”When we put this shirt on we carry all of the fans with us.”
Forward Madison FC defender Christian Diaz isn’t just referring to the symbolism of playing for the ‘Mingo’s rabid fanbase.
“We’ve got every single supporter’s name that is a season ticket holder on this kit,” said at-large director of The Flock Chris Fox. “Home or away, and especially away, we want these lads to know that we are there for them, we are here to support the club.”
Without our fans, we are nothing. ❤️— Forward Madison FC (@ForwardMSNFC) March 14, 2020
Every Forward Madison season ticket holder's name is printed in between the pink sashes on our new kit. pic.twitter.com/WFjbUnU8p6
Forward Madison revealed their new away kits during a live stream on their YouTube channel Saturday. The club originally planned on holding an in-person event at Madison’s Majestic Theater, but pivoted to a digital platform in response to the escalating coronavirus pandemic.
The kits were designed entirely by members of The Flock, an independent Forward Madison supporters group. Flock member Mark Crosby, Fox and president Andrew Schmidt took some input from other members of The Flock during the process, but kept most of the project under wraps.
“We were looking around last July, August saying ‘How are going to raise the bar on this thing?” said Forward president Vern Stenman.
The club’s popularity outside of Wisconsin exploded last year in their first season in large part due to their unique, vibrant kits. Forward Madison cultivated a loyal following early on and led USL League One in attendance by a large margin. Turning over control of jersey design to that following was a natural step.
“The Flock obviously brought amazing energy to games, but they also have this really talented group of designers within The Flock,” Stenman said.
Crosby, Fox and Schmidt threw around a number of concepts including an eye-popping tartan-patterned jersey and some hyper-’80s designs. But the trio eventually settled on a simpler jersey that Schmidt described as “timeless” and “simplistic” during the jersey unveiling.
“I’ll tell you what: they knocked it out of the park in terms of what they brought from a design aesthetic, like they always do,” Stenman said.
Stenman said that, to the team’s knowledge, no other soccer club has turned over complete creative control of a jersey to its fans before. $5 from every purchase of the jersey will go to The Flock soccer foundation, a branch of The Flock that partners with local soccer clubs to provide opportunities to under-served communities and make soccer more accessible.
“For a long time last year we talked in the locker room that we were part of a greater community and every time we put the jersey on we’re representing them,” said Forward team captain Connor Tobin. “To go on the road and actually have members of the community on the shirt, it’s one of the last things you look [at] before you step on the field, that’s pretty special.”