Even as it tries to expand on its foothold in the U.S., the beautiful game sparks complicated debates among its supporters, and this week’s revelation that billionaires Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores are prepared to spend $1 billion on a new Major League Soccer franchise, stadium and entertainment district in Detroit is already creating fault lines among local diehard fans.
The initial announcement Tuesday already raised questions about the future of Detroit City FC, the semi-pro team that has ridden grassroots support and $741,000 from a recent investment fundraising campaign to the cusp of a fifth season in its new home at historic Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. Wednesday’s followup news conference, featuring Gilbert, Gores and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, only served to shake up a hornet’s nest among some of City’s most rabid supporters, who liken the push to a naked money grab and corporate carpetbagging.
For help sifting through it all, I turned to Fletcher Sharpe, a local soccer journalist and one-half of the duo behind The Outer Drive, a locally produced podcast about all things soccer and Detroit. Here’s an edited and condensed version of our conversation.