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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Royal Army looks to unite RSL fans



(by Landon Walters ksl.com 3-3-12)

For many diehard soccer fans, the idea of joining a specific supporters group is just something that you do as a fan. For more casual fans however, the idea of joining a specific group just to cheer on your favorite team might sound excessive. For Real Salt Lake’s newest supporters group, the Royal Army, both types of fans are welcome.

Real Salt Lake has had several supporters groups since the inaugural season in 2005. Anyone who has been to one of the team’s matches can recognize the supporters groups that stand — literally — in the south end. These groups are known for singing, chanting and playing drums and other instruments throughout the match. But the Royal Army concept was actually established last year after a road trip to a different stadium.

“Last year a few of us took a trip up to Portland for the RSL game. The crowd was amazing. I thought to myself, our fans can be just as loud, our fans are amazing and our fans are just as dedicated if not more. The only thing we are missing is organization,” said Donny “Irish” Salazar, one of the original founders of the group.

”When I got back to Salt Lake City, I spoke to Trev (president of Salt City United, another supporters group) about trying to grow the supporter section. We started brainstorming and came up with the Royal Army,” Salazar said. “Trev really got the ball rolling by designing a logo, shirts, scarves and family-friendly chant sheets to pass around to the fans.”

The Royal Army leadership understands that some fans will have their own specific preferences on supporters groups and don’t want to take anything away from those groups either.

“Other supporters groups are definitely part of the Royal Army. The Royal Army is a way to unite everyone in the whole stadium. We’ll still have all of our wonderful separate supporters groups (Salt City United, Rogue Cavaliers Brigade, Section 26, LaBarra Real, and more!) but this is a way for everyone to get that supporters group feel without being in one of those smaller groups,” said Amanda Verrier, a captain in the Army leadership.

In addition to the fans that the Army has already gained, they appear to have the support of the RSL front office, as do all of the supporters groups.

“The front office is extremely supportive with what we are trying to accomplish. They really want it to be organic. The more the front office is involved, the more ‘forced’ it would be,” said Salazar. “They are giving us a lot of freedom. The front office has been great so far.”

From the initial work of two fans, the Royal Army grew over the course of last season. Currently, the Army counts 300 fans as members of the group. The group has goals for the future, especially as the next MLS season approaches. In the short term, the group hopes to triple membership every year but also to make sure that all fans have an enjoyable time at the games.

“Obviously we’re not a big market team like L.A. or New York, but our fans have heart and we want to help get everyone on the same page so that we can get everyone cheering together, chanting together and having fun together,” Verrier said.

“We’d love to just have everyone have a great time at the matches they attend. If it’s only one game or if they’re a season ticket holder, we want everyone to have an experience they won’t forget. We want to help grow the fan base of our team and of the league.”

“The basic idea is to create an inviting environment for all walks of life, no matter who you are. If you support Real Salt Lake, we simply ask you to unite with us and support the best team in the MLS,” Salazar said.

With the season scheduled to kick off in only a week, the optimism of RSL fans is high, especially on the heels of the fan-produced video “Believe.” This new anthem has gained more than 46,000 views online in just two weeks.

“Could you imagine if everybody at the RioT was on their feet chanting in unison? It gives me the chills thinking about it,” Salazar said. “If I didn't say I expect nothing less than the MLS Cup, I'd be lying. Either way, we're here for RSL!"

Any RSL fans who are interested in becoming a part of the Royal Army should look for the group on Facebook or Twitter for additional information. Or they can visit before every home match in the tailgate lot just north of Rio Tinto Stadium.

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