There has been no shortage of news in the recent months about Dan Gilbert’s intention to bring the MLS to Detroit. He has partnered with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Pistons executive Arn Tellem to create a plan to turn the Wayne County Jail Site into an entertainment area focused around an MLS stadium.
The struggle between Wayne County and Gilbert on the proposed site is well-documented and the talks have cooled in recent weeks. One issue that Gilbert has to address aside from the location of his club will be the supporters he will undermine if he is not careful.
Dan Gilbert must make peace with Detroit City FC and its fervent fan base if soccer is truly going to grow in our fair city.
Detroit City FC supporters have made it very obvious about their feelings regarding the MLS expanding into the Motor City. Their position can be paraphrased as: the MLS coming into Detroit would cheapen the quality product of club soccer by bringing corporate and professional league interests and ruining the home-grown, grassroots movement that made DCFC what it is today. That is a valid concern and one that Gilbert will have to address.
Concerns of this nature hold substantial weight, especially with such a strong and fervent fanbase like DCFC’s. Dan Gilbert will need to integrate DCFC into the building process of the Detroit-based MLS club.
There is the possibility of involving the Northern Guard in focus groups, requesting guidance from DCFC on the cultivation of the new MLS team, or annexing the entire organization into the new soccer organization. All of these options create a sense of appreciation and respect for the club while ushering in a new era of soccer in the Motor City.
It is clear the Northern Guard is fearful their movement will go to the wayside once something “fresh” and “new” comes along. That fear is understandable and shouldn’t be shrugged off as the Northern Guard simply being contrarian or “hipster”.
I truly believe they have a unique voice that can make Detroit different than any other MLS city. We have a real opportunity to understand and grow with a movement that started from nothing and has recently garnered attention nationally and even in the United Kingdom. The DCFC fan base was so impressive that the organization moved from Cass Tech to Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. Their fundraising to renovate the stadium hit its goal and the team has even scheduled an international friendly that will be hosted by DCFC. This team clearly knows how to grow its brand with little-to-no resources.
It would be a real treat to see what these people could do for Gilbert if they were given the resources he has to grow a Detroit MLS brand in the same way. The possibilities are practically endless and anyone involved with DCFC has already proven they are worth involving in this process.
Moves like these are essential and Gilbert should strongly consider involving those who have been a clear success in Detroit already. They know the foundations, the fan base, and the culture that is needed to create a quality product and a close-knit community that makes soccer such a wonderful sport to follow in the first place.
Do these things, and Detroit may become the next great American soccer city.