• Atlanta United
    Atlanta United

    The "Other AUFC"!

Killie FC

The Other AUFC!

46,000 fans a game: Atlanta United's strange success far from soccer's heartland

Exiled KillieFC.Com webmaster Allan Auld (who resides in Atlanta, GA, USA) shares how the "Five Stripes" become MLS’s most popular team five months after their first ever game? Shifting attitudes towards football in the US explain a lot.

Two Major League Soccer expansion clubs first took the field in March 2017, both bearing the moniker United. One in Minneapolis, the other in Atlanta – a city in that lower-third of the American map which, conventional wisdom holds, stands in stark opposition to the globalist concerns of either American coast, and could therefore never deign to care about a sport as preposterously effete as soccer, where flopping is rewarded.

Five months later, Atlanta United boast the highest average home attendance in Major League Soccer history (46,318 fans per game, more than any other MLS, NBA, NHL or MLB franchise in the country) and are in contention for the playoffs, while Minneapolis United play to smaller than league-average crowds.

So what gives?

Changing a culture

Until recently, the United States – particularly the southernmost ones away from the soccer hipsters of Brooklyn, New York, and Portland, Oregon – have not been known as a haven of fútbol culture.

The same held true for Atlanta, where even a “North American” sport such as hockey was unable to garner a sufficient audience to survive (the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers (which I also loved!) left the city in 2011). And yet, Atlanta United played their first home game to 55,297 fans in March – the best-attended match of MLS opening weekend by a factor of two and the fourth-largest soccer crowd in the world that week. 

One explanation for the shift toward soccer in southern cities such as Atlanta may lie in the nature of the sport itself. In The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong, authors Chris Anderson and David Sally differentiate between two kinds of social ecosystems – “weak link” and “strong link”. Strong-link sports have traditionally been popular in the individualist culture of the US, while weak-link sports dominate countries throughout the world. In a strong-link sport, the greatest impact is typically made by Atlas-like individuals, who take the world onto their shoulders to win games (LeBron James and Tom Brady come to mind). Weak-link sports are more cooperative. A soccer team may require 10 perfect passes to score, meaning that a single weak link in the chain can derail the entire enterprise. Likewise, a single strong player is usually precluded from inflicting any outsized dominance on the competition.

The 55,297 fans in Bobby Dodd stadium in Atlanta wait for kick-off at United’s first home game, in March 2017. 

Could it be that this disparity in value systems helps explain why soccer is primarily catching on in America’s more progressive cities, such as Atlanta? Additionally, Anderson links soccer’s recent surge in popularity to the United States’ late 20th-century immigration boom (which helped create the multicultural atmosphere of cities such as Atlanta), noting that “the stock of soccer-knowledgeable people in American communities has increased, especially in urban areas”.

Atlanta United president Darren Eales, who is British, (former Spurs Exec) agrees. “I look back 23 years ago when I was playing in America, we were lucky to get a thousand people a game and the biggest cheer was when the goalkeeper punted the ball high into the air. That was the level of soccer sophistication. Now, we’ve got a country that knows the game.”

In addition to an increasing domestic appreciation of soccer’s nuances, Anderson cites the tendency of upwardly mobile progressives to self-identify with the sport’s “exotic” global culture as a factor in fan growth. “[America] urban centers have become re-energized in important ways,” he observes. “You have young professionals and hipsters making downtown their home. Many of them seem to enjoy identifying themselves in opposition to the ‘typical’ American sports fan, and soccer offers that opportunity.”

For their part, the millennial fans flocking to the game in Atlanta are as quick as Princeton sociologists to cite soccer’s global qualities as an attraction. Charlton Cunningham, a 29 year-old resident of Atlanta’s west-midtown district who had “little interest” in MLS before 2017, says he appreciates the fact that “one person can’t call his own number and make a play happen [in soccer]. It truly takes a team effort to score.”

