Sean Dane goes by the title of Hype Man of the main Sporting Kansas City Supporters Group, the Cauldron.
The Hype Man may be a strange title but Dane maintains that the Cauldron folk don’t like titles which make people think they are important as opposed to just getting things done.
No-one can deny that the Cauldron and the organised fans at Livestrong Park have ‘got it done’, as we watched one of the few mid west outposts of Major League Soccer become a poster child for supporter culture and the possibilities that arise when a MLS club moves into a soccer specific stadium.
He spoke to Prost Amerika by email over the holiday period identifying four key reasons behind the remarkable Supporter Culture success story in Kansas City.
Prost Amerika: What have been the main reasons behind the atmosphere at LSP?
Sean Dane: The atmosphere at LSP as become great for several reasons. In my mind the most important is the roof. When the designs for a stadium in Kansas City were being worked on; the team asked the supporters what it wanted in the stadium. At the top of the list was a roof for the purpose of keeping sound in. Additionally the angle over the supporters section turns our end into a megaphone helping to spread the chants around the stadium.
Second, due to the high levels of participation in soccer from youth leagues up; we have a very knowledgeable fan base. They know when and why they should be excited and more participatory in the flow of the game.
Prost Amerika: Not every Front Office in MLS is as keen on fostering Supporter Culture as others. What has been the SKC Front Office’s role?
Sean Dane: The team from top down believes in the vision the Cauldron has for fan participation. With a demographic skewed towards the 18-30 year olds; we have people looking to participate and not just be spectators. Focusing on helping the supporters groups engage the rest of the stadium versus trying to create an atmosphere designed by marketing people has been huge. There have also been no efforts to try and control what we say or when we say it.
Finally, this city has some of the greatest fans in the sports world. The city is supportive of the teams that play for it; as long as you are putting forth an effort to win. I think many of us knew this city had the potential to be one of the best markets in the game. All it took was and ownership group that believed in the city, built a great facility to call home, and a desire to win.
Prost Amerika: Should MLS be wary or proactive in getting involved in trying to shape what happens in the stands?
Sean Dane: It’s a fine line to walk. Obviously the league has responsibilities to it television and advertising partners. Additionally there is a responsibility to those coming to games that expect a certain level of family friendly-ness. Supporters don’t buy every ticket in the stadium, and there has to be some level of respect for those that want to sit and watch the game.
That being said, you cannot pick the parts of supporters culture that you like and use to promote your league while trying to ban the parts that you don’t. I personally try not to lead chants with unnecessary foul language. That is not to say I am anti foul language. In fact if you ever stand next to me at a game I can make a sailor blush with some of the things coming out of my mouth. I just don’t see the need for organized profanity just to do it.
Prost Amerika: How did you deal with the YSA issue?
Sean Dane: We killed YSA last year. Not because it says shit or asshole but because it’s unoriginal and ineffective. The danger in my eyes is making it a big deal. If you want the culture that is created by supporters than you have to accept all of it. When you try to mold that’s when you get backlash. That’s not good for supporters, the league or its partners.
I would hope that those in MLS’s offices realize the model of catering towards youth soccer teams and their parents has lost. There is a young passionate generation of fans in the league that are the new demographic and they should be embraced. They have also been raised in a world of media that has expletives left and right and are not so easily offended.
Prost Amerika: You bring experience from attending other sports. Can you make some comparisons?
Sean Dane: I am a sports fan, I have attended every kind of professional sport and every kind of venue in this country. There is foul language at all of them. Every sport starts the BS chant if there is a terrible call. There are individual outbursts of FU or a number of other profane sentiments. In being so outspoken about this subject the league makes it a bigger issue than actually exists. At least that’s the way I see it in our market.