It's a sad day for soccer in Rochester, and the country. While we've all figured it was coming for months, RNY FC officially announced that there will not be a season in 2023 and potentially beyond.
First of all, I will start with the negative. The way this was handled was poor. For us fans, we received nothing from our ownership for months. The offseason was mistake after mistake. First, a post was on Twitter about an exciting announcement being made that night. Then their next tweet was announcing the release of multiple players. They tried to cover it by announcing a signed jersey giveaway, but the optics were very poor. Then, in January was a post about how the journey was just beginning, followed by complete silence for months. As a fan, I don't feel I'm entitled to know every decision, but as someone that invests their time and money in a product, I like to know that I'm respected and thought of. I'm sure the owners were busy, but to just ignore the fans for months of speculation, really did damage to the fanbase.
The other large negative is to the soccer community. At home, I selfishly will miss going to games, streaming the away games, and talking about the team with other fans. However, to the larger soccer system in the US, we really screwed some other teams. By entering in the US Open Cup and having a team in the second round, the decisions made in the offseason fucked over other, smaller teams. This had to have been coming for a while; the right thing to do would have been to give up our spot in the Cup, as it would have meant smaller teams in qualifying and the first round would have been able to fill it. Even if we did field a team, it would have been at the last minute, and giving up our place was the right thing to do. But alas that was not done, and will forever be one of the larger stains on our legacy. It's a shame that the Rhinos legacy began with historic results in the US Open Cup, and ended as RNY FC in a disgraceful manner.
To a smaller extent, I think this also reflects poorly on Jamie Vardy. I'm not saying he needs to bankroll the team or anything, but it seems as if his "ownership" was more in name only for publicity. After the initial announcements and news coverage, he wasn't heard from. I understand more could have gone on behind the scenes that I'm not privy to, but his lack of anything out in the open really reflects that it wasn't anything taken too seriously.
On a positive note though, RNY FC proved that soccer is still alive in Rochester. I know that there are other teams in the city, and I hope people reading this will support them, both the men's and the women's teams in the city. But this was the people who owned the rights to the Rochester Rhinos, so they are the ones that I wanted to support most. And it seemed like it was a success. By the end of the season, games were sold out, and more seating was brought in. It really baffles me though what the roadmap to success was. As a stadium, MCC had to be cheaper to play at, and half of the season filled that stadium. Sell-outs had to be a goal, not a certainty, in the financial outlook, so when we continually did, how was that not profitable? But I digress, because I had a ton of fun last year, and I really looked forward to the coming season. The attendance figures in the business plan had to have been surpassed, so I'm just shocked how this was not a success.
My other positive note, this was not the Rochester Rhinos. The Rhinos have been dead for years. I think it was a poor decision to rebrand, but that's neither here nor there. That was the decision that was made. The Rhinos that I loved though have been gone for a long time. While I will miss RNY FC, at least I don't have to say goodbye to the Rhinos again.
I'm sad because of this outcome, but I've been resigned to it happening for months. I hope this isn't the end. I'd love to see the Rhinos name come back, and in the USL rather than a team playing against MLS reserves. I am not the one who put my money into the club, and losing money constantly for years can't be easy, so I do have sympathy for the owners. I just wish so many decisions had been handled better as a fan who lives and breaths the sport and their history.
I truly hope this isn't the end.