Cunningham also notes the unique composition of the crowd. “[Atlanta United] bring out the diversity this city is known for, but rarely sees at other sporting events,” he says. “You hear different languages being spoken, so you feel that international sense of the game. It’s amazing.” Chris Green, an Atlanta native and lifelong soccer player, agrees. “My seat neighbors are Latino, African and European in addition to the traditional, homegrown American. Many of my fellow fans come from cultures where soccer is their first sport, so I think the strength of the fanbase will persist.”

But while these changing perceptions toward soccer are important to Atlanta United, they don’t entirely explain the team’s success (Houston, for example, is a similarly diverse place but the city’s MLS team struggles to pull in large crowds).

How to build an overnight success

Atlanta United fan banner featuring owner Arthur Blank is displayed before the start of the match against the San Jose Earthquakes in July 2017. 

Arthur Blank, Atlanta United’s owner, recognized the potential of bringing soccer to America’s largest market without a team. He began publicly pursuing the prospect of MLS expansion in 2007, renewing his commitment to getting the deal done in the aftermath of the Thrashers’ departure. It was the impending (and controversial) construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with tax-exempt bonds that cemented the team’s arrival, smoothing over lingering MLS worries regarding Atlanta’s commitment to hosting a team.

The next step was to find the fans (the stadium will seat 42,500 fans for United games when they move to their new home in September). Eales joked that his first year in Atlanta was essentially one long “pub crawl”, meeting with fans at bars across the city. The community investment paid off: nearly 22,000 season seats were pre-sold – a staggering number that made Atlanta the sixth-best attended MLS team before a game had been played, and that would eventually climb to a league-leading 35,000-plus season ticket holders.

In addition to their PR drive, United made sure they had a team worth watching. Perhaps the biggest prize came at the top: they recruited Gerardo “Tata” Martino, the most distinguished coach ever to arrive in MLS. Martino boasts an extensive playing resume in his native Argentina and across Europe, as well as coaching the likes of Barcelona and Argentina.

Blank’s administrative group has attracted other top talent, most notably Eales, who has shown a willingness to leverage his impressive global Rolodex and sink serious money into young players in an attempt to field a competitive team from day one. As a result, Martino has three MLS all-stars (Greg Garza, Miguel Almiron and Michael Parkhurst) at his disposal to implement his aggressive style of play, leveraging speed to counter a lack of defensive polish.

Eales is quick to point out the departure this approach to player acquisition represents from the MLS tendency to tie up cap space on ageing superstars, who often come stateside for one final cash-in. “We were in a privileged position,” he explains. “The fans were already on board, so we didn’t need to go after any one name, a player at the end of his career in the Premier League … [We] could focus on attracting quality young players.”

Green credits some of his newfound fandom to this approach, arguing that the quality of play on display has changed his perceptions of a league historically haunted by a “bush league” reputation. “I have to admit, I was skeptical,” Green says. “But seeing this young, talented team contradicted my perception that MLS was a place for older players to sunset their careers.”

Martino’s high-intensity approach has not only maximized the impact of United’s impressive roster of attackers, but also proven a point of entry for the team’s newfound fans, many of whom are making their first efforts to pay attention to a sport often characterized by Americans as “slow”. A decade and a half ago, for instance, essayist Chuck Klosterman called soccer “a sport where announcers inexplicably celebrate the beauty of missed shots and the strategic glory of repetitive stalemates”. Though he was half-joking, his appraisal accurately represented the opinions of millions of Americans, at least if we’re to take the disparity between the number of children who played the sport and still watched it as adults as an indicator.

Eales, fans and academics describe Atlanta’s emerging fan base as “young”, “diverse” and “progressive”, but does this mean that the soccer wave pundits have promised for years is finally cresting? Will Atlanta United’s current attendance boom eventually be remembered as the beginnings of a real, sustainable soccer culture in the US south-east, or merely the anomalous early success expansion franchises sometimes see? According to Anderson, this depends on continued youth engagement, the stability of other professional sports, and America’s ability to eventually produce a soccer superstar.

