An Interview with Red River Rising
Red River Rising is a Canadian Premier League supporters' group based in Winnipeg. Thanks to the members of the group for shedding light on their mission to grow the game of soccer in Winnipeg & the group's journey so far.
Q: Tell us about the origins of Red River Rising & your mission for soccer in Winnipeg.
R: Red River Rising began in December 2016, as other supporters’ groups were slowing gaining steam in Canada (especially in Hamilton & Halifax). We initially created Twitter & Facebook pages to gauge interest in a Winnipeg Supporters’ group and then a meetup event was set for January 2017. That’s when it really kicked off!
It was a modest group, 8 of us in total, but we shared a common belief – that the prospect of having a local team to sing and cheer for would turn into a reality. Since then, we’ve had modest growth. We also held contests to develop the group’s name (Red River Rising), and a logo, which would honor our city and provincial heritage. We’ve also developed a scarf, website, social media, and gone out to a few community events as we gear towards an eventual 2019 kickoff. Our mission for soccer in Winnipeg is to not only grow the game, but also engage people in developing a culture that is unique to city. With our mission, we aim to be:
- The loudest voice for the Winnipeg professional soccer team
- The lasting image of Winnipeg supporters
- The leaders in supporting our community and our team
Q: Along with Hamilton, Winnipeg has been a key player in the approval of the Canadian Premier League. How was the anticipation behind the scenes leading up to the big announcement last May?
R: The anticipation behind the scenes has been quite exciting. We heard rumblings, rumors, and read blogs about Winnipeg not only getting a team in the league but also about the ownership group (i.e. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers).
A lot of people in the soccer community are very excited. They know the importance of the league and the team, as well, they understand the need for a development pathway for Canadian players and how that will translate to sustained improved performance on the world stage. Everyone we talk to outside of the group is receptive, excited, and sees how popular soccer is around the world. They understand how important the Canadian Women's team has been to the nation during the last two Olympics. That helps with the excitement that will be generated by another professional club in the city.
When the Canadian Premier League was announced last May, with Winnipeg being one of two founding members (Hamilton the other), we were all quite excited. Every soccer fan was probably checking their social media accounts consistently, with the overflowing of news that day.
Q: What are the moves your group is making in preparation for a professional soccer team in Winnipeg?
R: Some of the moves we’ve been making in anticipation for professional soccer’s return to River City include, working with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in developing lasting relationships, upgrading and updating our online presence so we can provide our current and potential supporters’ group members a professional up-to-date experience, and showing how important the supporters' group is to our community.
We’re also looking to engage the community more in the upcoming months by hosting more events, and having a presence at Winnipeg Blue Bomber games this summer. We’re working with the Blue Bombers, who are new to soccer supporters’ culture, to help them understand what we can bring to the stadium.
Q: What are some challenges that have come with what you’re doing so far?
R: There have been some challenges like trying to keep and maintain momentum when there’s been limited CanPL news since the announcement last May. It’s hard to engage new people when there’s only a limited number of announcements to go around in the media and a stream of rumors about the league. This city has been bitten before by two other failed professional soccer attempts with Winnipeg Fury from 1987 to 1993, and the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League from 2007 to 2011. This has naturally created some skepticism among soccer fans.
We've seen it before in Winnipeg with the Fury, the Jets, and the Winnipeg Alliance indoor team. People in Winnipeg are hesitant to jump in before everything is announced. So, we don't have a huge turnout when we have our monthly pub nights. Also, while our online following is great, we haven't seen that translate to a lot of people who come out to lend their voices. We think once the league starts announcing more teams and providing more information closer to kickoff, you’ll see more excitement for the Canadian Premier League and Red River Rising, heading into 2019.
Q: Describe in detail what it would mean for the city when CanPL finally becomes a reality on the field in 2019?
R: Having the Canadian Premier League launch in 2019 and seeing the first kickoff at Investors Group Field will be the ultimate culmination of long waits, debates, hard work, and will truly reflect an evolving shift within the Winnipeg sporting culture. We'd love to see a full house for the home opener next year - about 30,000 fans - in the stadium cheering for the club. Red River Rising will be there, marching to the match, singing, standing, banging our drums and waving our flags. We’ll lead the atmosphere and it’ll be jubilation for us to welcome a professional team full of Winnipeg and Canadian players. The city will be proud to call the team its own!