Welcome to our second Club Feature! This time around, we’ve gone with a somewhat sunnier location for the club to be placed in the limelight: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to be exact.
Himmarshee FC of the Florida Gold Coast League is the club in question, and I got a lot of great information about the Himms that’s hard to find on the Internet and/or social media.
So, yeah, SmallWorld Soccer is pretty special.
Speaking of special, let’s get into why you’re here, which is hopefully to learn more about a special soccer club doing things right. As Derek Reese, Himmarshee’s president (!), explained, their main point of uniqueness in the soccer community is their membership program.
We operate along the same lines as a social club (like an Elks Lodge or something like that). So nobody really *owns* the club, but at the same time, we all do.Derek Reese, super famous
Okay, that sounds pretty cool. But what exactly does that mean?
We subsist entirely on annual Membership dues, donations, merch sales and the occasional sponsorship. Nobody actually owns a share or anything like that, we don’t have a big majority owner or sponsor, but on the flip side nobody can unilaterally take over the club, decide to move or fold it, rebrand, that sort of thing.Derek, president of Himmarshee which basically makes him president of greatness
So, to put it another way, the membership program is basically the entire business model. Even though it’s a nonprofit and nobody gets anything out of being a co-owner monetarily, they’re pitching in for the love of the game and the club. That’s awesome.
But why come up with this way of doing things?
I think a Member-based, “supporter owned” club is really the purest way for a community to connect to a club, since the community literally *is* the club. Overcoming the stigma of being a lower league club (and we’re on the lowest official rung for adult soccer there is in the USA) is tough, but it has the potential to become something really ingrained in the community (sort of like what we’ve seen in places like Chattanooga and Detroit).Derek, a guy so famous he can name-drop Detroit City AND Chattanooga in the same quote
Now we’re seeing the community impact in full force. This is a club that is so ingrained in the community that the two could become intimately intertwined if things go right, much like the examples Derek gave of Detroit City and Chattanooga FC.
But wait, there’s even more community involvement.
We have been involved with fundraising efforts for charitable causes, like our “#SupporterRun” Virtual 5K which raised money for Kids in Distress.Derek Reese, no relation to Reese’s Cups (probably. We didn’t actually ask him about that)
Okay, but that’s all the community involvement such a small club could possibly be involved in, right? Nope, there’s still more.
Our original kits (which we still wear) feature the You Can Play Project logo on the front, with a portion of each jerseys sold donated to the group, which promotes equality and respect in sports in regards to the LGBTQ+ community (which is a big part of the greater Fort Lauderdale community).Derek, one of those famous guys who’s also smart
So not only giving to local charities, but strategic giving in a way that supports and unites the community. This is brilliant, and it captures the spirit of what lower-league soccer ought to be about.
The other thing lower-league soccer should be about is, you know, the actual soccer. I knew next to nothing when it came to the Florida Gold Coast League, so Derek educated me a bit:
The types of teams vary from the top level teams of youth organizations, to clubs that also play in other leagues like the UPSL and consider their FGCL sides as a sort of “reserve team”, and teams like ours where this league is really our main thing. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day, which we kinda proved last season by winning only 2 matches throughout the regular season but finishing tops in the postseason mini-league and winning the super cup.Y’all it’s still Derek idk what else to write in here
More than that, the FGCL has been a helpful tool in the club’s existence thus far:
Having a local league like this is super valuable, especially to a club like ours with limited resources, because it comes with low barriers to entry and low ongoing costs. #UnprofessionalSoccer is one of our mottos haha. In my experience working in the lower division pro soccer world, the quickest way to advertise that you’re a small-time minor league outfit is to plaster “Pro Soccer!” on all your promotional stuff, so we play up the fact that yeah we’re amateurs but so what? Let’s have fun with it!Derek, still says “haha” in 2019 (but we do too Derek so KEEP DOIN YA THANG)
This is awesome and refreshing in the lower-league soccer world. They don’t need professional status to be a great club, and they’re simply having fun where they’re at and making it the best they can with what they have. Wonderful stuff.
Now might be a good time to explain what exactly Himmarshee’s support looks like. The supporters of Himmarshee are very unique, because the main supporters group, Flight 19, came directly from the former Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Thus, they’re directly involved with the club, but
To be clear, Flight 19 and its members started the entire club themselves. That’s a pretty fantastic initiative from them. They didn’t sit around and complain or blame the system for taking their club away. They just went out and started their own club to make sure soccer could stay in Fort Lauderdale.
Derek also talked a bit about what the future of the club might look like.
We want to expand into… things like indoor or beach soccer tournaments to expand the club’s reach into the grassroots community. We’d also love to have a women’s team someday – a #Shees to go along with the #Himms!Derek (should we tell him that the female equivalent of “Himms” would be “Herrs”??)
All of that stuff comes with more Members and more funding coming in however, so we’re hoping as we’re able to stick around and (hopefully) grow, we can really expand and do some of the grander things we envision HFC can do!
As far as what league the club might be playing in down the road, it seems like Himmarshee is pretty happy where they’re at for now, but there are always ambitions:
When it comes to shifting to another amateur league like the UPSL, NPSL or USL League Two, I just don’t see what a move like that would bring us except for higher costs. Long term we’d love to be able to partner up with an investor that understands the philosophy of what we’re trying to do. Some sort of relationship where the supporters/Members still broadly control the club but the additional funding would help elevate us into a higher amateur or even professional league.Derek
All this adds up to a fantastic club with some intriguing uniqueness. Himmarshee definitely deserves your support if you love seeing individuality in local soccer!
Even more than that, support of Himmarshee is support of exactly what SmallWorld Soccer is about: celebrating soccer clubs that are impactful in their communities. Himmarshee may not have reached the pinnacle of their potential community impact, which is really exciting.
They’re filling a gap that was left by mistakes from a previous club/league. They’ve learned from the errors and self-made a club for the people of the 914.
Do you like what you’ve learned about Himmarshee FC? Is the work of Derek and those around him paying off/worth it? Where do you think the future should lie for the club?
Let us know on SmallWorld Social by commenting on this post, reaching out on Twitter or Facebook, or doing the same on Himmarshee’s social media pages. Links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts are below:
Watch local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!
Oh, yeah, and #UpTheRiver!