Sean Dane: If you want the culture that is created by supporters then you have to accept all of it

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Published on December 27, 2012 with 16 Comments

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.

Photo: Denise McCooey

Sporting Kansas fans captured on the big screen at LSP
Photo: Denise McCooey

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.

Huffington Post: Fans, Families and Banning the ‘F-Bomb’

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16 Comments

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  1. Oh, you killed YSA because it was unoriginal? Mmmkay. Then do the world a favor and kill that boring, UNORIGINAL, stolen, college basketball chant “I Believe”. Mmmkay? Good. Thanks. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard and embarrasses MLS supporters whenever a supporter from another league sees it and laughs uncontrolablely at it.

    The Cauldron doesn’t know anything about “supporter culture”. You’re just a bunch of lazy, fat, customers posing as something you’re not. You’re fans, not supporters. And yes, there is a difference. So stop riding our F’ing coattails!

    • What has exactly gotten you so mad?

      Nobody came here to insult your supporters group. I am not sure who made you the king of all supporters and I am sorry that we did not apply and get your approval.

      We have been supporting this team since 96. Maybe you didn’t notice until be got the new digs but not our fault.

      There is a problem with thinking you know or have the right to dictate what is and is not a supporter. As supporters we should strive to stick together outside the 90 minutes we play. Its whats best for soccer in this country and its fans.

      Or maybe you invented being a soccer supporter and can enlighten us all on how it is done properly.

    • Ben-

      I don’t even sit in the Cauldron at home games, I sit with my family- a completely different side of the supporters culture. I think we can all agree to truly have a fan base for a team, you can’t rely on just the die-hards to show up and chant, you have to have the mommys and daddys cheering too. This is where the Cauldron excels with “I Believe.” No first time fan is going to show up and know all of the words to the original chants. But everyone can do the simple call-and-response. It also helps that this chant became prevalent at the end of a season that started out as a joke in MLS. Finally, many of the players call it their favorite chant- it gets them pumped, which is ultimately, the goal of any supporters group.

      I don’t really understand what your version of fans VS supporters is. In my opinion, a supporters group travels to support the team. Check. They support not only the team but each other outside of the games. Check. They make other supporters groups feel welcome when they travel to visit us. Check. They use their resources to create chants or displays to energize the fans and the team. Check. As Sean said in his comment, though, there is a problem with thinking you have the right to dictate what is and is not a supporter. It’s up to an individual’s definitions and actions.

      It really comes down to love for the team. That’s what the Cauldron has.

    • Portland fan by any chance?

  2. “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.” Yes, you can. You can ban smoke bombs. You can veto a giant tifo that includes profanity (not that that’s happened). At the same time, you can use use the parts of the game day experience that are positive to promote the team, while simultaneously providing positive reinforcement of desired behavior of your fans (let’s ignore the whole banned smoke bomb in a commercial debacle, since the ban isn’t universal and the error is understandable). The front office has the power, although the SGs have influence. Of course, the FOs must be careful wielding their power for fear of bad publicity and hurting attendance – in that sense, there is a balance to be reached, but even that shows the invalidity of the above quote.

    But yeah, the atmosphere at LSP is great, and I’d love to see more fan bases give up on YSA.

    • You are correct and it was a broad statement that should have been clarified more. There certainly limits to what SGs can and should do. Violence, Racism, Discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. In my experience those believes are held almost unanimously by the SGs in this league. I also agree that SG’s have to abide by stadium and municipal laws and rules. If you take a flare into a stadium that does not permit that; you should expect repercussions to those individuals. You should not see an entire SG be punished for an individuals actions however.

      • “There certainly limits to what SGs can and should do. Violence, Racism, Discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. In my experience those believes are held almost unanimously by the SGs in this league.”

        Sean, Ben,

        Would it therefore not be true to conclude that, those things having already been almost unanimously rejected by supporters, that they are not in fact part of North American Supporter Culture?

        • Unfortunately I don’t think you can just say its not part of the culture. You look at the incidents in San Jose when Galaxy fans were there for example. There are those that think violence is to be part of the culture. I think that the leadership of the organized supporters groups, especially those participating in the ISC, do not approve of any of those actions. That does not mean that it isn’t something that new fans need to be educated about. As far as racism/discrimination those same groups will need to continue to show that those elements are not part of the culture as we envision it.

          We have a chance to learn from the English leagues of the 80′s and not let those things become part of the supporters culture in this country. I personally think its one of the great advantages we have over the rest of the world. We seem to welcome opposing supporters as kindred spirits. This may come from being the ******* child of the sports world for so long, but it works.

  3. Sean, your smile is like a morning dew.

    • BS! I demand evidence!

  4. The City of Glasgow has a saying – Let Glasgow Flourish – and it has when it comes to football – Partick Thistle and Clyde are the vanguard of the message (although Clyde have gone rustic and now play among the coos in the fields). Let the Supporters Flourish has to be the banner cry for soccer here in the States – when it is about people and not about brands, it lives. Nice one to Kansas City for playing up.

  5. I think KC’s cauldron is one of the more exciting developments in MLS fan culture. Perhaps bigger than Seattle and Portland, because to be honest, I think SEA and PDX feed off each other a bit. KC, I think, has developed almost unexpectedly. KC shows, I think, that high level support really could happen anywhere, and is not just limited to quirky parts of the country.

    It helps to have a good team of course, but the rebranding of the Wiz with a new stadium, seems to have given them almost an expansion-team level of enthusiasm.

    • As a member of the Timbers Army, I think that both the Portland and Seattle SGs would be active and involved without the “other” team existing. The Sounders had great fan / suporter participation prior to Portland having an MLS team, and Portland supported its USL side very well after Seattle left for MLS and prior to Portland being awarded an MLS franchise (although there was a strong hope that Portland would get a side at that point). It is true that some of the tifo that comes from the two SGs are aimed (or at least timed) with the other team in mind.

      That said, I completely agree that the KC’s Cauldron is excellent for MLS and enjoy seeing the support when I catch a match on TV.

      • Kevin,

        Thanks for this. It’s worth remembering that the Supporter Culture rises and falls together. There is a time and place for demeaning and diminishing everything fans of other clubs do, say, sing and paint. But that time is not the off season where a more adult observation and discussion can be held.

        Your point about what the Cauldron have achieved is well taken. Perhaps the ‘Real America’ is finally ready for soccer. ;-)

        • “There is a time and place for demeaning and diminishing everything fans of other clubs do, say, sing and paint.”

          I actually don’t think there is, but I know that I’m in the minority among self-described supporters. :-)

          • I think in the run up to a derby game, you have the right to trash everyone and everything. Especially if you can be original and witty.

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