The Independent Supporters Council (ISC) met in Vancouver this past weekend, for their annual two-day conference to discuss issues affecting supporters across North America.
The ISC was founded in 2009 to advocate for the fair treatment of home and away supporters and promote supporters culture. They are a fully volunteer run organization that aims to accomplish change via delegates from each city, with 23 Supporters Groups represented in Vancouver this year.
The Council is also open to supporters groups from all leagues, not just MLS, giving an insight into issues affecting supporters at all levels of soccer on the continent.
Yet despite being around for approaching ten years, there will likely be a lot of supporters around North America that are unaware of the council and the work that they do. Unless it’s a major initiative (such as their ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ and Pride campaigns), it’s hard for many to see regular tangible results.
As an attendee at this year’s ISC Conference, I wanted to bring you a bit of insight into the weekend’s events, what was discussed, and the plans put in place for the season ahead.
The Unofficial Kickoff to the Conference was held at Doolin’s, home of the Southsiders who hosted this year’s event, on Thursday night. The Welcome Party was a social event to let delegates meet their fellow supporters away from the business part of the Conference. Most of the delegates were there, including the 2017 Board of Directors:
President – Jeremy (Timbers Army – Portland)
Vice President – Sean (The Cauldron – Sporting KC)
Director of External Communications – Robyn (Terminus Legion – Atlanta Utd)
Co-Director of Internal Communications – Bailey (Dallas Beer Guardians – FC Dallas)
Co-Director of Internal Communications – Andy (Third Rail – NYCFC)
The Conference kicked off at 9am on Friday morning at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame inside B.C. Place.
We're off to a great start at the 2018 @ISCSupporters meeting in Vancouver. A huge thank you to @Southsiders for organizing the conference which is being held at @bcsportshall pic.twitter.com/aCBGuBZLU1
— S.E. Road Trips (@SE_Road_Trips) January 26, 2018
I can’t speak about the first day, as I wasn’t able to attend, but the agenda featured sessions to share best practices around issues such as game day, finance, and online presence.
After the official business had been conducted for the day, a “Beer Battle Royale” took place at The Belmont on Granville Street. Featuring two local breweries, the winner emptying their cask first won the right to be the Southsiders first feature tap at Doolin’s this season.
Day two of the Conference was about membership and away travel, with a few presentations in the afternoon.
Various issues relating to communication with new additions to the ISC were addressed and corrective actions were discussed. Also discussed were potential new applicants, current applicants, and the revocation of an East Coast supporters group status and how to deal with their members potential actions negatively impacting the other groups in the city and travelling supporters.
I did not have a chance to speak with a delegate from that city, but it would stand to reason that the other groups were notified as well. This is relevant because away ticket distribution is done through the supporters groups and should one of those individuals purchase tickets through one of the groups and cause problems, it then falls on the seller of the ticket.
Away travel was the other big topic.
Through cooperation and action by the member groups, the delegates in the room had tangible data to look at, as well as notes relating to that data. Obviously, this was all done in hindsight, and actions have been pursued.
The afternoon session was about the delegates. The member from Chicago showed a video and talked about the amount of work that went into the club’s 20th season celebration and the party.
The other presentation was a joint one about “Enemies for 90…..Texans for Life”, a joint effort between the Dallas Beer Guardians (FC Dallas), 210 Alliance (San Antonio FC), and the Texian Army (Houston Dynamo), to help those devastated by Hurricane Harvey and the path of destruction that was left behind. It was an amazing joint effort between the supporters groups of each city.
The Texian Army was asked what was needed and where, and the DBG and 210 Alliance came through. Although that help only covered a small fraction of what was, and still is, needed, it was one of those stories that, for me, showed that a real bond has been formed between fierce rivals. Due to time constraints, 2018 Board Elections were not conducted and will be done online.
After the official business was concluded, a group photo was taken outside BC Place (where rugby fans were starting to congregate) to mark the official end of ISC 2018. The delegates were offered tickets to World Cup qualifier between Uruguay and Canada. There were about 20 of us there.
The weekend concluded with one last social and karaoke at Moose’s Down Under on Pender Street.
— S.E. Road Trips (@SE_Road_Trips) January 28, 2018
While the ISC does have a Board of Directors and an annual conference, the tangible results are not there unless you know someone directly involved in it.
They gather away travel data, looking at the fair treatment of supporters, not only at home, but while in other stadiums too. It’s then up to the supporters group delegates to address these issues, be it directly, internal, or work with their front office on issues they can’t control.
The Council plays an important role in bringing together groups from across North America, and with the growing issues affecting soccer supporters in all leagues here, the sharing of information can only be beneficial to supporters everywhere.