First City Supporters: You Gotta Start Somewhere. Savannah, GA

FirstCity

Steve Bayley Interview with Donovan Ringo of the First City Supporters. 

Follow Donovan @TheRingoShow and First City Supporters @FirstCity2015

 

SB: Alright so tell me about the Savannah movement.

DR: Alright so first of all the Savannah movement, it started with myself: Donovan Ringo and Brian Sikes.  We’re both members of, well, I was a member of AO Savannah, and so we were just bouncing around the idea in a Facebook group, what if Savannah had a team.  Orlando just got announced they got a team, New York just got announced, what if Savannah could get like a third division or fourth division team? So we were just playing about it, but it time went on it became kind of “What if this could really happen?” So we just sat down and started drawing up ideas.  We probably couldn’t get higher than third or fourth division, but we came up with the idea of First City Supporters because Savannah was the first city discovered in Georgia by General Oglethorpe, well you know first city, first city supporters it’s a pretty cool name, so we came up with the name, crated a twitter account, and started talking.  That’s when actually Abram reached out to us.  We love the Grassroots soccer idea, what if we draw up a design?  That’s how we got our logo, we just told him what Savannah stood for, the colors, we came up with the tree because Savannah, its a lot of trees and foliage, you know the oak trees, the squares in the crest because of (the city’s squares) The Latin in the crest means “not for self but for others” And that was the first motto for the colony of Savannah, which became the colony of Georgia.  I mean that’s huge, were doing this because we love soccer, but we think that Savannah would really prosper for that.

Savannah just lost their baseball team, they’re, you know, minor league baseball team, so there’s no sports entertainment in the city at all.  So we can fill the void with soccer. So that’s what we’ve been doing, we’ve just been growing it.  We said we wanted to do it grassroots style.

We just started a small group, telling our friends, telling their friends, so on and so forth.  That’s when we started getting a little more attention.  Everyone was like, Savannah would be a great place, I’ve been to Savannah, we’re right on 95.  We’re only an hour away from Charleston.  We go up to the Battery games all the time in Charleston.  We were up there talking to each other like “Imagine a rivalry between us, because Charleston and Savannah since like the 1700’s have always had a rivalry; from like who could cook better pie, throwing parties, everything. There’s always been a rivalry between the two cities, so this would be perfect, right down 95, Orlando’s only 4 hours away, Jacksonville’s only an hour and a half away, Atlanta’s 4 hours away. We were like look at all these soccer towns all around us and we don’t have a team.  So that’s just where First City’s at.  We started the group back in February, so we’re still in year one.

We started the Facebook group.  There’s free membership right now because we don’t have anything.  We’re just trying to get more people to actually show interest, so we can either have an investor invest in to getting a team, or we can have enough people to actually do what they’re doing in Nashville, fan ownership.  I’ve seen what they’ve done, I’ve seen what FC (United) of Manchester is doing, great! You get a bunch of people to pay in a little bit of money where it adds up and you can have a fan owned team.  We like what the Bundesliga is doing where the fans own the majority of the team.  We put in our Charter that if somebody does come in, we want to have a majority stake in the team, You can have your 45% but we just want that difference.

SB: So have you done any financial projections on what it would take?  How much you need to raise to hit the goal?

DR: We looked at 4th Division.  4th Division would be the best entry point in.  Last time we checked it would be about $50,000.  You would have to have a business plan, all that. That was the closest real life thing.  USL’s affiliation with MLS, I mean clubs are coming a million dollars plus now, so 3rd Division’s out of the question now.  So we would look ta NPSL, a majority of NPSL teams are in the Southeast so that would make it even more doable for us if we have a team, but that’s where we are.  Then we (my wife and I) had an opportunity to move up here (Atlanta) We’re both from here, so I moved, so I had to leave (Savannah) but me and Brian are still talking and we actually have people with us, with a board that he’s working with down there, and we’re just trying to grow it from there.  So, that’s just the hard part.  It’s great to have an idea, but to raise the capital, to get people to invest in the idea.  None of us are really entrepreneurs so we don’t really know how to pitch stuff, and say hey this is a good investment for you and things like that. We had somebody from Michigan say he wanted to start a soccer team down in the South, he wanted to move his family down, but until you say your really moving its just words right now.

SB: So how many people do you really have? Do you have a bank account?  How many people have contributed?  Not to get all into it, but I’d like to know where you’re financials are at toward that 50?

DR: Right now, the only people putting money in is our board.  It’s 5 people on the board, and then we have fringe people, so we’ve had everybody put in $25 into the account, so that’s how we bought merchandise, we bought magnets, we gave those out to at the USA Mexico CONCACAF Cup thing, so you know, just so people could start seeing the tag, asking questions, going to the Facebook page. So yeah, Money is low, but next year we’re going to start ramping it up, saying hey, invest in the team, it will become your team, and so now we just have to figure out the verbiage on how to say that to people.