Ultimately, speaking either to Atlanta fans or team representatives, it’s hard not to be struck with the impression that something is happening in the city. Thus far in the club’s short history, Green points out, fans have had to brave “Georgia summer heat”, uncomfortable seats and interminably long lines for the team’s temporary home, the “no-frills Bobby Dodd [college stadium] experience” – conditions that would never be accepted at other major sporting events.

So why are they accepted at a soccer match? Because the people of Atlanta simply love the game of soccer? In some cases, yes. In others, fans freely admit an inability to describe the game’s rules. And so it seems some of the excitement is probably attributable to the sport of soccer itself. And some is due to this particular franchise’s keen ability to function as a social mirror of 21st-century Atlanta.

Staring at its own reflection, the city seems to like what it sees.

 

Killie FC

Website Privacy Statement

Our policy relating to data collection and privacy has fairness at its heart and is never intended to cause objection or complaint and to that end if there is any dubiety we will not store your information. As a business we wish to stay in communication with your and keep you up to date with news, offers and updates on our product which you may find of interest, but we will only do this with your clear and specific consent.

Standard Privacy Policy

This privacy policy sets out how KILLIE FC uses and protects any information that you give KILLIE FC when you use this website.

KILLIE FC is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected. Should we ask you to provide certain information by which you can be identified when using this website, then you can be assured that it will only be used in accordance with this privacy statement.

KILLIE FC may change this policy from time to time by updating this page. You should check this page from time to time to ensure that you are happy with any changes. This policy is effective from 13th Jun 2018 

Security

We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure. To prevent unauthorised access or disclosure, we have put in place suitable physical, electronic and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure the information we collect online and offline.

Where we collect this information

As a business we collect data for a number of sources, but our data policy applies to all of the following including personal data collected at reception, check in, exhibitions, on and off-line competitions, guest questionnaires, online bookings, online communications, digital newsletter sign ups from websites and social media, shared promotions with partners and others not listed.

We confirm that unless specific consent is given by the user the information shared will not be stored beyond the purpose intended. If specific consent is given to use the information collected it will be stored securely and digitally encrypted and password protected. 

How we use cookies

A cookie is a small file which asks permission to be placed on your computer's hard drive. Once you agree, the file is added and the cookie helps analyse web traffic or lets you know when you visit a particular site. Cookies allow web applications to respond to you as an individual. The web application can tailor its operations to your needs, likes and dislikes by gathering and remembering information about your preferences.
We use traffic log cookies to identify which pages are being used. This helps us analyse data, using Google Analytics normally but on occasion other aggregation tools that advise us about web page traffic and improve our website in order to tailor it to customer needs. We only use this information for statistical analysis purposes and then the data is removed from the system.

Overall, cookies help us provide you with a better website, by enabling us to monitor which pages you find useful and which you do not. A cookie in no way gives us access to your computer or any information about you, other than the data you choose to share with us.

You can choose to accept or decline cookies. Most web browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can usually modify your browser setting to decline cookies if you prefer. This may prevent you from taking full advantage of the website.

Links to other websites

Our website may contain links to other websites of interest. However, once you have used these links to leave our site, you should note that we do not have any control over that other website. Therefore, we cannot be responsible for the protection and privacy of any information which you provide whilst visiting such sites and such sites are not governed by this privacy statement. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.

Controlling your personal information

You may choose to restrict the collection or use of your personal information in the following ways:
●    whenever you are asked to fill in a form on the website, look for the box that you can click to indicate that you do not want the information to be used by anybody for direct marketing purposes
●    if you have previously agreed to us using your personal information for direct marketing purposes, you may change your mind at any time by writing to or emailing us or by clicking unsubscribe where available.

We will not sell, distribute or lease your personal information to third parties unless we have your permission or are required by law to do so. We may use your personal information to send you promotional information about third parties which we think you may find interesting only if you specifically consent to us that you wish this to happen.
We undertake that third parties will only include businesses that support our business and your stay such as travel providers, visitor attractions, event providers and others directly related to our business offering.

If you believe that any information we are holding on you is incorrect or incomplete, please write to or email us baz@killiefc.com as soon as possible, at the above address. We will promptly correct any information found to be incorrect.

