approximately 20 supporters from all the supporters' groups including a couple each from the Barra Brava and District Ultras. The meeting was announced via social media the previous Tuesday, perhaps not enough time for word to get out for a larger turnout.

The meeting was opened by David Rusk, a long time D.C. United fan who has shared his thoughts with supporters here on Black & Red United. After a round of introductions, a discussion began regarding how the current divisions were started; a few attendees genuinely did not know. To inform that discussion, several people shared their thoughts about D.C. United's 14 February press release. Everyone in attendance agreed that the press release had been mishandled and the Screaming Eagles (SE) leadership in attendance stated that they had never asked to take on a "lead role" to manage all aspects of supporters' culture. During this part of the discussion, some pointed out that SE's own formal statement said that the group would take on a "lead roll." To that, SE President James Lambert reiterated the group had no interest in managing supporters' culture and expressed doubt that any one organization could do so, given the diversity of the supporters themselves.

Overall, there were two main topics of discussion: SE's purchase of two hundred season tickets and the need to establish an Independent Supporters' Council (ISC).

The SE leaders stated the season tickets purchased by the SE were an attempt to ensure that the supporters had a section to begin with. David Rusk stated that for a non-profit, this was a significant investment and that without that, there might not be any supporters' section. Other attendees said that this would be a problem because some supporters purchase walk-up tickets on game day. For instance, one person said that he could not afford to buy a season ticket package. Another said that the schedule had hurt him because he would not be able to attend mid-week and Sunday night games, due to his work schedule. The conversation on this topic went on for some time and no specific solution was found, but everyone seemed to agree that this was an important issue that needed to be worked out between each of the SGs and United's front office.

Participants at the meeting all agreed that the establishment of an ISC was important; in fact, this was the one identifiable objective that everyone agreed on. An ISC could help to organize how the SG section is set up, decide on things like expectations of conduct (or how to address misconduct), organize tifo, or any of the other issues that will require attention over time.

If an ISC is to be developed, work will need to commence very soon. One attendee, Robert Blagg, offered to take on the responsibility to do the "grunt work" to start organizing a supporters council. However, he stated he was not necessarily looking to be an ISC leader; just willing to help set up meetings, gather comments and feedback, etc. For their part, SE leadership stated that they would support any ISC, but would have no role in organizing it.

If the supporters' group culture that has been the high point of many fans' experiences is to survive, it will be important to work past the divisions that currently plague us. This first season was always going to be tough. The team's front office (FO) seems to be littered with people who have no vested interest in this team's long-term future; when all is said and done, they are putting an operating plan in place and just want the numbers to add up to something specific. At first, the FO stated that only season ticket holders would be guaranteed a place at the stadium, then recently they began talking about single-game tickets. Over the last few years, the team has gotten people into the stadium with cheap tickets and buddy vouchers. In 2018, the tickets will be more expensive and buddy vouchers will disappear. But on any given day, a few hours cheering or singing our hearts out to support the team can still bring us together. Let's not throw this away.