Friday, June 21, 2013
Having won two of the past three USL PRO titles and four championships overall, the Charleston Battery have been one of the most successful professional franchises in USL history, on and off the field. The Battery, founded in 1993, moved into Blackbaud Stadium - the first privately funded soccer specific stadium in the United States - in 1999.
Longtime Battery President Andrew Bell recently took the time to answer our questions about building and maintaining a successful USL PRO franchise.
What inspired you to acquire a USL franchise?
Our ownership group wanted to help the sport of soccer grow while simultaneously providing family friendly entertainment in Charleston. We’ve been members of the USL family since 1993 and we continue to support the structure that has helped us through the years.
What is your favorite aspect of operating a USL franchise/team?
I love the sport the soccer and enjoy all aspects of it. We own our facility so in addition to the Charleston Battery games, we also host a variety of other events for our community throughout the year. In August we will host a World Cup qualifier for USA Rugby and in October, for the third consecutive year, we will be the site of the Southern Ground Festival featuring Zac Brown Band. Soccer is challenging and fun, but some of the other events make it a really unique work environment.
What differentiates your franchise from others?
We are one of the oldest professional soccer teams in the U.S., and we play in the first soccer-specific stadium built in the U.S. Our history and longevity mean that we have a unique link to the soccer fans in our community. This year we actually have a young player on our squad [Austin Savage], who grew up watching and supporting the Battery from when he was young.
What words of advice would you provide to potential franchise owners?
Test your market before you jump in. Hold an exhibition match to gauge the level of fan interest. Soccer is growing quickly in the U.S., but until you host a game you never really know what sort of response the community will have to it.
Where do you see your franchise in 3-5 years?
I see us having a much closer and stronger relationship with an MLS team.
What is your franchise’s greatest accomplishment to date?
That has to be winning four USL professional championships. That’s always the ultimate goal. But, in addition, our longevity probably sets us apart a little. We are in our 21st season in 2013.
What traits do you find valuable when adding members to your staff?
They need to have passion for the game and the willingness to work very hard to make the business work.
Who has been the greatest influence in your career? Please explain.
Tony Bakker, CEO of the Charleston Battery. He gave me the opportunity to work for a professional soccer team, and he is a visionary and builder of the sport in the U.S.