Welcome back to American Pyramid ladies and gentlemen! I'm proud to be putting this interview out, as it bears the distinction of being the first interview ever done entirely over the phone! So if you happen to run a team and you're reading this, there's another avenue to get one of these interviews done for your team. Also, congratulations to everyone who voted for Nashville FC on the poll and made sure it would be released after the Milwaukee Bavarians interview from last week, and before the upcoming Harpo's FC and Burlingame Dragons interviews.
Chris Jones was gracious enough to take 30 minutes out of his day to do all this with me, and it strikes a great balance of length and detail, covering a wide variety of topics about the team, and about what fans looking to start a team should do first. Check it out.
Tell me about yourself. Who you are, where you’re from, what your role is with Nashville FC.
CJ: My name is Chris Jones, I’m from Nashville born and raised, one of the few these days, the city is growing so quickly. Went to Middle Tennessee State for marketing and work at a bank here in town, and I’m the president and founder of NFC. Started the club in May 2013. Been a long journey, but we’ve come a long way.
How would you describe Nashville, and the team, to an outsider?
CJ: The city is becoming very trendy, very entrepreneur friendly and loves supporting the little guy. We also have an average of 89 people moving to Nashville each day. They can’t build the city fast enough. Our club fits in perfectly with that. How we went about forming it was very unique and the city really embraced that. It fits with the blue collar vibe of the city.
What brought about the decision to make this a supporter owned team, and how does that work?
CJ: Saw a video of FC United of Manchester and that really set me on this path. It’s like the equivalent of a group of Yankees or Cowboys fans going off and starting their own minor league team because they are fed up with high ticket prices. That really resonated with me. We went from 100 to 500 founding members in short order once word started getting out about the club.
There are a lot of people looking to start supporter owned teams in cities that don’t have one. What kind of advice would you give them to make sure they do it right?
CJ: You need to do your homework on how you want to legally be set up. We went in clueless. ‘We want it to be supporter owned, here’s a Pay Pal, figure it out.’ Take the time to figure out the legality.
Next, be very transparent. Not everyone is completely honest, so it’s important to be honest with those you owe honesty to, your club members.
Really understand why you’re doing it. Don’t do it just because it’s cool, do it because there’s a why. Have a message that really resonates with the people you want to get involved.
For example, you can deliver a message a boring way. Saying something like ‘we want a Nashville team and supporters get a say in what happens.’ Or you can say ‘we believe fans are the driving voice and should have a say in what goes on in the club.’ They’re the lifeblood of any team.
What was your reaction to the Harrisburg to Nashville relocation rumors?
CJ: It’s was something of a punch to the stomach, a little disheartening. No one approached us or explained to us what they were doing or why. We felt we had warranted some type of approach because of what we had done both as a team and outside of soccer too. And a team in Nashville will probably need to be locally owned. If you’re from here, we’ll give you the shirt off our back. You’ll need to be local to get this team behind you. We’re growing, but still a small town at heart.
Where would you like to see NFC in 5 years?
CJ: I think in 5 years one way or the other, I’d like to say NFC will be in the professional ranks. Realistically in 5 years, it would be USL or NASL. MLS in 5 years would take a lot of pushing. There’s no reason why NFC couldn’t be in the pro ranks in 5 years.
We have members in 26 states and 5 different countries, so people know who we are. Regardless of league we are in good place.
What does your average attendance look like?
CJ: First game we were just shy of 2,000 people. It feels like more every time I look at the stands. I have a picture from a game where we had 1300 and it looks like 2500. We average right around 1500. We’d love more, but I remember thinking, we only need 500 per match in our first season to break even, so we’re doing very well.
What’s your favorite league and/or team to watch?
CJ: Chelsea is the team I fell in with because of my buddy when I started watching soccer in 2007. He was a Manchester United fan, so I wanted to be able to banter back and forth. I also keep an eye on Athletic Bilbao in Spain. They arent community owned but you have to be from the area to play for the team. It would be like Nashville FC going pro and saying ‘only talent from Nashville and middle Tennessee can play here’ and really competing.
What’s your favorite book, soccer related or otherwise?
Favorite player. One past, one present.
CJ: Michael Essien. I feel like if I had played soccer, rather than football in college, that’s the kind of player I would have been. No surprise, my current favorite player is Branislov Ivanovic. A really physical player, like Poku, those are just my kind of guys. Maybe that’s just some of the American Football player in me.
Chattanooga FC is:
CJ: The ultimate measuring stick. I give credit where credit is do. They get the credit they deserve until someone knocks them off their perch. if and when we beat them it’s a party at the Jones’ house. But summing them up in a single phrase, it would be the ultimate measuring stick.
Why should people care about NFC, and the lower leagues in general?
CJ: I think if you’re a person that believes in challenging the status and quo and enjoys innovative and trailblazing, that’s the spirit behind Nashville FC. We have wins and losses, but the journey is pretty fun. It's the adventurous spirit. If you have that spirit, Nashville is the club for you. It's been a heck of a journey.
Chris, thanks again for taking the time to do this with me. If you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not. Make sure to spread the word. Share interviews, tell friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without you. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.