It is rare for me to find fellow Palace fans, whenever I say here in the States that I have a soft spot for the club. In the States, unless your a fan of the top four sides or Newcastle, you are thought of as an oddity. Football to the USA started in 1992 when the EPL came around, and the only clubs we got to see on a monthly basis was the top four sides.
I am a Liverpool fan and being over here in the States, it is hard to get any match other than the more popular ones. It was not until NBC expanded their coverage did we get the other matches. Now that NBC has a subscription service, a lot of matches will go behind a paywall. I often say so on my podcast, Yellow Card on blogtalk radio with Jonathan Collura, who is also a fan of the Eagles and started one of the several fan groups over here in the US.
Q. How did you settle on the name Nebraska Bugeaters, and what’s behind it?
At the end of the 19th century, there was a plague in Nebraska and the bugs ate all the crops. It was said that the Nebraskans only had bugs to eat, so they were called Bugeaters. The state moved to change this nickname, but it stuck with the Nebraska (collegiate) American football team adopting the nickname of the Bugeaters in the 1890’s. We chose it because it is a name that many Nebraskans know and connect with and also because it is absolutely something unique that gets people’s attention and at a minimum begs this question.
Q. You said on the Yellow Card podcast that Nebraska has a pretty good history in the sport, for those who do not know it, can you give us an idea?
Nebraska is in the middle of the United States has been known to have outstanding collegiate programmes and has quickly expanded at youth level. The state has highly competitive high school programmes. Collegiate programmes like Creighton and Hastings College have always consistently been top programmes. The state boasts an Major League Soccer (MLS) affiliate youth program as well. We aim to fill the gap with Division 4 which allows these programmes the next level of play.
Q. The league you are in, it is one of the lower leagues that we do not hear much about much. What can you tell us about the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL)?
The Bugeaters will play an exhibition schedule against Premier Development League (PDL) and National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) clubs. These leagues are commonly referred to as Division 4 in the United States. I would put the league at about the same level as the seventh and eighth level in England. The top teams in Division 4 here could definitely compete in the National League. We will also have a team in the UPSL which is focused on low budget clubs typically found in state leagues.
Q. What made you pick the UPSL?
When we launched we did not have a stadium deal in hand. I did not want to commit to a big budget without having that. The UPSL was the best option because of its focus on low budget and we had a big unknown.
Q. You guys already have a store online before you have a club. In this day and age, is it easier to get your name out there through merchandise or the internet?
We think that the two go hand in hand. Bugeaters FC has a good following and we have not played a match yet. This is due to social media and having some solid designs that people want to buy. Right now we have sold out of most items and it is a testament to selling designs that are both simple and unique.
Q. Does social media help small clubs and those starting up more than we would expect?
Social media has been the tool that we have used to launch the club. It has no doubt helped us get them name out nationally, and globally. Fans want content and this is an amazing communication tool.
Q. What is your aim with Bugeaters FC?
Off the pitch we want to be a club that focuses on its fans and the community. On the pitch we aim to develop into a top club. I want us to be known as entrepreneurs of the game.
Q. You are a Palace fan from the States, how did that happen?
Back in around 1990, I began following Palace. I saw a televised match and immediately took to the club. In the mid-nineties, the internet came about and instantly I was able to get information and communicate with fellow fans. I launched CPISA, an international supporters club which was wiped out when the club launched its official website.
Q. What is it like supporting Palace in the States?
It is amazing now I can watch all of the matches. The game has changed so much but one thing is constant – fans want content and so much is available today. Back in the nineties there were few fans in the US. Now there are many. The Premier League has built massive fan bases here. I remember watching Palace playing Sheffield Wednesday in the late nineties on ESPN. It was exciting just to have that match televised.
Q. What is your view of the new United States Soccer Federation (USSF) President?
Bugeaters FC is about its community and the development of talent. We avoid political comments and hope that we can help build the game in the United States.
Q. Tell us a little more on your interest in the English game?
I have always been a big fan of the game in England at all levels. I spent time communicating with a lot of non-league clubs to get as much information as I could. Ultimately, I wanted to buy a club and accomplished that with an investment in 2015 into Alfreton Town. Wayne Bradley was open to investment and has done a fantastic job with that club. I exited my investment (sold to my partners who still hold an investment) to focus on my next one. This time I am looking at a “bottom up” plan and looking to establish a model of development and sustainability. With the club in Nebraska, we will obviously set up a development partnership.
I have most of the kits since the nineties in my collection. I must admit that I like that the club has supporters who are all Palace and not because the club has won anything. We have seen a lot of that in the US. When people ask about my club and I tell them Palace, they know that I have to be a fan because of my love of the club not because of its latest “glory.”
I am excited to see the changes coming to Selhurst and enhancing the match day with the facilities. As someone who has been to many matches at many stadiums in England, nothing beats Selhurst Park and the Palace fans.