SB: You know…people…Nobody’s gonna want to start investing until you start investing.  It’s not gonna take A LOT of money, but you , know, yall gotta put up like $1000 a piece or something, just so say hey we’re serious?  Ya’ll are ready to do that when you feel there’s others ready to do it, or…Where’s that stand? Ya’ll ready to say hey, put your nuts on the table…?

DR: It’s the idea.  The majority of the work being done was just me and Brian.  Then once we got the newspaper article done for us, that’s when when more people started coming around, so its just getting those people to invest, like passionately like me and Brian and doing.  Now people are like yeah we love the idea we want to help, things like that, so that is the next key.  That’s what we talk about all the time.  We gotta raise capital.  We have to figure out a way to raise capital for this team for anybody to take us seriously in this day and age, right.  Now its just an idea.  Its people in Savannah.  There’s cities all around the country with people that want to do the same thing.

SB: Do ya’ll have a website up about raising capital where people can go on and donate?

DR: We have all that information on the Facebook page, we’re using that as a platform because me and him (Brian) had to experience in building a website, so well start this here, once we find a person who knows how to design a nice website, we’ll transition to a website, but you know, we have more people here talking to us on Facebook, talking to us on Twitter.  We’re like, do we really want to spend $300 for a domain right now for a team? We’re like, we don’t know, we don’t have that money right now.  We’re using social media as our platform.

SB: Do you have a date in mind when you’d like to play?

DR: We keep saying we had a motto, USL 2017, that was our motto, we’d always do a hashtag so whenever they announce a team, that was that, before I moved.  I’ve been gone 5 months now, so its Brian there, and he has people helping him here and there.  Ideally we just want to get more people who are passionate.  We want to get 5-6 passionate people like me and him, to make a total of 8 of us.  That could be something we could do.  We’ve called the Charleston Battery about coming down to Savannah to do a friendly. They’re like yeah, If you guys can get a stadium for us to play in, you know, all the things that are important.

SB: Have you ever thought about starting at an even lower level?  Like a USASA level? In an Adult soccer league in the area, and just promote the hell out of that?  Even though people don’t necessarily always do that?  What if ya’ll did it?  What if ya’ll just recruited local players and got a good eleven together and started playing and made it real?

DR: I’ve never thought about it.

SB: You know what I’m saying? You could enter the Open Cup (qualification) as a USASA team.  There’s even more accessible avenues available.

DR: Never thought about that, we have the summer and spring leagues that play in the rec soccer down there, but we never thought about taking 11 guys and getting a coach and making a cup run.

SB: Is there an Adult Soccer league in Savannah?

DR: There is.  It’s sponsored by Savannah United, the youth soccer thing, they do spring, summer, and fall adult leagues.  You can build a small sided co-ed its 6v6.

SB: OK, have you ever, do you know about the ADASL here in Atlanta?

DR: No.

SB: So that’s the Atlanta District Amateur Soccer League, which is the local D5 USASA men’s league, 11 v 11. Amateur, full side…That would be the equivalent of some of the stuff that we cover, you know, early round Open Cup qualifying, like that level.  And that takes almost no money beyond whatever it costs fo rhte uniforms, league entry fees, You know if its $800 a season and you gotta pay the refs $140 a game, or whatever that is.  You can run a team for $5000.  You can be out there.  I’m just giving you that also, that’s another way.  Cause the less barriers to entry the better, you know?

DR: But, that’s where we are right now.  Year 1. New idea’s trying to spark interest, like we do the viewing parties for the national team games.  We had a little traction for the Sunday MLS games, the 5:00 games, couple people coming out.  Things like that.

SB: What was the bar in Savannah?

DR: We went to B&D Burgers on Abercorn.

SB: Is that like a soccer bar?

DR: Not really.

SB: Is that like a soccer friendly establishment?

DR: Not really! We went in and we’d like make enough noise, like alright you guys can go over here and watch soccer, things like that. The American Outlaws, they went to a bar called JJ Bonerz to watch the games.  One of the girls in the Outlaws worked there, so they let us watch the game in the basement.  Savannah has a huge youth soccer culture.  Everybody comes form different places.  You go out to the youth club Savannah United, and there’s thousands of people out there.  I’ve walked through there and talked to people and asked if there was an adult team would you go to games?  They’re like yeah we love soccer! We got into it with the World Cup in 2006.  A lot of people got into it in the World Cup in 2006.  A majority of casual fans got interested in the sport, I want to get my kid in it, things like that.  We were always interested in a soccer bar in Savannah.  We just couldn’t find anybody who would open early for EPL games, but that’s that.

SB: It’s interesting that you could find somebody to play MLS, but you couldn’t find somebody to play EPL. That’s really rare.

DR: There’s a lot of places open early for breakfast but that’s like for the tourists.  They don’t want fans in there.

DR: We’re here.  People have heard of us, now we just need to do something about it.

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