State of the Union

So, admittedly our local soccer scene has not gone exactly the way we wanted. KW United folded for the 2018 season, and signs do not indicate a Canadian Premier League team kicking off in KW in the inaugural 2019 season (although we remain convinced that it is not a question of if but when we will get ourselves a professional team). Despite all of this-or possibly because of it, Grand River Union is continuing to host events and look for ways to build community ties.

One of our proudest accomplishments was a recent collaboration with The Waterloo Public Interest Research Group to put on a tournament fundraiser for KW Syria United. KW Syria United is a men’s soccer team in the Grand River Soccer League (a fantastic name for a league I might add), made up of Syrian newcomers and refugees using soccer as “something familiar to cling to in a new environment that isn’t quite yet home.” The fundraiser raised money to pay the registration fees to help KW Syria FC continue to field a team. The fundraiser was hosted on March 4, 2018 and was a huge success, surpassing the fundraising goal of $3000.00.

On top of the KW Syria fundraiser, GRU has begun hosting regular footy tournaments (1-2 each month), which have become very popular with great turnouts (for more information about these you can follow us on Facebook or email adrian@grandriverunion.ca . We have also hosted regular viewing parties for Toronto FC, and had the pleasure of featuring Luis Kroeker in a Pub Talk; Luis coached his Kitchener Elite Academy girls team to nationals and had a lot of sage advice for people looking to get involved in the soccer community.

Grand River Union is bigger than any single team, so we are not discouraged that we don’t have a local club to follow this season. We have a lot of plans for the future! We are continuing to look into ways of formalizing our group with a constitution, so that we can continue to grow. We will be hosting regular viewing parties for the World Cup at our very own “Asherlok Biergarten”, with our own beer brewed by TWB! And don’t think that our Michigan road trip is canceled with the dissolution of KW United; reach out to us if you are interested in joining as we connect with our SG brothers in “The Boarding Crew” (supporting the Derby City Rovers), and “Northern Guard” (supporting Detroit City FC).

We are continuing to grow and look for new ways to connect with the community; make sure you follow us on Facebook to keep an eye on what’s happening. Also-get involved!

GRU’s Leadership Meeting Brought Excitement for the 2018 Season!

Grand River Union is getting ready for the 2018 season! While there will not be a KW United team to watch and cheer for this year (unfortunately!), that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of things planned! We had our first leadership meeting on January 31st, where we did some brainstorming about what the future will bring.

At our leadership meeting we spent some time to reflect back on KW United and the fun we’ve had supporting the team. Many of our members have been following the team IMG_20180131_211721_919.jpgsince it began in 2010, and will always think fondly of the good times and the many talented players that worked their way through the KW United system. We will certainly miss cheering for KW United FC this year; having a club to support in our region has been a great way to mobilize local soccer fans and bring us all together! Yet, Grand River Union is bigger than any one club, and we are excited about the many opportunities we have to continue to build community in the 2018 season!

Most of our meeting was spent discussion the future, and what we have planned! GRU is hoping to take steps toward creating a more formalized structure for the group; we want to be ready for the Canadian Premier League when it comes. There was even some discussion around forming a Supporter’s Trust to ensure some local ownership of our local team! One of the biggest lessons of the meeting was the amazing level of talent and experience that resides within our members; we will continue to look for ways to allow everyone the ability to contribute in their own way.

Presentations were made on a few of the big events coming up in February and March. potatoblitz.jpgGrand River Union will be hosting a Potato Blitz Toronto FC viewing party to fundraise for House of Friendship on February 20th at the Edelweiss Tavern, as well as a bus trip the following week for the second leg of the first round of CONCACAF. A number of GRU Footy tournaments are in the works, and we will be doing a Michigan trip again this year to spend time with the Boarding Crew; a fantastic Supporter’s Group that cheer for the USLDPDL club Derby City Rovers.

Perhaps our biggest event coming up is our KW Syria United Fundraiser on March 4th. syria.jpgGRU will be hosting a tournament at Cameron Heights Collegiate, staring at 4pm. We are encouraging people to support the event through our GoFundMe campaign, as well as come to the event to cheer for the players and show support for our local Syrian refugees. All money raised will go to supporting KW Syria United, which provides a place for Syrian youth to stay active and become more engaged in their community. This is an important part of our community, so please come to show your support!

