The Chattanooga Dilemma Part One: Chattanooga FC

Learning Of The Rivalry And Teams

I was doing some analysis of the New England Revolution II’s match against the Chattanooga Red Wolves in USL League One on Twitter. It was a great night for Revs II against the Red Wolves, as they had been demolished 4-0 in their earlier meeting. CRW was absolutely peppering Joe Rice with shots. He ended up with eight saves during the game. Rice had topped the league in saves with 43 at that point! The next keeper down had 34 saves.

I decided to @ChattRedWolves, figuring it was a decent way to seem professional in my tweets. Recently, BelieveInBostonSports.com reached out to me to intern with them as a writer for the Revs on the whole. As I am currently in COVID-19 work drought, the obvious answer was yes. Unbeknownst to me, there is a rivalry in Chattanooga that just recently appeared out of thin air, or so I thought.

An adamant fan of Chattanooga FC decided to sent me a quick reply to my analysis that he felt I shouldn’t @ them at all. We ended up messaging about the issues that arose out of the Chattanooga Red Wolves existing. I heard him out and continued on my merry way. The reasoning behind both teams existing was fairly simple, but still troubling me. Directly after our conversations, I did a bit more research on the rivalry and ideals of both teams. Learning about these types of stories are what I live for in the soccer realms. It takes me back to reading The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinniss. Although, this one has a bit more drama and has yet to pass.

Chattanooga FC, The Peoples’ Club (no, no, not Everton)

Chattanooga FC were founded in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2009. Tim Kelly, Krue Brock, Marshall Brock, Paul Rustand, Sean McDaniel, Daryl Heald, Hamilton Brock, Thomas Clark and Sheldon Grizzle were the co-founders. The team started out playing in the National Premier Soccer League(NPSL). The NPSL was in the seventh year of their existence. CFC ended up that year in the middle of the Southeast Division, with four wins, three losses and one draw. This didn’t earn them anything but the idea of staying power. That being said, they were one win out of the playoffs.

Quick Run Down Of Their Season Finishes:

  • 2009, played in the NPSL, 3rd in the Southeast Region, didn’t qualify for playoffs
  • 2010, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Finals
  • 2011, played in the NPSL, 3rd in SE Region, didn’t qualify
  • 2012, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region-West, National Finals
  • 2013, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, South Regional Finals
  • 2014, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Finals
  • 2015, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Finals
  • 2016, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region, National Semi-Finals
  • 2017, played in the NPSL, 2nd in SE Region-West, Southeast Quarterfinals
  • 2018, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region
  • 2019, played in the NPSL, 1st in SE Region
  • 2020, *played fall season of NISA, NISA Independent Cup, 1st in Group A of Fall Season, 1st in Independent Cup – Southeast.

*NISA seasons were shifted into Cups, and re-created to play more games due to COVID 19 outbreak.

As you can see, they were dominating the NPSL pretty handily and wanted to try their hand in NISA this year. Well, we all know that the Coronavirus pandemic hit and created issues all over. During the restart, they were able to start off in the NISA Fall Independent Cup, which they topped their region in July. After the Independent cup, they restarted with a Fall Season, which Chattanooga FC were the top place in the Eastern Conference. Directly after that, they headed into the NISA Fall Championship, which consisted of eight teams. They were second in Group B and ended up making their way to the NISA Fall Championship semi-finals. CFC was ousted by the now-USL Championship side Oakland Roots.

Attendance, Brand: a major difference

Attendance

The difference between the two teams currently is their attendance and their brand. If you just focus in on the Real Betis friendly, Chattanooga FC drew 6,115 fans for that game. On a normal game day in a season of the NPSL in 2019, CFC were pulling in on average around 2,500-3,000 fans. They hosted the NPSL National Championship where they drew the NPSL record for attendance, over 18,000 fans.

Whereas, the Chattanooga Red Wolves in 2019 had an average of around 1,600 for their entire 2019 season. The NPSL/NISA side CFC is clearly out performing them in ticket sales. The Chattanooga FC are wonderfully doing something right to exist this well beside a team trying to take over the market. Their fans are fervent and follow along as The Chattahooligans. The Chattahooligans are an amazing crew of supporters who have gotten behind their team completely, a good portion of the ‘Hooligans are the one’s who invested in the team during the WeFund.

Brand

Speaking on brands, CFC has built a great following on Twitter, amassing close to 14,000 followers since 2009. Their Facebook page is even bigger at 19,300 liking, 19,800 following around the same-time frame. It’s clear they’re are a force to be reckoned with in their social media game. They also managed to play La Liga’s Real Betis, MLS’ Atlanta United, and FC Dallas and Liga Nacional de Guatemala’s CSD Municipal. There’s no doubting the communications teams’ vigor for recruiting fans or even just love.

The Red Wolves are currently at 4,026 followers on Twitter and around 4,000 followers on Facebook as well. Since July 2018, while they have grown, it has yet to be seen whether they achieve the same height as CFC. They haven’t managed any high-profile friendlies yet at all.

Why The Rivalry?

Breaking it down to the ideals? Corporatism vs Localism. Chattanooga FC existed long before the Chattanooga Red Wolves were an idea. CFC has been putting people in the seats of Finley Stadium for 11 years now and doing a good job of it. This is a club that managed to get Real Betis to come play them for a friendly just last year. Yes, that Real Betis, La Liga giant Real Betis. You know what the score was? Real Betis 4 – 3 Chattanooga FC. They put three goals past players who have been in Real Betis’ academy system for years. They deserve a round of applause from me.

The local fans have now literally put their money into the club, since the Red Wolves came into existence. Just last year, the Chattanooga FC owners I mentioned earlier put the club up on WeFund. WeFund essentially partitions the team up into investments by whoever puts enough in to deserve a piece. Therefore, this team is run by the fans now, 3,256 to be exact and they get a say in the board members, everything that’s voted on.

With that being said, it is absolutely an instance of localism vs corporatism there in Chattanooga. The Chattanooga Red Wolves came in with invested money. They threw said money at the original general manager of CFC, Sean McDaniels and the assistant director of coaching, Jimmy Weekly. They left the team in 2018 to join the newly created and USL League One sanctioned team owned by Bob Martino, a real estate investor in Park City, Utah. He also has now created a second team, a feeder team, back in Utah.

I appreciate the ideals behind Chattanooga FC as I’ve been following groups like Providence City FC, Rhode Island Reds, Hartford City FC, and even newly added Valeo FC. I refereed Valeo FC back when I reffed for the BSSL. These teams are all trying to make it on their own and build from the ground up, like Chattanooga FC did over 11 years.

It’s tough not to get upset at the ideal of someone coming in and just ripping out the innards of a company by throwing money at it. But, the Chattanooga Red Wolves are an existing team now, in USL League One and they are doing well for themselves. That’s a chat for another day. Another article.

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