To give you an inside look at the hard work happening to make Dark Clouds tifo incredible throughout the year, we will be publishing a monthly update throughout the season. The updates will include a heads up on chances to get involved, details on how we do everything from develop a tifo concept to sew the thing together, and some behind-the-scenes stories from the committee as they labor to make the game day experience unlike any other.
I am excited to finally introduce myself to the scarf waving throngs who make each game special. My name is David Martin, and I am the head of the Tifo Committee for the 2018 season. I have been a Dark Cloud since 2013 and got my first taste of supporting the group by writing The Heckler, the game day guide making fun of the other team that would be distributed when the team played in Blaine. Since then I have covered Minnesota United for FiftyFive.One (check my weekly match previews there) and Midfield Press, and am the co-creator and editor for The Daves I Know podcast and website. Some of you might also know me from the computer as Offensive Loons Fan. In short, I stay plenty involved in supporting this team and this sport in Minnesota, and I am thrilled with this latest opportunity to do something eye popping for the club I live for.
This off-season has been all about organization. Though one often thinks about painting and designing art as the keys to successful tifo, in truth it is much more an exercise in project management. To that end, our off-season has focused primarily on the following objectives:
- Finding regular tifo build space. It can be hard to find open space big enough to build a display as big as several stadium sections that is affordable, reliably available, and doesn’t mind the potential for a little paint mess. Fortunately, Surly Brewing has stepped up and will be letting us use warehouse space for our tifo work throughout the year at no cost. This has been a huge achievement that will allow us to do bigger and better work on a consistent basis.
- Finding affordable materials. 5,400 square feet of fabric is not cheap. Over the course of a season, we’ve budgeted over $5,000 for fabric alone. To combat this, we’ve tried to get creative. We’ve contacted sailboat companies, theaters, and any other place we thought might work with fabric on a massive scale. Fortunately, we’ve found that we can cut our fabric expenses in half by using photographer’s backdrops and stitching them together, a massive savings for the organization and its members.
- Making tifo work across supporters groups. Each affiliate supporters group has their own vision, their own structure, and their own unique expression of their passion. But when the display goes up, no one in the stadium or watching on TV knows the difference. Tifo is a single, massive, unified statement of our collective fandom. Believing this, we now have a cross-supporters group committee with representation from every affiliate group. We have also developed a process by which leadership from each group is able to weigh in and approve every tifo design, so we are always cheering with one voice when the tifo unfurls.
- Getting the right people. Too often the work of our supporters group relies on people who simply have been around for a long time, inheriting the institutional knowledge and routine of pitching in. Their hard work is incredible, but alone it is unsustainable. Our group has not only brought in representation from every supporters group, but also has brought in artists and graphic designers, textiles experts, engineering contacts, and more to make sure every aspect of what we do is cared for by an expert and to help avoid burnout among those die-hards who already do so much for the group.
- Working more closely with the team. We now have a more fully established process for working with the team on game day details, getting tifo concepts approved, and working through potential conflict. Additionally, we have a place at the table in discussing Allianz Field considerations to make sure that our ability to deploy tifo in the new stadium, including things like rigging and pulleys, enables us to do something truly incredible next year.
There is much more to say, but these are some of our highest priorities from this offseason for which we have had some major successes. We are proud of what we have accomplished already, even before a single banner has been raised. And this is only the beginning.
Next month we will talk about some of our guiding philosophies behind how we choose tifo designs and develop them. In the meantime, look out for an invitation to volunteer to help paint our home opener tifo design and always feel free to send your own tifo ideas, ask us a question, or add yourself to our volunteer list, email » firstname.lastname@example.org.