• Sophia Hosford

Interview with Danielle Russell, Media Director for Kansas City Blue Crew

I sat down with Danielle Russell, Media Director for KC Blue Crew, supporters group for former NWSL club FCKC, and Kansas City's incoming NWSL team.

SH: What was it like when you first found out that the NWSL would be coming back to Kansas City?

DR: I had actually heard rumors starting from early spring and I honestly thought they were fake because it seemed kind of unbelievable because of how everything ended. So, when we found out that a team was coming back, it was instant serotonin. It was just so happy and it was just relief in a way. Things didn’t end really well with FC Kansas City, it just felt really sudden so it felt like relief.

SH: How did you get involved in the Blue Crew in the first place?

DR: I moved back to the Midwest in 2014 after being out in the New Jersey area so I got season tickets. I went down for the first game of the 2014 season and decided to go to the Blue Crew tailgate. I met some people and decided to stand with them and I became really good friends with them. Throughout that season, I decided to get more and more involved and then I became a member. I was pretty involved and we got to watch the team win that first championship after that.

SH: There have been reports that Sporting KC would not want to share Children’s Mercy Park with the NWSL team. Why do you think this is?

DR: Its kind of confusing. While I understand not wanting to work with the schedule for an NWSL team; not only does Sporting play on that field but the USL team too. Its not like that's the only field; they have access to other stuff that they have denied so its kind of weird. I know that there were some bad feelings with the last ownership group, but you would think hey, this is new. New owners, new people. So, I honestly don’t know. I just think that somebody in the ownership group just doesn’t want to share facilities and that is really disappointing.

SH: There have also been reports that the team would play at a baseball stadium in Kansas City like OL Reign does in Washington State. Do you believe that that would be a step in the wrong direction for the club?

DR: I actually think it would be a really good step for the first season. From what I have heard, the long term plan is to build a stadium. So, for the first while, getting stuff involved, it seems like a pretty good location. Its in that same area of Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting KC plays. There are a lot of restaurants, things to do, shopping facilities; its a destination. So, I think that it would be a good place to play temporarily. I think the facilities for the players will be better than what they had back three years ago when we played at Swope Park. I think its going to be a good first step as long as they continue to build towards building that stadium.

SH: Despite the circumstances surrounding the announcement given the state of the country, have you been able to sense a change or level of excitement in Kansas City?

DR: Yes! I run the Twitter account and between Saturday, when the first reports came out and today, we have gained hundreds of followers which I did not expect. We have had more people message us and tweet us wanting to be involved, wanting to help out, wanting to stand with us. Not only fans, but supporters groups for Sporting KC too. There have been a lot of people who have already reached out and I have heard people wanting to start their own supporters groups as well which is great, the more the merrier. That excitement wasn't necessarily there the first time so that is a really good sign that it is going to be huge.

SH: What makes you think that KC is ready to welcome an NWSL team back? What will be different from last time?

The first one had multiple issues which is why they sold. {Regarding} the last one, not only was he out of state, he was in Minneapolis, it also appeared that he didn't want to spend the money on some of that stuff. This ownership group wants to get involved in the community, you can’t buy that marketing. If you are giving back, that is the best marketing there is. On top of that, I think that it sounds like the {ownership} team is going to actually spend money to market the team and market it correctly. They never really knew what to do with FCKC. Sometimes, they were like ‘this is for soccer fans’ but a lot of times they were like ‘hey bring your kids’. This ownership group from what I have read and from what I have heard from them, is really spending the money to market it correctly. I think that there is an advantage of having connections to people like Brittany and her fiancé Patrick Mahomes, that is real excitement for the city because everyone in Kansas City loves those two.

SH: Is there a specific U.S. or Canadian city that you’d like the NWSL to expand to?

DR: I think Vancouver would obviously be a good place, they are a really good soccer city. The World Cup final was there five years ago so I think Vancouver would be a good one. Atlanta is probably where I would like to see {the league expand} to the most. I honestly thought that they would be way ahead of us getting an expansion franchise.

SH: When its safe, where are you most excited to travel to cheer for the team?

DR: Probably Chicago. The first time around, we were really good friends with Chicago Local. We stayed there for playoff games and regular games so they are just really good friends of ours. Other than that, maybe not this season but next season I want to get to LA to see what that will be like. I know that Angel City is not associated with LAFC but I feel like its going to have a very LAFC feel to it in the support, a thousand different supporters groups all loud and proud. I think LA for 2022 is the one I’m looking forward to.

SH: Do you think there is any hope for Boston to come back?*

DR: I hope so. Breakers fans are really loyal, they followed that team through three different leagues.* I think that there is a lot of support and I think that they were so close to building something special that just fell through and caused that fold that I think if they get the right investor and right ownership group, they could come back. I would love to see it happen for them.

SH: What was the atmosphere like at a typical FCKC game? How will it be different once the team begins play again in terms of fans and general atmosphere in a post-covid world?

DR: Attendance was the issue the first time around but I think the atmosphere was really good, especially that last season, you had a lot of really smart soccer fans there. Blue Crew was always a smaller section but we were loud, we had fun, and there was a lot of laughter. I think you will see that again with the new team, but I think it will be bigger. It will be closer to what you see in Chicago in the sense that there are a lot of people, different groups having fun but being loud and supporting the team and I think that that’s going to happen in KC.

SH: What was your initial reaction when you learned that FCKC was moving to Utah?

DR: In 2017, it was really sad. The rumors were there the whole time, but none of us believed it, we all really thought that the team was staying. When they folded, it almost felt like it came out of left field which is weird because everyone knew it was folding basically except for Blue Crew. It was just a really terrible day. It was the President of Blue Crew’s Birthday, I was on a trip at a hotel, trying not to cry with other people around. It was just a mess.

SH: What do you say to Utah fans who have just lost their team, seeing as you experienced a similar feeling a few years ago?

DR: It seems weird to say it like this in a way, but there is no right way to grieve. You just lost a team, a big part of your identity and you don't have to feel any sort of way; If you don't want to support the new Kansas City team, that's fine. I didn't go over to Utah because it didn't feel right. If you want to take some time because you’re like hey maybe I can’t watch the league for a couple of months at the start of the year, that is okay. You just have to take your time, do it however you want.

...Eventually, you are going to feel right going back to whoever you want to support....

* The Boston Breakers are a now defunct NWSL club. The Breakers also competed in the NWSL's predecessors, WUSA and WPS.

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