As an Italian-American who grew up watching Lazio, Shawn McIntosh is pretty well-placed to judge just how important supporters are in soccer.
Charlotte FC hired McIntosh as the club’s Chief Fan Officer ahead of their expansion year, placing him in charge of coordinating supporter events and making sure Major League Soccer’s latest franchise is as closely connected to its local community as possible.
For many, this sounds like the dream job; a fan that is intimately connected to the club in his city. But McIntosh appreciates the gravity of the role he’s been given, in effect taking on the responsibility of making sure Charlotte FC have a heart and soul.
“Lifeblood,” was McIntosh’s response when asked by 90min what supporters mean to football clubs ahead of Charlotte FC’s first-ever home match in March.
He elaborated: “Ultimately a club is nothing without its fans, right? And it's in the word, ‘supporter’. You're a supporter of the club, but we as a club are here to support our community, support our fans and be there.
“It's that community. It's what keeps a club alive. When you think about a club, when I think about a fan base, when I think about supporters, ultras, whatever you call them, that's the identity of a club. The beauty about this is they're what gives life to a club. And that culture is always breathing, moving, changing. So, the fans are everything.”
McIntosh describes his role as a ‘bridge’ between both sides, making sure the fans are heard and that the club is well-informed of what their supporters want and expect.
Charlotte FC's Chief Fan Officer position was the first of its kind in global sport and one that has received great interest from those potentially looking to adopt a similar role down the line. It also shows just how far the club are willing to go for the people who turn up for them every single week.
"I've had people reach out from other clubs," McIntosh said. "Things like fan engagement positions exist. Things like supporter liaison positions exist. Mine is a little bit unique. So, getting to have conversations with people that see what we're doing, it's a testament to this club, the really hardworking people here."
Watch the story of Charlotte FC's journey to MLS in 90min's The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels later this week.
The job is also a demanding one. Whether it’s planning a tifo, tracking transfer rumors, or planning an away road trip, supporters never truly switch off.
That means the same must apply for McIntosh, though he feels that level of commitment is the least he can do to repay the loyalty shown by fans who balance work and family lives with giving their all for Charlotte FC.
“I talk to these men and women in these supporter groups every single day, they're volunteers. I work for the club. So, when I'm at the stadium late, it's my job,” said McIntosh. “Now, I'm doing it out of passion and I love my job.
"But our supporters, they've got lives, families, jobs, and they're out there grinding, working really, really hard, talking to me 24/7. So, in that sense, it's not a surprise because there's been so much work and a level of passion there that's been brewing for two years.”