Details about all of these events can be found on the events tab of our Facebook Page. Make sure to check in often, as new events are continually being added!

You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram, as well as subscribe to our email list to stay updated on all things Grand River Union!

We Marched, We Sang, We Celebrated: GRU’s CPL Campaign has Officially Begun!

Members of Grand River Union met at Ethel’s Lounge on May 28th to toast the 2017 season and prepare for supporting KW United in their quest for glory. We had a great turnout, with many new faces who are excited about supporting the local team while helping to push for our own local professional soccer team. Josh Brown from the Waterloo Region Record came to join us, spending time talking to different GRU members and finding out what we’re all about. Once we were all gathered we marched to the stadium, singing proudly and showing our colours!

As we marched into the stadium, we sang our new local anthem:

Grand River Jingleheimer Schmidt; this team is your team too!

Whenever we come out, the people always shout:

Grand River Jingleheimer Schmidt

LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA

 

We sang and cheered for most of the game, and were not disappointed in our team, who gave West Virginia Chaos a thorough drubbing, final score: 3-1. Many GRU members came with their own banners and flags, and our massive Grand River Union banner proudly spread across the front of the stadium railing. Reports hold the crowd to have been just shy of 1000, which is a fantastic turnout for a PDL team!

After the game, we presented Wesley Cain with our MVP paddle. He was a force to be reckoned with on the pitch, contributing defensively and offensively, not to mention receiving credit for assisting both of the second-half goals. Cain is a local boy; he was born in Guelph and spent his youth playing local soccer before leaving to Vancouver to further his dream of going pro. Keep an eye on him: he has the grit and passion to make it big-we may see him back suiting up for our professional squad when the Canadian Premier League features KW United ripping up the league!

After presenting Wesley Cain with his MVP paddle and talking to the various players and congratulating them on their victory, GRU headed to the last event of the day: our launch party! We were happy to welcome Jamie MacLeod, Voyageurs; Jeff Hughes, KW United Community Liaison; and Barry MacLean, KW United President and Owner. Adrian Martin acted as the MC for the event, doing a fantastic job making sure everything ran smoothly. Nathanael Martin opened up the event by talking about who Grand River Union is and what we want to accomplish. Nathan told the crowd that we do not only want to campaign for a local canPL team; we also want to support local soccer in every way we can and build community!

Jamie MacLeod came next, talking about the broad movement of soccer support across the country. He explained how “before the league was even announced, we had almost 12 or 14 different supporters’ groups stretching from Halifax all the way to Victoria”, which shows “a desire in this country for something that’s ours”. MacLeod let us know that we are not alone, there are people all across this country who want to see soccer flourish! He also proclaimed that one of the most exciting things about this coming league is that it is “ours, and we will control our own destiny”! He talked about how we can continue to contribute and make a difference in building our soccer community, including getting involved directly with a local Voyageurs. Jeff Hughes then talked about KW United specifically, and how the support for the team has grown over the years. Hughes started with the club simply as a supporter wanting to come out to local games; this grew into a love for the club and the volunteer position of Community Liaison. Everybody in GRU can tell you: Jeff has been hugely instrumental in pushing momentum, and he is a huge asset to us, always helping us to connect with the club! Jeff shared his heart for the team, believing that “it’s something to share and grow”, because of the community impact that the club can make. He explained how soccer is “more attainable and accessible for our kids to aspire to” when they have a local club they can look up to.  “Many times”, Jeff told us; “I’ve had parents come up to me and say I’ve stayed in the sport another year because of the connection with this team”.

Last, but certainly not least: Barry MacLean talked about his passion for the club and made himself available for some Q&A. Before the Q&A, Barry explained how the club was meant to bring the community together right from the beginning; even “the way the logo was designed was to represent all four communities”. Barry explained how the name “United” came from the Cambridge youth club, and the crown on the logo “was to represent the royal city in Guelph”. Although the communities have not come together as much as could be hoped, Barry is optimistic that “the advent of a CPL franchise; that can be the catalyst to make that happen”.