Our Website and In House Data Collection Policy

Our email collection policy is fully consent based and in entering your details clear consent is given by the user to receive future marketing materials from ourselves. The following information makes clear our policy on use of consent based email marketing and communications.

What we collect

We may collect the following information on a consent only basis:
●    name and job title
●    contact information including email address
●    demographic information such as postcode, preferences and interests
●    other information relevant to customer surveys and/or offers

What we do with the information we gather

The majority of the information we gather is required for contractual and legal purposes and to allow us to offer products and services as purchased. 
When consent is given to use the information for marketing and communication purposes it is used for the following reasons:
●    We may periodically send promotional emails about new products, special offers or other information which we think you may find interesting using the email address which you have provided.
●    From time to time, we may also use your information to contact you using your provided email address for market research purposes. 

Your information will never be shared with any third parties and at all times you have the right to unsubscribe permanently from our database with a simple click of the unsubscribe information at which time your details will be deleted from the mailing lists and removed from the database permanently with no archived records retained.
 

Killie FC

Website Terms and Conditions

Your use of the Killie FC Web Site is subject to these terms and by using the Site you show your agreement to such terms. If you do not accept our terms, please do not use the Web Site.

Ownership of Web Site

This Web Site belongs to Killie FC.

Headings

Headings used in these terms and conditions are for convenience only and shall not affect their interpretation.

Trademarks

The images, logos and names on this Web Site which identify Killie FC or third parties and their products and services are proprietary marks of Killie FC and/or the relevant third parties. Nothing contained in this Web Site shall be deemed to confer on any person any license or right on the part of Killie FC or any third party with respect to any such image, logo or name.

Alterations

Killie FC reserves the right, at any time and without prior notice, to remove or cease to supply any product or service contained on this Web Site. In the event that such removal takes place we shall not be liable to you in any way whatsoever for such removal.

Phone Calls and Emails

Telephone calls using the telephone numbers provided on this Web Site and email correspondence with Killie FC at the email addresses accessible through, or discernible from, this Web Site may be recorded or monitored. By using such communication methods you are consenting to the recording or monitoring of the same.

Telephone charges

The price of calls may vary depending on your telecoms supplier. Please check with your operator for exact charges.

WEBSITE POLICIES

Commercial use

This Web Site is for non-commercial, personal use only. The services contained on this Web Site may be supplied on a commercial basis on payment to Killie FC or its service or product suppliers of its charges from time to time. Please contact us on Email: baz@killiefc.com

In the event that you use any of the services contained on this Web Site for commercial use, Killie FC shall be entitled to charge you at its applicable rates in respect of such commercial use.

Copyright

The copyright in the material contained in this Web Site belongs to Killie FC or its licensed source. Any person may copy any part of this material, subject to the following conditions:

the material may not be used for commercial purposes;

the copies must retain any copyrights or other intellectual property notices contained in the original material;

the products and technology or processes described in this Web Site may be subject to other intellectual property rights reserved by Killie FC or by other third parties with no license granted in respect of those intellectual property rights); images on this Web Site are protected by copyright as its text by IPR and may not be reproduced or appropriated in any manner without the written permission of their respective owner(s).

Changes to Terms and Records of Agreements

We reserve the right to change these terms and conditions at any time by posting changes on the Web Site. It is your responsibility to review the Web Site terms and conditions to ensure you are aware of the latest terms and conditions. Your use of this Web Site after a change has been posted will be deemed to signify your acceptance of the modified terms and conditions. We recommend that you print off and retain for your records a copy of these terms and conditions from time to time and a copy of any terms and conditions relating to any product or service which you apply for online, together with any related application form completed and submitted.

Any amendment to terms and conditions must be agreed in writing by us, or, if appropriate, by the relevant company or individual supplier with whom you contract.

Disclaimers

Whilst Killie FC has taken due care and attention in the preparation of the contents of this Web Site, this Web Site and the information, names, images, pictures, logos, icons regarding or relating to Killie FC or our products and services marketed on the site (or to third party products and services), are provided on an 'as is' basis without any representation or endorsement being made and without any warranty of any kind, whether express or implied, including but not limited to, any implied warranties of satisfactory quality, fitness for a particular purpose, non-infringement, compatibility, security and accuracy.

