Sons of Ben The First Year
Dear Members, Brothers, and Fellow Soccer Fans, Happy Founders’ Day!
Wow. A little over a year ago, a handful of us got together and decided to take advantage of the momentum that the Rowan possibility had brought to our market. We already had a lobbying group in place, but we wanted something that would be more inclusive and had permanence about it. So we adopted a name that our small group liked, bought the website, got to work on designing a logo, and hoped we’d reach 100 members.
In the early months, we met twice a month for lunch to plan and discuss ideas. We also planned early on to get together at a KiXX game to meet some of the anonymous faces from our discussion board at bigsoccer.com. By mid-March it was time for the KiXX game and we had just over 100 members already! And then, our first big break. Steven Wells contacted us to do a story for FourFourTwo, Philadelphia Weekly, and The Guardian. The FourFourTwo article was a coup. Here was a group of supporters, supporting nothing. When the article came out on news stands around the world two months later, we got a new wave of interest.
Yes, we had ideas that the team would be announced in 2007, and kept pushing for all the involvement we could get. We thought surely we’d hear something before the season, at the All-Star Game, at the MLS Cup, but we kept busy during that time. We volunteered at MLS’s local Futbolito tournament spreading the word in person of what we were doing to the adult and youth soccer-playing community. We traveled to New York for an MLS match, which ended up with us getting covered by Sports Illustrated.
On August 2nd, we hit 500 members and we were edging closer to the goal that we had set for ourselves, 60 members a month for the first year. “Project60″ we called it. It had a double meaning, which we hoped we could fulfill. Besides 60 members a month, if you turn 60 upside down you get 09, which was our hope for the inaugural season for a Philadelphia MLS team. All this time we continued to get amazing media coverage which helped us get the word out, despite having absolutely no marketing budget; our story was so unique that we were covered in all the local papers and in some national media as well.
We had surpassed our membership goal by the time of an amazing moment in our history. In mid-October, Andy Reilly and Delaware County called a press conference to announce that Delaware County would be contributing $30 Million to the stadium project. There, for the first time, we saw the finalized location and two stunning mock-ups of the stadium itself. We had a small group of SoB’s who took off from their real lives that Monday to be part of something very special and we somehow took center stage at an event that we were humbled to be included in. Media members, politicians, and owners all knew who we were! They actually came up to us to give thanks, when all we were there to do was to thank them for all of their hard work.
The moment came to introduce ourselves to the league. At MLS Cup 2007, 87 Sons of Ben stood out in a field of bright blue, proudly representing Philadelphia en masse in front of the entire league as well as a national TV audience. We were the 4th largest fan base there that day, behind only the finalists and the local DC fans. Finally, on November 30th, we signed up our 1,000th member.
It has been quite an amazing year; truthfully, it seems like it’s been a lot longer. The elders and I have continued to challenge ourselves to make this the best supporters’ group in the league, in preparation for getting a franchise. We meet weekly to plan, recap, and discuss direction. I could not do it without such an amazing group of guys fighting as hard as I do to make our dreams a reality. I look forward to singing Four Leaf Clover with our entire membership to celebrate our announcement as the 16th team. Keep the faith and for goodness sakes, get active in this once-in-a-lifetime movement.
Ad Finem Fidelis,
Bryan James President Sons of Ben