Barry also talked about the success of the club. He told the crowd how there are “more than twenty players who have gone on to play professionally”, there are “two coaches; Chris Pozniak and Stuart Neely, that left the club to go on to professional opportunities”, and “we’ve had an executive who’s cut his teeth here, and is now general manager in Orlando in the MLS”. KW United has also won the PDL championship in the third year of operations; “that’s 80 teams across North America: not an easy task”.

One of the biggest questions that the crowd had was around stadium plans. Those present completely understood when Barry said the stadium is going to be “a key piece to whether this group manages a CPL franchise”. Yet Barry is optimistic, and is not insistent on any one direction for stadium possibilities. “Whatever makes sense for the entire region”, Barry explained; “we want to be connecting people, we don’t want to be dividing them. It doesn’t matter to me if we play in Waterloo, if we play in Kitchener, if we play in Cambridge, if we play in Guelph: we just want to play”! Barry was asked about the possibility of playing in Alumni stadium in Guelph; while he didn’t rule it out, he explained that “we want to get a stadium that actually looks like a soccer stadium. Ideally from my perspective we want a stadium that has no track, that the stands are close to the pitch so the fans can have a proper experience” (this caused a cheer to go up from the listeners).

The determination for the team to rise to the CPL was clear from all who spoke and attended the meeting. Barry encouraged us by saying “there isn’t anybody who is part of the CPL group that’s deciding on franchises that doesn’t recognize the power of KW right now. It is the dream city”. We couldn’t agree more Barry! We will keep pushing for a CPL team in our region; in the meantime, we will keep supporting local soccer in whatever way we can!

Sergio Camargo, Jay Chapman, and Oyvind Alseth came to the meeting from Toronto FC, and Liam Callahan represented the KW United players in their support of our CPL campaign; we all had some great opportunities to talk to the players and discover what they loved about the KW United club. It was a great day, and a great way to start the season!

Head over to our shop to purchase season tickets and scarves!

To read Josh Brown’s article on Grand River Union, follow this link.

To connect with the Voyageurs, follow this link.

To read a summary of the game, follow this link.

GRU Planning Meeting-April 6th

FInal Logo.pngGrand River Union Supporters met at Ethel’s Lounge on April 6th to discuss where the SG is headed, what events we want to host, and logos/branding. We are excited about the enthusiasm that everyone demonstrated, and the eagerness to really get the ball rolling. We have a great core of people who are willing to really make things happen; all that takes to start a movement!

One of the main items that we discussed was the GRU/KW United launch party. We are hoping to host a party to commemorate KW United’s 2017 season either May 7th or May 28th. Gill has told us that she will do her best to make sure that some KW United players attend our party, and we are hoping to have Gill and Barry from KW United both attend the event. We will also reach out to Paul Beirne, who has been fantastic in his support of the fledgling SGs throughout the country.

 

Our launch party will hopefully give us the opportunity to spread the word about who we are and what we intend to do. We also want to build the season ticket holder base, so that the soccer community continues to grow in KW. We have been offered some fantastic supporters’ rates from KW United for season ticket prices as well as a special promotion for the home opener. If you are interested in accessing those rates, and/or are interested in purchasing a scarf (see below!), follow this link.

We also discussed some exciting progress for a new logo and scarf design. Drew Gentry from the Northern Guard in Detroit has been working diligently on creating some clever ideas for our logo. We discussed a number of options, and came up with what we really liked about some of the options provided. After consulting with Drew after the meeting, GRU has officially settled on a logo and a scarf design which will be ordered soon so that we will have them in time for our Detroit trip.

scarf

GRU & KW Company Roadtrip!

bus.jpgGrand River Union Supporters partnered with KW Company for a bus trip to the Toronto
FC home opener and had a whole lot of fun doing it! We had a full bus of soccer fans heading into Toronto; after picking up a small Guelph contingent, the bus drove to Shoeless Joes where we were able to join in the revelry of the large amount of Toronto FC fans that gather there before a match each week.