To the extent permitted by law, all such terms and warranties are hereby excluded. In no event will Killie FC be liable, whether in contract or tort (including negligence or breach of statutory duty) or otherwise for any losses sustained and arising out of or in connection with use of this Web Site including, without limitation, loss of profits, loss of data or loss of goodwill (in all these cases whether direct or indirect) nor any indirect, economic, consequential or special loss.

Killie FC does not represent that the information contained in this Web Site is accurate, comprehensive, verified or complete, and shall accept no liability for the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this Web Site or for any reliance placed by any person on the information.

Killie FC does not warrant that the functions or materials accessible from or contained in this Web Site will be uninterrupted or error free, that defects will be corrected or that this Web Site or the server that makes it available are virus or bug free or represent the full functionality, accuracy, reliability of the materials.

If any of these Terms and Conditions (or any terms and conditions relating to a product or service referred to in this Web Site) should be determined to be illegal, invalid or otherwise unenforceable by reason of the laws of any state or country in which such terms and conditions are intended to be effective, then to the extent of such illegality, invalidity or unenforceability, and in relation to such state or country only, such terms or condition shall be deleted and severed from the rest of the relevant terms and conditions and the remaining terms and conditions shall survive, remain in full force and effect and continue to be binding and enforceable. Nothing in these terms and conditions shall exclude Killie FC's liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence of Killie FC.

Intellectual Property Rights

All Intellectual Property Rights (including, without limitation, all database rights, rights in designs, rights in know-how, patents and rights in inventions (in all cases whether registered or unregistered and including all rights to apply for registration) and all other intellectual or industrial property rights in any jurisdiction) in any information, content, materials, data or processes contained in or to this Web Site belong to Killie FC or its licensed source. All rights of Killie FC in such Intellectual Property Rights are hereby reserved.

Jurisdiction and Law

Killie FC makes no representation that any product or service referred to on or through the Web Site is appropriate for use, or available in other locations. The information and other materials contained in this Web Site may not satisfy the laws of any other country and those who choose to access this Site from other locations are responsible for compliance with local laws if and to the extent local laws are applicable.

These Terms and Conditions and any terms and conditions relating to products or services described in this Web Site shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of Scotland. Disputes arising in relation to the same shall, unless otherwise expressly agreed, be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Scotland.

Links to other Web Sites

Certain (hypertext) links, advertisements or suppliers promotion will lead you to Web Sites that are not under the control of Killie FC. When you activate any of these links, you will leave Killie FC Web Site by opening a new window and we have no control over and will accept no responsibility or liability in respect of the material on any such other Web Site. By allowing links with third party Web Sites Killie FC does not intend to solicit business or offer any security to any person in any country, directly or indirectly.

Force Majeure

Every effort will be made to carry out the contract but its due performance is subject to cancellation by Killie FC or to such variation as we may find necessary as a result of inability to secure labour, materials or supplies or as a result of any act of God, War, Strike, Lockout or other labour dispute, Fire, Flood, Drought, Legislation, or other cause (whether of the foregoing class or not) beyond the sellers control.

Killie FC

Website Accessibility

We have tried to make this website as accessible as possible and easy to use for everyone, regardless of circumstance or ability.

All our page templates comply with the WCAG Priority 2 checkpoints as a minimum requirement. And we make every effort to ensure that all the content on our site meets this standard too. We are making every effort to ensure that we don't exclude any users. For example:

  • We try to use clear and simple language.
  • We use alternative text for all our images 
  • Were possible the HTML we produce conforms to the standard: XHTML 1.0 Strict
  • We have tested the colours we use in the design for contrast.

We try to publish all our text content as accessible HTML rather than in other formats such as PDF. Where we do publish PDFs or other formats our policy is to make them as accessible as we can.

Please feel free to share the content of this page with your friends – simply click on where you would like to share it.