Members of the Austin FC Supporter Community,
Like a lot of organizations, and like a lot of you, 2020 has been a challenging year for Austin Anthem. Not being able to have in-person events with our supporter friends and neighbors has taken its toll on our ability to grow as a community as we race towards our inaugural match day in 2021.
We’ve done our best, but we fully acknowledge that there have been missteps and that we are learning as we go. In 2013, when we were founded as MLS in Austin, we were a very different organization: a few new members here and there, an occasional meetup in person, and a shared dream — of a team in Austin. Seven years and thousands of supporters later, we now have a team that starts competitive play in a few months. We are also now a much bigger organization — with that presents new opportunities and challenges.
We’ve not always succeeded in the mission to address different viewpoints, and unfortunately, some of those with a different perspective chose to take a separate path. All of these views have always been focused with Austin in mind, but the strategies of how to achieve them are vastly different. Different viewpoints are healthy, but in the short term, the results have been disruptive.
From our perspective, these disruptions include bad actors who are more interested in creating an “us vs them” mentality rather than looking out for the best interests of the greater Austin community. These individuals are small in number, but amplified by the continued acceptance of those who should know better. It’s been disheartening to see many remain silent and complicit or go along with far-fetched claims. All of this has made it clear to us that there is a need to identify a better way to represent our growing community.
With all of the good Austin Anthem has done over our history, admittedly, it’s been frustrating to have been assigned all of the “bad” in the aftermath by some — to be the convenient punching bag — and to have this used to legitimize others poor behavior. It’s a byproduct of being the incumbent. Some of the main complaints were indeed legitimate, but the majority of them were not in good faith and wilfully absent of context.
Historical disagreements on different strategies have jumped into the realm of personal attacks on our character, integrity, and our passion. Many of them are downright malicious. These differences, coupled with the rhetoric, have created a divide within our club’s supporter culture. It was our hope that time would allow us to put all that in the past, and that behind the scenes we’d be able to resolve disagreements out of the public eye.
We no longer have that time. It’s been squandered on petty social media turf wars and a culture of mistrust mixed in with nine months of staying at home. Online meetings which were designed to bring each other together have only served to show us just how far apart we have become.
Austin FC supporters deserve better. Austin deserves better.
This year, we’ve addressed many of our internal challenges directly, by expanding our Board of Directors and formally establishing the electoral process. We’ve codified rules regarding ownership of assets — from creative art to physical instruments — to ensure everything remains owned by the collective rather than any individual. And we’ve been fortunate enough to have added a bunch of new volunteers into our org team ranks to provide a fresh perspective on it all. We will always be a work-in-progress, driven by the passion of members that help us shape our supporter culture.
Here’s our promise to the Austin FC community for 2021 and beyond. We will do everything within our power to build the most inclusive soccer supporter community in the country. If it’s something we can do directly as Austin Anthem, great. If it’s something another organization is doing that we can assist, even better.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting soccer. Soccer dads, desk jockeys, and smoke bomb moms are all integral to the Austin soccer community. There’s no room for gatekeeping, no matter how it’s packaged.
Just as there’s no right way to be a supporter, there is no right way to organize a supporters group. There’s no manual, no checklist to follow. We only have history as our guide, and every day we have to be willing to make a change.
We’re ready to make yet another change. We have outlined a proposal for a small council of leadership from all Austin FC supporter groups that will provide the foundation for which we all can actually work together. We think our shared love of Club, our love of City, and our love of the Game can get us started.
Some tenants of this proposal:
- There is no place for hate in Austin soccer. Our community will not tolerate discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference, or religion. Neither should we. No organization should harbor any member who does so.
- Match day is owned by all supporters of soccer in Austin, because it represents all of Austin. There is no soccer culture we need to model ourselves after, no specific types of music we must play, and no traditions we must imitate. We must collectively merge the talents and creativity of our city to build a distinctly Austin culture, and do so in a fair manner that is representative of all, not just some. There is no match day experience that happens without this. Full stop.
- Different cultures bring different ideas, and each should be honored. While organizations should be able to build a unique experience for their members, there should be a common goal on gameday of supporting Austin FC together.
- Each organization must hold its members and leaders accountable for their actions and creating supportive ecosystems rather than an us-versus-them ecosystem. There is zero benefit to fighting one another and not working toward the greater collective good at all times — no matter if that is in person, in a meeting with the club, or on social media.
- It is the responsibility of us all to drive the success of other organizations. The long-term health of Austin soccer depends on it.
- Create a clear voice of the supporters for the Austin FC ownership. This club represents the best of our community, and we must hold them accountable at all times for that. The most effective way to do that is with a singular voice.
We will be sending invitations out for an initial meeting to discuss this operational umbrella proposal in the first week of the new year. It is our hope that a new year will bring about new perspectives, approaches, and attitudes.
The alternative is something like the fractured fanbases of Dallas and Houston. These are a testament to stubbornness and the inability to grow together have squandered so much positive potential for their communities. There is a real concern that could become us. Without a correction, this could result in groups and individuals becoming excluded from match day privileges. Or, worse as seen in other cities, where no SGs are allowed to bring in instruments, no group allowed to bring in TIFO, with tours and special access reserved for the corporate clients. A long-term battle between club leadership and fractured club supporters does nobody any good.
If you want to help us build an Austin soccer community for our generation and the next, then join us and vote for leaders who will do that. If you want to help another organization do it, then join them and choose leadership that will be a part of the solution. Join many! If you want to start something new, Austin Anthem will help you — if you want it.
It’s time to end the chaos. It’s time to recognize we all have the same goals and mission, and it’s about time we all behaved that way.
Yours in verde,