World Cup

The Dilemma of Selling Soccer in Portland and U.S.

| by Dwight Jaynes

A lot of people gathered Saturday in Director’s Park, the new venue recently created across the street from the Fox Tower in downtown Portland. It was a World Cup viewing party and at halftime of the U.S.-England game, the Portland Timbers were to announce their new logo.

Which they did, to a very loud chorus from the Timbers’ Army of “You f–d up! You f–d up!” To no one’s surprise, they didn’t like the logo.

In front of all those families, television cameras and the rest of the world, of course. Typical. And this is what the team’s front office faces continually in its battle to gain a foothold in this town. There’s a passionate fan base there — the Army has been behind the team for a long time and for the most part, I’m positive it’s a great bunch of dedicated fans.

But there’s also an element of the Army that’s probably more interested in setting off smoke bombs, orchestrating obscene chants, provoking other spectators and causing trouble — sort-of wannabe soccer hooligans — than anything else. And all the while, the team would like to be marketing its franchise as a family-friendly entertainment option.

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What went down Saturday in Director’s Park was not family friendly and trust me, I hear complaints all the time from people who don’t think Timbers games are, either.

There is some belief that when MLS arrives next season, there will be enough general fan support that the franchise will have no trouble selling out the venue and the Army won’t need to be catered to as it is now — as a necessary support base. We shall see.

But in the interim I don’t think I’d want to be trying to placate that hooligan element while at the same time trying to lure families into games. It’s a real tightrope walk.