By Rich Ransom
This August, a new professional soccer league gets its start when the American Soccer League kicks off featuring a team in the Philadelphia area. The Philadelphia Fury will be part of the new league, becoming one of its main franchises. To learn more about the team and the league, I spoke to General Manager Graham Charters to see what's in store when the team starts play this August:
The Brotherly Game: What are your duties as General Manager of the Philadelphia Fury?
Graham Charters: My main duties involve player recruitment and overseeing the day-to-day running of the Club. I work very closely with our President, Matt Driver, and together we share many of the tasks needed to run a successful club, however it is my responsibility to really communicate with those who become aware of the Fury. Whether it be a potential player, a business adventure, or even a fan, it is my role to make sure that every base is covered and we are aiming in the right direction.
TBG: What is the history of the team and do you try to connect to the original Fury of the NASL?
GC: Absolutely! An integral part of having a successful organizational culture is to make sure that the history of that organization is not forgotten. The Fury has had some prestigious names associated to it, and we try to emphasize that to everyone we meet. Players such as Alan Ball (a World Cup winner), Jonny Giles and Peter Osgood have represented the Club and this is something we will never forget or try to aim away from. Whilst the current CEO is different to the former owners (musicians Rick Wakeman, Peter Frampton and Paul Simon), he still makes sure everyone associated with the club is aware of their importance in the modern-day Fury. Further to this we have really gone for a retro style kit, similar to that of the original Fury.
TBG: What are the plans for the upcoming inaugural season for the team?
GC: We really want to develop and construct a team that will not only represent the Fury on the field, but will understand the traditions and expectations of the club off the field also. It is imperative, especially in our first season, that we remain patient with the team and those involved as essentially we are constructing a fresh squad. To become successful on the field takes time. Players very rarely automatically blend and we must support the team. Equally, it is not just what happens on the field that we are planning for; off the field we have the ambition to really connect with the surrounding communities and show them that we truly want to build something that they can be proud of. We are a club that wants to show young American soccer players that the opportunity will be there for them should they want to pursue a career in soccer.
TBG: What are the long-term plans of the Fury and the ASL? What is the business plan?
GC: The long-term plans for the Fury is to continue to build and develop young American players. We want to of course challenge for trophies, everyone within the game does, but we really want to be seen as the club who is focused on the development of the players. We want young players to look at us as the club who will give them the opportunity and chance to achieve something within the game. The ASL shares a similar philosophy in the sense that the focus must be on American players. I know the League has brought in the "Eight Player Rule" which simply means there must be eight American players on the field at all times. Our business plan is to run the club on a sustainable budget and not go beyond our means. We want to do things the right way, which means not looking to spend what we don't have. Part of the club's philosophy is to not only educate players on the field, but educate them off it also. If we run the club like a toy then it is not realistic to expect the players to follow the correct guidelines, and that is something we are not interested in. Another key component of our plan is to try to engage as many local organizations as possible. We want local businesses to really become connected with the club and buy into what we are trying to do. We are very conscious of how we are seen, and we believe building a worthy reputation is strongly linked to an ethically sound and logically structured business model.
TBG: Has the schedule been finalized? Where will the team play? When will tickets go on sale?
GC: We are literally just finalizing the schedule now. There are eight teams within the League in total, so we have to work together in trying to make everyone as content as possible. It is not an easy process, but we are slowly getting there. As soon as we do, you'll be the first to know. We will be playing out of Washington Township (New Jersey)'s High School. It is a beautiful venue, and the Township is very well-known for its soccer enthusiasts! The town's soccer club is currently doing very well and we feel that this is the ideal place and time to introduce professional soccer into the Washington Township area. Tickets will be on sale closer to the time of the opening game. Again, we are just finalizing the schedule, so when we have done this we will have a greater picture as to when we will distribute tickets.
TBG: Has the roster been finalized? Has the Front office and technical staff been finalized?
GC: The roster has not been finalized yet. We are still constructing the squad and looking to build on it more. We have offered professional contracts to some players, but we are still looking for players who will improve us. The front office really, right now, consists of our President and CEO, Matt Driver and myself. The technical staff is a little more solid and whilst the Head Coach's role is to be determined, we have a very ambitious and experienced set-up with the team of Kyle Hall, David Hughes, Cris Vaccaro and Victor Malagisi currently overseeing game-day operations.
TBG: There is an upcoming Fury combine. What kind of players is the team looking for? Is the combine open to fans to watch?
GC: We are looking for young and hungry players who want to progress even further with their soccer careers. We want players who excel in professionalism and strive to improve on a daily basis. Of course there must be talent, but talent only gets you to a certain level in life. We want players who are ready to work hard and who give 100% everyday in trying to become better. If the players come with those ingredients, then they will receive our support and guidance all the way.
TBG: What's the goal of the team and the league?
GC: The goal of the team is to lead by example on and off the field. To give everything possible in trying to improve and to really create something that the fans can be proud of. Results are of course important and we will be looking to build over time, but for us as a team our goal is to be united and grow successfully over the next few years whilst seeing players move onwards and upwards within the professional game. If we achieve this then we will be content. The League's goal is a question for someone else. I know that the focus is on helping young American players grow and develop, but I do not want to speak on behalf of someone else. I can only speak on behalf of the Fury, and we are ready to build an environment conducive to success for all involved.
Big thanks to Graham for taking the time out of his day to speak with us about the Philadelphia Fury. For more on them, please check out the American Soccer League's web site and be sure to follow the ASL and Philadelphia Fury on Twitter.