The supporters of the Columbus Crew have a long history that can seem somewhat bewildering. Much like the early Christian church, there have been divisions and separations, relocations and unifications. In order to avoid the cloud of confusion, the major history of the past and more detailed history of the recent days shall be recounted here.
The Early Years
When Columbus Crew Stadium opened in 1999, the ardent vocal (some may say “hardcore”) supporters of the Columbus Crew found themselves a home in the north stands. Some went to the northwestern corner near the players’ tunnel and others congregated in the middle, directly behind the goal. Sounds of drums, trumpets, vocal song and chant, praise and heckling, as well as cries of joy, sadness, and astonishment could all be heard coming from these supporters.
By 2006 a majority of the hardcore supporters had found their way to section 137 behind the goal. Due to a clash of styles and a desire for a new site line, the group split in the 2006/2007 winter off-season. A new group formed in section 103, calling themselves Crew Supporters Union: Local 103. A group that remained in section 137 took upon themselves the name of Hudson Street Hooligans. Much unknown to these groups, a grassroots effort in the Columbus Latino community would bring about the unexpected formation of a third supporters group in the northeastern corner called Turbina Amarillo (translates to “Yellow Turbine”).
The 2007 season was a good season for the supporters, as more and more people seemed to want to join in on the action of lending their vocal chords as best they could to supporting the Crew through a difficult season. Rumors, however, began to circulate like a snake in the brush during the season. A permanent concert stage was to be built behind the north goal, dismantling sections 136-138, and turn the Hudson Street Hooligans into refugees.
The Nordecke Era Begins
After talks between groups and the front office, a decision was made to populate the lower half of the northeast corner of the stands. Because this would require a move, Local 103 would no longer reside in section 103. After much discussion and debate, it was decided to change the 103 designation to the main Columbus area code, of 614. Crew Supporters Union: Local 614 has now taken on a naming standard that will allow for fellow supporters in other cities to form additional union groups that will be affiliated with CSU: Local 614. See our list of brethren in cities outside Columbus who do their all for the Crew from long distance.
Crew Union Evolves and Matures
It is no coincidence that Crew Union saw a great amount of growth during the Crew’s 2008 Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup winning season. What is a bit surprising is that the Nordecke and Crew Union continued sustained, rapid growth into the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Even as overall attendance nosedived and on field success declined, Crew Union continued to grow and ticket sales in the Nordecke continued to climb.
As the group continued to flourish, Crew Union leadership wanted to find a way to ensure that the organization could continue to grow and be well managed into the future. There was also a strong desire to demonstrate the principles of volunteerism and philanthropy that has helped to guide Crew Union. To this end, Crew Union leadership took the necessary steps to officially register Crew Supporters Union as a non-profit organization with the State of Ohio.
A few members with a background in law and business incorporation assisted Crew Union leadership in drafting a charter that not only reflects the fraternal nature of the organization, but it clearly defines the roles of executive officers and members so that future members and officers can seek guidance based on the founding of the group. The new charter also met the criteria necessary to seek non-profit status. In 2011, with the assistance of an experience non-profit accountant, Crew Union also applied tax-exempt status with the Federal government when the articles of incorporation were filed with Ohio Secretary of State.
It took nearly a year to complete the process, but in April 2012 the I.R.S. officially recognized Crew Supporters Union, Inc. as a 501(c)(7) tax-exempt organization. Since 2011, Crew Union members have proven to be very generous and the group has greatly increased its charitable donations and fundraising. All officers continue to volunteer their time as the charter does not allow for compensation. In the spirit of its non-profit status, all proceeds that the organization raises through ticket sales, merchandise, donations, etc… goes directly back into the group for things like tifo displays, parties, bus trips, outreach, and charitable causes.
The steps taken to organize and incorporate Crew Union have allowed it to continue to grow in a well-managed fashion. It also helps set Crew Union apart from other soccer supporters groups. Although the organization’s first priority will always be to support the Columbus Crew, spread the love of soccer, and to provide an environment for members to get together in furtherance of their enjoyment of the game, the 501(c) status demonstrates that Crew Union is much more than a soccer supporters group. The organization will continue to strive to a positive influence in the community and work to volunteer and support charitable causes in Central Ohio.