USL PRO Supporter Group Q&A: The Oranje Legion
1- Intro of group (When, Where, How, Why?)
The idea to start a supporters group began to form during the middle of last season. There are a lot of knowledgeable soccer fans in the Dayton area, but they weren’t making a lot of noise in the stadium. My personal view is that one of the best part attending a live sporting event is the atmosphere that is generated by a passionate home crowd.
The forming idea was cemented into certainty when the Charlotte Eagles visited Dayton late during last season. The Eagles had an impromptu supporters group show up in Dayton. I was at once outraged and excited. If a team visiting Ohio from the southeast could generate a modicum of atmosphere in my stadium, then surely I could whip up a small group of locals into a soccer frenzy. I approached the front office after that game and announced my intention to start the Oranje Legion.
It was really slow going at first. For several months I could only find one other person who expressed any interest at all in joining the Oranje Legion. We were steadfast in our intentions, though, and resolved to be a supporters group of two if need be. We were convinced that our enthusiasm would be contagious.
Recently I began to market the supporters group more aggressively via social media. Slowly but surely, our numbers have grown to almost 10 members. A fantastic design for our crest and scarves has helped tremendously. Honestly, I think this is a good starting point for a relatively new soccer club in a market the size of Dayton. I’m optimistic that we’ll double in membership by the end of the 2013 season.
2- How is the group run? What is the structure?
At the moment, I run the group autonomously, but I don’t see it staying this way for very long. Our membership isn’t very large at the moment, so there’s no real structure in place. As the group begins to grow it may become necessary to implement some sort of leadership structure, but my hope is that it occurs organically.
3- What is your group’s relationship with the team like?
I can’t imagine that our relationship with the team could be any better. In fact, if we worked much more closely with the team, it would be difficult to call ourselves an independent supporters group. The team is looking to continue building its fan base and generate an exciting atmosphere at the matches. Obviously, a popular supporters group is one way to achieve those goals. I meet with the front office on a semi-regular basis to determine how we can support the team and how the team can support us.
4- What is the relationship with the players?
My personal relationship with the players has been pretty good over the last couple of years, and I hope that will extend to the rest of the Oranje Legion as this season gets underway. Several of the players I spoke with last season seemed excited about the prospect of a supporters group being formed in Dayton. The front office encourages the players to hang out with fans at various local pubs after home games, and I can’t imagine that the Oranje Legion won’t have a presence at those gatherings. It would be nice if the supporters group could host some events for the players, especially the new players from out of town and of the U.S. It’s not always easy adjusting to life in new city, and the Oranje Legion could help in that regard.
5- What is your game day ritual?
A ritual for game days has yet to be established. Given that the club still plays its home games at a high school stadium, it will be impossible to hold a proper tailgate with adult beverages. Perhaps we’ll meet in a local establishment prior to matches, or hold tailgates without alcohol. Whatever becomes of the pregame ritual, I hope to make some sort of grand entrance into the stadium as a group. The match, of course, will be marked by 90 minutes of orange mayhem. Our songbook could stand to have a few more chants created, but we do have a few, and we’ll be ready to make some noise. As I mentioned above, we’ll be ready to celebrate the Dutch Lions’ many victories with players and staff at a number of local watering holes.
6- What does the group do for away games?
I’m going to promote watch parties at the Dublin Pub, the official pub of the Dayton Dutch Lions. They have streamed the broadcast of Dutch Lions games from USL Live on UNATION in the past. I’m hoping they continue this season.
7- What does the group do to stay in touch during the off-season?
There hasn’t been an entire off-season since the group consisted of more than one individual. I might have an answer to this question prior to 2014.
8- Who is your biggest rival?
It’s difficult to determine who the Dutch Lion’s biggest rival might be. The team hasn’t been in existence for very long, and it’s not easy to forge a rivalry when the team you support experiences limited success on the pitch. I’d like to see a friendly rivalry develop between the Dutch Lions and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. From the perspective of geography, it’s a lot easier for fans to travel between those two cities. Additionally, the Dutch Lions and the Riverhounds played a few close, hotly contested matches last season.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how the Columbus Crew decide to move forward with regard to the merger between USL PRO and MLS reserves. If they choose to field their own USL PRO franchise at some point, a rivalry could between Columbus and Dayton could flourish. There is already a history between the two cities with Dutch Lions bouncing the Crew from the 2012 US Open Cup.
9- What is your relationship with other USL PRO Supporter Groups?
Up to this point I’d say they we have a very positive relationship with the supporter groups around the league and around US soccer in general. There hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of interaction, but the leadership of several other supporter groups have been encouraging and offered advice. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from groups via social media.
I understand that the Steel Army is considering making the trek to Dayton for our home-opener against the Riverhounds on April 20. I hope they do, and I hope that they are received warmly by all Dayton fans before and after the game (but not during). The Oranje Legion could learn a thing or two from an opposing supporter group, and the visit could help stoke a potential rivalry with that club.
10- What does the future hold for your Supporter Group?
Growth. The team plans to construct a 6,000-seat soccer-specific stadium in Dayton in the near future. My desire is to have the Oranje Legion going strong by the time that ground is broken on construction. When the gates finally open, we’ll stake our claim in the supporters section and set the tone for creating a raucous atmosphere for professional soccer matches in the Miami Valley.
Coming Soon: oranjelegion.com