Awaiting MLS Debut, Sacramento Republic Looks To Fans At Home

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  • Before it joins MLS in 2022, Sacramento Republic FC is using the coronavirus pandemic to both discover new fans and maintain its existing ones.
  • From its “Let’s Talk Soccer” initiative to “Indomitable Hands,” the club is using both its digital and personal touch to connect with Sacramento locals.

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Photo Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

A current member of the USL Championship, Sacramento Republic FC had its eyes on 2022, when it was set to become the 29th team in Major League Soccer.

But now that the coronavirus pandemic has made 2022 feel eons away, team president Benjamin Gumpert is focusing on what he and his staff can do to fulfill Sacramento Republic’s ultimate mission: to make its community a better place.

“By doing this, this isn’t top-down by any means,” Gumpert said. “This is people on our staff – sales reps and marketing coordinators to vice presidents. They have an equal opportunity to share ideas, and we’re better because of that.”

Gumpert cites the club’s “Let’s Talk Soccer” campaign as a digital initiative that rose from the collaboration of many different staffers. Fans can set up an appointment using the team’s “Let’s Talk Soccer” page and speak with various Sacramento Republic personnel. Visitors are asked to answer some questions so the team can best match them to a club representative with similar interests.

Gumpert estimates that as many as 14 different staffers – including players, coaches, and front office executives – have participated in “Let’s Talk Soccer.”

One memorable call saw Romuald Peiser, Sacramento Republic’s goalkeeper coach, talk with a young goalkeeper about his journey, offering up advice on how to succeed in soccer. Then there was the young woman who surprised her boyfriend – a staunch supporter of Sacramento Republic FC – with a phone call from not only a player but a coach as well.

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“A lot of good stories have just come out of connecting [with our community],” Gumpert said. “We all crave that connection and that shared passion. That exists in soccer, that exists in this community – and when we can do that and utilize that for good, we will always put resources toward.”

Sacramento Republic is also making its goal to connect with locals outside of the digital space. It is working with Raley’s Supermarkets, a local, family-held chain on Indomitable Hands, a partnership that delivers meals to senior citizens who are stuck at home during the stay-at-home order.

Online donations have helped Sacramento Republic and Raley’s deliver “ready to eat bags” to the elderly. The bag contains a mix of freshly cooked, heat-and-eat meals like ready-to-go chicken alfredo and fresh green salads. Fans are also encouraged to nominate senior citizens in their community who need assistance.

Both Sacramento Republic and Raley’s have delivered more than 10,000 meals to local senior citizens. They have raised more than $60,000 in online donations – with 100% of the money going towards Indomitable Hands.

Gumpert himself has connected with numerous seniors through his own food drop-offs across Sacramento.

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“We often say – and it’s not a cliche – that it takes a republic,” he said. “It’s obviously part of the DNA of this club’s founding, but we only can do great things if all of us play a role. It’s been an unbelievable experience, not just for most importantly, the seniors that are receiving the bags, but even team staff or coaches or players that have this ability to play a role and play a helpful role. I think it is a win-win for everybody – and it’s one of the things I look forward to every week.”

For Gumpert, “Let’s Talk Soccer” and Indomitable Hands have been valuable learning experiences for Sacramento Republic. The initiatives have not just brought the club closer to its passionate fanbase – they have even helped it reach others previously unfamiliar with its place in the Sacramento sports scene.

“There are many, many stories about this, of seniors – who say, ‘I’ve never been to a Republic game, or I’ve never watched them on TV’ becoming fans,” Gumpert said. “Not just because they’re a fan of soccer, but I think this time has reminded us more than ever about the need for community and for us to come together and have a common purpose.”

“And that’s what sports does, right? That’s what sports has always done is bring people together to root for something in their community – that regardless of background or age or socioeconomic status, we can all pull forward together. That’s happened here – we’re going to do our part to do that, and if we do that well, we know that there are many, many good times ahead for all of us,” he added.