Although the rain drove some people off-GRU and KW Company were not put off and joined in the march to the stadium. KW Company sported a fantastic sign, and GRU came prepared with a large banner that two of our members diligently prepared. We were able to unfurl the banner right in front of a TV camera, and were also able to drape it near the south end.

banner.jpgThe banner and our KW United scarves gave many of us the opportunity to strike up some great conversations about canPL and the future of Canadian soccer. We hope that the momentum will continue to build! Make sure you check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to hear about future events.

GRU Meets with Gill Heidary and Jeff Hughes from KW United!

Levi, Adrian, and Nathan were excited to sit down on March 9th with Gill Heidary-Director of Club Operations and Co-Owner of KW United, as well as Jeff Hughes-Community Liaison, to discuss ways which Grand River Union and KW United can work together to make a professional soccer team in Kitchener-Waterloo a reality. Gill and Jeff were both open to GRU’s suggestions, and want to continue to develop a close relationship between the club and the supporters.
One of the biggest talking points was how we in Grand River Union can help to ensure that KW United is able to gain entrance to the new Canadian soccer league that will be starting in 2018 or 2019. Gill explained that KW United is looking for another investor to give the team the boost it needs. This season will be vital for that goal; “the primary focus for Barry and I this year is getting people there. We need to prove we can make the leap”.th
Barry MacLean, President of the club-is confident that the league will start strong and will have staying power. Gill explained that all of the CFL teams involved have “agreed, the people on board are willing to lose money” for the beginning stages of the league until enough traction is gained and market share acquired. All we need to do is get there!
In the meantime, KW United staff is hard at work trying to make the best soccer culture possible. They are hosting a joint “picnic in the park” event with Grand River Soccer Club on June 4th, and are hoping to work with us on getting some of their players to join us in some of our events. Gill quickly agreed to our request to rope off the top of the stadium during game-days to create a more intimate feel for fans and bring us all together-and also to providing a spot for us on the new KW United website and to working on some joint advertising campaigns.
We all agreed that one of the defining characteristics of KW United culture was the welcoming atmosphere. This is something that both the team and we the supporters are seeking to create. Gill told us that “because we take the time to care about [the players] as a person, they really stay connected”. She went on to explain that KW United tries to maintain a positive attitude wherever the players go. “Our boys sweep and clean the change rooms before they leave”, the staff views the club “as a dignified club”.
It is this sense of togetherness that the club has been fostering through their overtures to other local sports teams. Gill was in “meetings with the Titans, the Rangers, the Velocity” to develop a KW entertainment package that can help the different teams build each-other up. Supporters of any and all of these teams can expect some exciting joint campaigns in the future. Another exciting partnership is the link between KW United and Toronto FC. Gill confirmed to us that such a partnership was in the works; Toronto FC has now officially released this news. KW United will have the benefit of receiving some of the branding and marketing power of the big club, as well as access to some of their top University prospects. Of course, KW United management will continue to have the final say over the roster-but a little bit of help can never do any harm!
If you are interested in getting involved and/or following the KW United season, send us an email, tweet, or Facebook message. Individual game tickets are $10, season tickets are $40-or, if you want to join GRU’s mission to spread soccer culture throughout the region, we can get you season tickets for just $25.  We firmly believe that more is better, we want to fill up that stadium: remember, this is our team!

For season or single match tickets and scarf purchase inquiries, you can follow this link.

GRU & KW Company Welcomes the TFC Season!

On March 4th, members of17015686_10158270451115075_1554940537689266535_o Grand River Union and KW Company gathered at Shoeless Joe’s in Kitchener-Waterloo to enjoy beer, fellowship, food, and footy! Shoeless was kind enough to give us a great space to watch the game, and allow us to be the rowdy bunch of
soccer supporters that we wanted to be!

Although TFC didn’t come away with the 3 points that we were hoping for, that did not stop us from enjoying the game and the experience of coming together in our common love of the sport. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, and/or subscribe to our google calendar for information about future events: we will continue hosting viewing parties, and are excited about organizing a joint bus trip with the KW Company to attend the Toronto FC home opener! Interested, contact us!

Photography by GRU member Katie Martin!

New Phototastic Collage

Support Our Women!

