Club Feature: Lansing Common FC
In a year which the grassroots soccer community has faced disappointment after disappointment, the launch and story of Lansing Common FC (Midwest Premier League) has been a rare bright spot. We sat down with club president Eric Walcott to discuss the club's origin, member-ownership structure, and more!
Every club has an origin story, what’s Lansing Common’s?
Lansing Common’s story began in October of 2019 when the USL League One club in town, Lansing Ignite, folded after just 1 season. A group of soccer supporters came together with the dream of keeping men's soccer in Lansing alive. In November 2019, we gathered together and decided to form a new team that would be community-owned, community run, and that would be committed to sustainability and to making an impact beyond just on the field.
Lansing Common is a very unique name, why Common instead of City, United, etc.?
Once we decided to form this club, we held community meetings throughout the Lansing area in January and February of this year. We went through an extensive process of discovering the values and characteristics that people connected with the most. That was important for us because we knew this had to be a club people could identify with. Out of all of the meetings, a strong sense of community was the most consistent theme. The word common is a root of the word community. It also means “belonging equally to an entire community.” There couldn’t be a better word for who we are, so it was the perfect name for us.
Not many clubs are member-owned from the jump. What do you hope to accomplish through this unique ownership structure?
After we made the decision to do this and start a team, the first decision we made was that we would be community-owned. Lansing Ignite folded because one person decided it wasn’t in their best interest to continue operating the team. We knew that if we were going to do this, it had to be something that would be built by the collective efforts of many, and accountable to our members and community. To ensure we remain true to this, any member can be elected to the board, and members get a vote on major club decisions, not just cosmetic things like scarves and jerseys.
Our goal with that is to really be a member driven club that is connected to the city we play in and has an impact off the field. We want members to help us identify off-field priorities and opportunities to support our community. We want everyone in the Lansing area to feel that sense of ownership and pride when they think of Lansing Common FC.
Recently, several lower league clubs have pursued supporter ownership by selling equity stakes, how does your club’s membership structure differ from these clubs?
We’re a 501(c)3 non-profit. Nobody is making any money from this, and because we’re a non-profit, there isn’t any equity to sell. We say community-owned rather than member owned because no person or group holds actual ownership of the club. The board, working with members, sets direction for the club and makes a lot of decisions about how things work, but there isn’t anyone who actually owns it.
Why should somebody consider becoming a member of Lansing Common FC?
I think if people look at how we’re running things, and the ways we’ve worked to make an impact in the Lansing area already, they’ll see an opportunity to be part of something special. It would’ve been so easy after Ignite folded to just give up on men’s soccer in Lansing and feel sorry for ourselves, but that’s the thing about this community, we don’t quit. Someone who becomes a member of Lansing Common can do so knowing they’ll get to support a soccer team that we hope will be fun, we know will look awesome, but also one that is committed to having a real impact off the pitch.
Where do you plan to draw talent from, will the roster be made up of local players or will the club bring in players from out-of-town for the summer?
There’s a ton of soccer talent in Mid-Michigan, both in terms of college players and former college players. Our aim is to build a club of local talent, again, part of that is tied to our goal of being a club that people around here can identify with. That doesn’t mean we won’t have any players from out of town ever, but we expect the roster to be significantly from the Mid-Michigan area.
Recently you announced your first head coach, can you tell us more?
We’re very excited to have Josh Oakley on board as our first coach. Oaks is a proven head coach with over 20 years of college coaching experience, he’s got a track record of building up programs, which is exactly what this will be, and he’s committed to our vision. He’s lived in the Lansing area for over a decade and has coached college and youth soccer around here, so he’s well connected to the soccer community. It was clear in interviewing him that he’s excited about what we’re building and how we’re doing it, and that was also a really important part of this decision.
You’re just the tenth member of the Midwest Premier League. What should we know about this up-and-coming league?
The Midwest Premier League is a regional league of clubs dedicated to sustainability and being engaged in their communities. It’s a great group of clubs, including some that were incredibly helpful to us when we were in our initial planning stages. The most impressive thing to me so far is how collaborative the league is - every club is looking for ways to share experiences with other clubs in the league and help us all be better, because we all know that for a league like this to succeed, its clubs have to be strong.
What does the future hold for Lansing Common FC, any aspirations of going professional?
The future for Lansing Common is to build sustainably and in a way that ensures we stay true to our values of being community first. We’ve described it as being a community organization that happens to run a soccer team. Our goal is to have as much of a positive impact in the Lansing area as possible, and we’d love to win some trophies on the field while we’re doing that.
Anything else we should know about the club?
Anyone who hasn’t seen it yet should check out our crest explainer (pictured and linked below). https://twitter.com/lansingcommonfc/status/1287794883328192514
We'd like to thank Eric for his time! To keep up with Lansing Common, make sure to check out their website and follow them on social media!
Twitter - @lansingcommonfc
Instagram - @lansingcommonfc
Website - www.lansingcommonfc.com