Fan Culture / Featured / Local

Becoming official

Photo: Courtesy of the IllegitimateS

Last week the PSP ran a series called “The other supporters groups.” The series had that name for the simple reason that, when it comes to Union supporters groups, the Sons of Ben define the scene.

Why this is so is plainly obvious: they are extremely good at doing the hard work that needs to be done to be a successful supporters group. They are well organized, on game day and every other day. Their marketing is excellent. In long form, their name references local history. In short form, the name is both comic and ironic, while also being exactly what they want opposing players and their fans to think of them. They have a logo that has become, in a very short time, iconic in the Philadelphia soccer scene. They have a thriving web presence, through their own website and through forums such as Big Soccer. And as a registered non-profit, they work hard to transform the energy and passion of their members into a power for good in the community through charity and volunteer efforts. On top of that, perhaps most importantly for their members, they know how to have fun while doing all of these things and more.

The Sons of Ben are an exemplar of what it means to be a successful and effective supporters group. As such what they are so good at doing serves a model for what the Union wants to see from any other group that wants official recognition from the club.

What does it take to be recognized?

The aims of the supporters groups we talked to for the “The other supporters groups” series—the Tammany Saints, the IllegitimateS, the Corner Creeps and the Bridge Crew—are as different as the groups themselves. All were asked if they had aspirations toward becoming an officially recognized  supporter and only one said that, at this time, they did.

When I was putting the questions together for the series it occurred to me that I had no idea what it would take to gain official recognition from the Union. Mike Quarino, the club’s Vice President of Ticket Sales and Fan Relations was kind enough to provide some answers.

I wondered if there were league or club standards to become a recognized supporters group.”There are no official standards that are required to be a recognized supporter club,” Quarino told me via email, adding, “We do have some guidelines that we want groups to follow.”

How you do it counts

The primary guideline concerns the manner in which a group wishes to demonstrate its support.

“The one pre-requisite that we do have is that if they want to stand, sing, have flags and drums, etc., then they must sit in the designated Supporters Sections.”

In other words, if you want to demonstrate your support like they do in the River End, to the River End you must go.

At least for now.

Quarino said that, as demand for more standing sections increases, “we are all for re-classing more sections into a ‘standing section.'”

Until that happens—and wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was enough demand to increase the the number of standing sections, whether that demand came from Sons of Ben members or any other group—groups that wish to stand will have to go to the River End.

Size matters

Quarino says that group should have a minimum of 154 confirmed season tickets for official recognition.

“This is very flexible,” Quarino explained, “and the 154 number was put out there because that is number of seats that are section 134 and 140. Those are the smallest sections in the Supporter Section, so we want a new group coming in to fill out their own section so they can have their own identity.”

Noting that the Union wants “organization and direction” from any group looking for recognition, Quarino stressed the need for a group to have in place some kind of leadership infrastructure to act as a liaison between the group and the club as well as a mission statement, a code of conduct and a commitment toward community outreach that can assist larger efforts at revitalizing Chester.

Growth is good

Quarino said the growth of other supporters groups “shows how many people are passionate about this game and our club.” Understandably, he warns, “What we have to be cautious of is a plethora of groups of ten friends saying they want to become a recognized supporters group so they can come in and stand and bring in drums and flags. In the end, that is not really a supporters group, unless they present us a plan on how they will grow, what their goals are, and how they will get there.”

The Union needs groups to be organized if it is to be able to reliably work with them. Quarino praised the Sons of Ben “who put a lot of work and effort” into the kind of hard and unglamorous work that is necessary for any supporters group to succeed and grow.

Outside of the fact that you will have an incredibly good time, the prime benefit of purchasing season tickets in a designated supporters section is reduced cost. The seats that go for $290 in the River End sell for $425 in the Land End. What the club—and everyone else—gets in return for that discount is a stadium-wide atmosphere that is priceless.

Two of the groups we talked to for the series on other supporters groups are located in the corner section adjacent to the River End, section 101 for the Tammany Saints and section 133 for the IllegitimateS. That Section 133 is the designated area for away support means that large parts of that section are already de facto standing sections. Unfortunately, MLS rules forbid the seating of an officially recognized home supporters group in the same section as away supporter. As Jeffrey Mitchell explained in the IllegitimateS article, this is why the group decided not to pursue official recognition from the club. Section 101 might then be the prime candidate to be the newest designated supporters area, but that is just speculation on my part.

What is beyond speculation is that, as Quarino said, the growth of other supporters groups is an indicator of the passion Union supporters have for their team. The continued organization of that passion by the Sons of Ben and other groups benefits not only the club, but all of its supporters.


  1. I love the photo! 133 is going BESERK DOOPIN Against REDBULL! We ALL RedBull!

    • Jeff, I think you mean we all hate RedBull. And 133 will go DOOPIN mental against RedBull. 133! There is no other place I want to sit.

  2. Hi there, just become aware of your blog via Google, and located that it is really informative.

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