Rubber City Football Club, a newly formed soccer team in Akron, plans to begin play in 2019. The league in which the team plans to play, however, has changed. Rubber City FC was originally planning to join NISA. Last night the team formally notified NISA it is no longer seeking membership. Rubber City FC now looks to join the National Premier Soccer League.
Joshua Austin, Rubber City FC Founder/President and lifelong resident of Akron, discussed the decision to move to a new league before truly getting started in the first. When Chattanooga FC stepped away from its commitment to participate in NISA, it sparked doubts about the league’s ability to realize its vision.
“We asked specific questions about teams and plans for the league moving forward. The answers we received did not give us any faith that this league could generate enough interest or competition to make it financially viable for any team, let alone a team with limited funding like ours,” said Austin.
Rubber City FC had conversations with NPSL before originally selecting NISA, and NPSL was supportive when that initial decision was announced. This made it easy for the team to turn to the NPSL when NISA no longer appeared to be a viable option.
“We felt kind of left out on an island with NISA at times, where we couldn’t get answers to issues that popped up,” Austin said. “Everyone at NPSL, including teams that didn’t know we were joining, like Jacksonville and Chattanooga, answered questions and concerns we had and helped us out just for the benefit of soccer in the U.S. That was a big deal to us.”
The team is still looking to add a lead investor, which makes NPSL all the more appealing. Rubber City FC will be able to scale its budget to match its resources and build at a reasonable pace. A new investor would not have to put a lot on the line to keep the team operational.
“It lets us be selective [with regard to new investment partnerships] because we can attempt to run the team on sponsorship money and our current investors if we don’t find that ideal financial partner,” said Austin.
Pen has not been put to paper with regard to official sponsorship deals, but Austin assures the interest is there. The team wanted to resolve matters related to league membership before entering into formal sponsorship agreements.
Rubber City FC desires to include as many local companies as possible, either through financial sponsorship or community service partnerships. Those service-based partnerships might include ticket or merchandise giveaways for underprivileged members of the community and operating youth academies for inner-city youth that don’t have the opportunity to play on school programs or large clubs.
“This team doesn’t exist just to play soccer. Soccer is the medium to spread a community spirit and involve people in change,” said Austin.
Austin has lived in the city of Akron for 28 of his 30 years, and he is passionate about using soccer to bring about positive change for his home. He sees the impact that Detroit City FC is beginning to have in Motor City while noting similarities between Akron and Detroit. He recalls with awe how his favorite player, Didier Drogba, used his stardom to halt a civil war in Ivory Coast.
“Half our time, if not more, is spent assessing what can be done to help build positive change that benefits the whole community, even those who don’t care about soccer,” said Austin.
Rubber City FC hopes to partner exclusively with businesses based in Akron to keep potential profits from the soccer club in Akron. The team also hopes to create programs to foster children and to partner with organizations like I Promise for internships.
“This city needs a revitalization, and it may as well come from within,” said Austin.
If Rubber City FC has anything to do with it, the change will come from within. With the rebirth of Akron in mind, the team will select a venue in the inner city rather than one of the suburbs outside Akron. Austin feels it is important to be where change is needed in order to be a part of that change.