Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughHow to build a professional football club - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough How to build a professional football club - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

How to build a professional football club


We all know the stories of AFC Wimbledon and their ambitious counterparts, but just how do you build a professional football club? Well, look no further than just over the Atlantic Ocean as new MLS side, Montreal Impact tell exactly how to do it.


You’re born. Almost in conjunction with your mother’s labour, you’re tagged by your father with a football club that shall stay part of you throughout your life, and your subsequent children’s lives – right? In many cases, before you’ve even mastered the art of the potty, you’re already a fully fledged season ticket holder and having your say in the boozer before kick-off.

There are of course alternatives. Your devotion to a football team has been decided by success. You have chosen to support the Chelseas or the Uniteds because of their rich history; a history that goes back over a century. Your club has steep memories of success, dilemma, disasters, promotions, relegations and legends.

For one second, imagine a United without the Munich air disaster, or a Preston without Sir Tom Finney. No Dixie Dean or Cliff Basten. Imagine no Maine Road, no Kop. Where would your heart belong if there was no club at all for you to support? Perhaps you’d join a plethora of fans down The Ball Centre ice rink watching the 100 year old Montreal Canadiens competing for the Stanley Cup.

In 2002, AFC Wimbledon was formed on the back of the anti-MK Dons saga. The club took their mass fan-base and formed a brand new club which attracted huge media attention and ultimately, as the years passed by, their warranted place back in the football league. Similarly, following the collapse of Halifax Town FC came FC Halifax Town in 2008. Once more, the basis of the club was formed on the back of those thousands of fans who ultimately no longer had a club to support. You may not be familiar with North America soccer, but Montreal Impact suffered similar ill fate in 2002 when their club was on the brink of expulsion.

Impact were rescued by local businessman, Joey Saputo, and the club maintained stability playing their soccer in the North American Soccer League, one league down from the ‘big time’ MLS division. In a city where ice hockey is described as “religion”, Impact faced a rivalry for support that was over before a child could even choose his or her team. Children are born in the province of Quebec simply without even knowing that there is a soccer team in existence.

“There are three teams in Montreal; The Montreal Canadiens (ice hockey), The Alouettes (Canadian football) and The Impact,” said executive vice-president, Richard Legendre. “We had to compete with these teams and try to introduce them to soccer.”

Despite relative success in their domestic league, as well as a CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against Mexico’s Santos Laguna that attracted more than 65,000 fans in 2008, it was proving difficult to overhaul the prowess that ice hockey offered. Legendre added: “There is huge potential. The games against Santos Laguna and [a friendly against] AC Milan showed us that there was interest in soccer.

“In Montreal, soccer can be the number one sport in the summer. There are 200,000 kids registered within the soccer federation in Quebec and if we can introduce them to Montreal Impact, it can be a generation phenomenon.

“We currently have around 200 diehard fans – we call them ‘The Ultras’. The challenge we face is going from 200 Ultras, to 1000s. The other types of fans we have are families, typically made up of mum, dad and two children. By making The Impact accessible to these families, we have the potential to embed the club into the community, raising the club’s fan-base.”

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Simon Bourne

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