September 11, 2007

M. Soccer Targets Fans

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The men’s soccer team has started the 2007 season with a bang after three victories and a near-win, all on the road. When the Red return to Berman Field, however, the team doesn’t want to come home to an empty house.
“I have a bunch of friends who play at other schools,” said senior midfielder Brian Kuritzky. “At UConn they have a fan club called the Twelfth Man. They paint their bodies and have drums and posters … They’ve been around for 10 or 15 years and they get like 3000 fans at each game …. Although we don’t expect to get 3000 people the first year, [we just want to make the atmosphere here] more like a professional game.”
With that goal in mind, there are several new projects in the works to build the Red’s fan base — including a facebook group fan club and halftime raffles and competitions. The Red hopes these efforts will increase attendance at home games. Berman Field can hold at least 1000 spectators, yet the attendance mark for the entire 2006 season was only 1214. Over six home games last year, the Red’s cheering section averaged about 200.
“In previous years we haven’t had the crowds that we’ve wanted,” said senior tri-captain Aaron Vieira. “We feel there’s a big soccer-following community that’s been untapped,” [for example] all the international students. We want to make it more clear when the games are.”
Red men’s soccer fans will now be known by the name Ezra’s Army. The facebook group was just created and its admins include sophomore forward Matt Bouraee and senior midfielder Sean Mooney.
Prizes will also be offered to entice spectators. The coaches were able to obtain signed jerseys from Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, the English Premier League’s Chelsea FC and the Mexican National Team. There is even a possibility that a David Beckham-autographed jersey will be raffled off at one of the home games.
“We have alumni that played under [head coach] Bryan [Scales] who work for Adidas, so they were able to get some jerseys from Adidas [sponsored] teams,” said assistant coach Joe Schneck.
The proceeds from the raffles will go to charity. According to Schneck, the team is working with Cornell Sports Marketing to decide how the raffles will be run and which charity the funds will go to. The leading candidate is currently United Way or a local chapter.
The idea for this publicity campaign began to develop a few months ago. Kuritzky discussed the Red’s dilemma over the past summer with Schneck and Elle Nichols, Program Coordinator of Sports Marketing. Kuritzky and Mooney eventually went to a Sports Marketing meeting, and there Ezra’s Army was put into motion. The team envisions Ezra’s Army as the tip of the iceberg in raising audience participation.
“Along those lines of Ezra’s Army, we’re going to have competitions at halftime,” Kuritzky said. “We’re hoping to a have a Greek Night. Like Conquer the Courts at basketball games, we’ll do Conquer the Fields with soccer and have penalty shoot-outs and stuff like that.”