Philadelphia Union: The club trying to connect to community


The Philadelphia Union have started an initiative to involve fans in the design process of their 2021 second-strip kit. They are a club trying to connect to the community.

Football is an increasingly commercialised sport. The idea of going down the terraces, having a pint in the pub beforehand, and knowing almost everyone around you is long gone. Organisations are more global than they have ever been; clubs are seemingly as focused on the size of their wallets as they are the connection with their communities. The game feels increasingly lost to the normal person.

But sometimes, amid the trajectory of distant owners and unaware football clubs, there are some stories that warm your heart and remind you that football is about the people that play and watch the sport. The beautiful game is beautiful because of what happens in the stanchions and between the white lines, not in the board rooms.

It is easy for modern clubs to forget this. The board rooms, after all, tend to be where the money is. But when they do remember, when they do choose to put the fans first and involve them in the very nature of the organisation, football itself is glorified.

The Philadelphia Union have started an initiative in which some fans have been invited into the design process of the kit. Specifically, a Creators’ Collective will help design the secondary jersey of the 2021 season. Included in this group are representation from the founding supporters’ group, The Sons of Ben, select members of the local press​, representation from the Union’s existing Fan Council​, creators of the best “fan concept” as shared by fans on social media in recent years, and a SuperFan, a competition that was conducted in April.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Doug Vosik, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications of the Philadelphia Union last week, about this initiative. It was a 20-minute conversation or so with Vosik talking me through the details of the process and some of the specifications of the design that has been discussed.

What was most interesting about our conversation, however, was not the initiative in and of itself. Rather, it was the focus behind the initiative. Doug spoke about the Sons of Ben, the founding supporters’ group, and how the Union feel committed to their fans because of their history, something that many other clubs could learn from.

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For Vosik and Philadelphia, there is a key focus on bringing the fans into the club. They are trying to connect to the community. Doug mentioned to me that the Union would be setting up office hours where he and other executives would commit time to speak to fans and answer questions. It is all a point of ensuring that the distance between the fans and the club is not as great as it is with many other clubs, MLS-based and worldwide.

The Philadelphia Union is a club that stemmed from the fans. And they do not want to forget that. The Creators’ Collective initiative is just one part of that. It is a brilliant part of it, one that will be interesting to see what the result is. But the motive behind it is far more encouraging. That is what will lead to the Union being a true club of the supporters.

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So, if you are in Philadelphia and are looking for a football club that cares, you need not look far. The Philadelphia Union care about the community. Head down the terraces, grab a pint in the pub, and celebrate the true beauty of football.