For the last four years, I have had the opportunity to meet up with fellow supporter group leaders at the annual Independent Supporters Council conference. Now I know what you’re asking yourself: “What is the Independent Supporters Council? Why should I care about this? Wait, how is he reading my mind?” I’ll get to all of that in this article, but to answer your last question first, I gained the ability to read minds during a failed nuclear fusion test that gave me superhuman abilities like sarcasm and cynicism.
Anyway, if you are part of a supporters club, chances are your club is part of ISC. Think of it like this: your supporters club is like your local union. You pay your annual dues and have a group to call your own. Together with your fellow members, you’re a formidable group that works together to further your cause. In this case, that’s supporting your local team. Your local has elections and you help choose who serves on the group’s board and represents the club when dealing with your team’s front office, the front offices of other teams, and other various local groups (i.e. bars, bus companies, etc).
Being in a supporters club is great because it gives a group of people a voice. In this case, we have specified privileges only bestowed on recognized supporters clubs. These include capo stands, the ability to paint and raise tifo at the arena, pyro celebrations after goals, musical instruments, and a seat at the table with the front office. That last one is often forgotten about, but is of the utmost importance. Being able to represent a supporters club in a meeting with the front office is an important duty. A board member is given the opportunity to negotiate with, raise concerns to, and in certain situations, fight back against the front office. Every privilege we have at Red Bull Arena has been fought for by board members of supporters groups. We have negotiated for enhancements to the supporters sections since the Giants Stadium days and without the groundwork laid out by past board members, the supporters’ experience at RBA would be very different.
All of this brings us to what ISC is and why it is important. ISC was founded as a sort of national union of supporters. Think of it like the Teamsters or SEIU, only without the corruption. Each local supporters club sends representatives to ISC to meet on their behalf. We discuss issues clubs face (ticketing, sanctions, front office dealings) and find new ways to overcome them. An example of this was when Angel City Brigade of the LA Galaxy was sanctioned for the use of streamers during MLS Cup. They had always used streamers and were never warned about their usage. They were handed a lengthy ban on all supporter’s privileges to start the following season. In response, the other groups in ISC joined together in a social-media and in-stadium campaign dubbed Stand with ACB. Clubs hung banners in support, released statements on their various social media platforms, and applied pressure to MLS and the Galaxy front office. After two games, the ban was lifted. Stand with ACB was a success on many levels. It not only showed MLS the strength in numbers of ISC, but it also showed everyone in ISC the effects we could have.
ISC isn’t just about fighting with the league offices. We also share ideas with each other on how to make our clubs better. There are presentations from some of the larger supporters clubs on topics ranging from how to get nonprofit status for your group, to merchandise ideas, to philanthropic missions. Reps from each group will share facts and figures on membership size to charitable efforts they made the previous years. The networking aspect of ISC has helped clubs develop and expand on the local level, which in turn makes your experience as a member better. So the next time you see something new in the South Ward or hear about a new merchandise idea, chances are your club’s leadership learned about it from another group in ISC.