This afternoon will see the initial introduction of a new NASL team in Oklahoma City. The once on, then off, now on again team will be affiliated with the Spanish team Rayo Vallecano and play in Yukon High School west of the city. Obviously when the news broke Energy fans appeared to immediately dismiss the viability out of hand. With good reason too I would say. If the tables were turned and an NASL team decided to sprout from the ether in say Collinsville or St Charles, I suspect we too would share the same thoughts and rail against its viability.
One such take was that it would “split” the Energy support, and obviously the fear is that if the Energy get an average of 5,000 fans then can two teams survive on 2,500 average attendance? While OC Blues managed to win the western conference on those numbers it is a fear for the Energy fans that instead of having one sustainable team you can instead end up with 2 failed teams. Really though?
My take is that if you’ve been an Energy fan for the past two years and not already emotionally invested, especially after the great season they just had then you never will be. I suspect that if you’re an Energy fan now you will remain so if and when Rayo plays the first game.
Another comment I read from an Oklahoma City Energy fan was that it may cut in to the casual fan market, the soccer mom and dad with the 2 kids who just want to hit up a game every now and then may chose the Rayo team instead of the Energy, especially if they live towards the western suburbs of the city. Well sorry, if your business model depends on casual fans who only go to a couple of games then you ask for all you get. A coffee shop has no right to protest if a Tim Hortons moves in down the road and this is the same. While I agree that Oklahoma isn’t a traditional hotbed of soccer and some see it as a limited market, the Energy do not own that market by right.
When I went to Taft stadium for the game against STLFC, I was speaking to a fan about the whole “The Grid is run from the front office” thing and he explained that nothing could be further from the truth and that he was quite envious of our relationship to Jeremy and the access we have with Dale and the team “We get nothing,” he chided. “They are very aloof and really keep their distance from the fans.”
So surely if a new team comes in and upsets the apple cart, the Energy will be forced to step up their game. They will have to ensure that fans don’t leave for a new club. They’ll have to be more receptive to fans needs. They’ll have to. As for in order to make RayoOKC succeed they’ll need to woo every single soccer fan they can get. Especially in a high school stadium miles west into the suburbs. (which I think is a tough sell personally, but my money isn’t on the line)
Also factors into the potential problems Rayo will face is if San Antonio does defect to USL, then their nearest team to play is in Indianapolis. Travel will be crippling, compared to the Energy playing Tulsa, SPR, St Louis, San Antonio? and Rio Grand.
Competition is good. Competition is not just on the field, it is off it too and Energy have a two year head start and coming off the great season they’ve had, Energy fans should also welcome the fact that this move by NASL will force their own club to be better, both on and off it.
Whatever your thoughts on NASL, and whether or not you think going into a “limited market,” I would like to think 1.3 million people can support two teams. I think cities should have more than one professional team. I think there should be more options and rivalries. There should be more bragging rights. I am not sure if it will work, am interested to see. It will be a litmus test for other cities of similar size to see if they can make a duality work. I hope so personally. More football is never a bad thing.