The clock shows 7:30 am on a cold Saturday morning on Feburary 7. And while many in Philadelphia are probably fast asleep, on 1511 Locust Street, Misconduct Tavern is packed with Arsenal fans who can’t wait to watch the North London Derby against Tottenham, one of the premier matches in the English Premier League. At the start of kickoff all eyes are glued on the many TV screens but the true spectacle at hand is the fans themselves rather than the game. Why are so many Americans up by 7 am to watch a sport and club based in England? Mike Hiddi, a Arsenal fan who is in charge of Arsenal Philadelphia’s accounts on social-networking websites,provides some insight on the rise of this supporters group in Philadelphia.
Q: Many point to the World Cup as the biggest endorser of soccer in the U.S. do you find that to be true?
A: No, not really. While it certainly is a great spectacle, it took much effort before we could establish this supporters group here in Philly and contrary to popular belief, I don’t think there is that much of a correlation between the World Cup and the soccer fan base here. It’s the die-hard soccer fans that help promote the sport here in the U.S.
Q: How and when did you guys start organizing this supporters club?
A: Well, in 2003 and 2004 there were some fans of Arsenal who would get together at Fado’s and Dark Horse Pub. There really wasn’t a big fan base at the time since the games started so early in the day and not many channels showed soccer matches. We started finding fans through various message boards and blogs.
Q: When did the club start taking off?
A: In 2010. NBC started showing Premier League matches and we had established a core group of guys that dedicated much of their time to the supporters club.
Q: Whats the current state of the supporters club?
A: In 2014 we were officially recognized as an umbrella branch to the national group that supports Arsenal in the U.S which is a great accomplishment. Misconduct Tavern is now our permanent gathering spot for Arsenal viewings, and the turnout every game-day is great. More and more fans contact me on Twitter and we often see a lot of new faces here.
Q: What does it mean to get recognized by the national supporters club?
A: We get many privileges, one of them being 20% off season tickets for Arsenal.