February 4th was a great day for Canadian soccer as the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team faced off against Mexico for a hard-fought victory. The game was played as a celebratory match after our Women made all of Canada proud and brought home the Bronze Metal in the Brazil Olympics.

Of course, what was probably more important to many of us for this game was saying goodbye to three women who have given their hearts to the Canadian team. Rhian Wilkinson, Marie-Eve Nault and Melissa Tancredi played their last game for the national team on Saturday, so this game was the last opportunity we had to watch them in action wearing that Maple Leaf we love.

Grand River Union Supporters gathered in the Whale and Ale pub in Kitchener to express our support, and while we would have loved to be at the game-we expressed our support in the way we knew how! Supporters of all ages turned up-including some supporters who are too young to know who they are cheering for-men and women, girls and boys-we all cheer for Canada!

If you are interested in joining us for future events, please sign up for our email list, join us on Facebook, and/or follow us on Twitter. If you have an idea for your own soccer event-please connect with us, we’d love to work with you to continue to grow soccer culture in our region!

Our First Meeting Was Fantastic!

Despite some technical difficulties and a nasty bout of Canadian winter-the Grand River Union Supporters had a great first meeting! People started arriving at 7pm and began to enjoy the delicious beer brewed and served at TWB Cooperative Brewing. At 7:30pm we started our presentation in thegetting-ready back, which gave the group a lot to think about.

Levi kicked things off with a great run-down of the history of soccer in the region. We learned that KW has the 10th largest population in Canada, and is set to continue to grow at a rapid pace, with a vibrant youth culture! Many new industries and technological start-ups are continuing to fuel the growth of the region, creating a larger demand for a team that can represent our growing slice of Canada.

We also learned that KW has a long-standing history of soccer played in the region. The Ontario Association Football League, which evolved into the CSA-was founded in Berlin, Ontario. For those of you who don’t know-Kitchener was known as Berlin prior to WWI when it was renamed for political reasons. Unfortunately, WWI came with many changes to the region-including the labeling of soccer as a “German” pastime, resulting in a temporary rejection of the sport. Prior to that rejection, Galt FC had represented the region and the nation, winning the Gold Metal in the 1904 Olympics (yes, you read that right!)-and hosting “The Championship of the World” game, when they played an all-star English team right on the bank of the Grand River, tying 3-3 in front of 3,500 fans.

Next up, Adrian walked us through who we want to reach and represent with a CPL team in the region. We learned how there is a common history and culture that runs through the entire Waterloo Region, and that it is the Grand River that unites us all! Too often, the cities are pitteGrandRiver.pngd against each other, fighting for resources and attention. But we are putting out the call to unite the cities under the common banner of a love of the beautiful game!

Nathan talked to us about what the Canadian Premier League is, why we need it, and how the Grand River Union fits into it. We learned about the momentum that the league has, and got excited about having our own Canadian league that would give our players a chance to play at the highest level of soccer. If you haven’t read it, jump over to the article at NorthernStartingXI for a fantastic rundown of the league. Almost Ready to Start.jpg

Filip completed the Grand River presentation by talking about who we are and what we want to be as a supporter’s group. We want to prove to the city, to investors, and to the league that KW is ready for a professional soccer team. To do that, we need to create excitement about soccer and develop a soccer culture that will electrify the region to get behind a team.

After the Grand River presentation ended, we took some time to grab another pint and talk about soccer in the region. Many interesting conversations, ideas, and information was passed around-it’s always great when soccer fans meet!sharingapint.jpg

Next up: James came from the Hamilton Barton St. Battalion to give us some tips on effective ways to get a supporter’s group rolling. He talked to us about how to make connections, building momentum, and fundraising. A big thank-you to James for making the trip through the nasty weather to give us a hand!JamesPresenting.jpg

Jeff finished the night off by talking about the enthusiasm KW United has for the league. He also talked to us about what we need to do to really help the team achieve its goal of becoming professional: build enthusiasm!

It was a fantastic night, full of great conversation and beer! In the future, we are hoping to really get the ball rolling (pun intended) by hosting viewing parties, pub nights, and-when soccer season returns to us: some epic displays of support at local soccer games! Stay tuned for more updates by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and/or signing up for our Email list. GroupShot.jpg