Club, Community, Culture – Clovers

Interview by Sebastian Johnson

In the summer of 2006, a bored Brian Sykes was looking for something to watch on TV when he came across the world’s most popular event – the FIFA World Cup. He didn’t expect it to be much more than something to have on in the background, but to his own surprise he was immediately taken with the fluidity and pace of the sport.

“Call it a stroke of genius, or maybe even a stroke of boredom,” Sykes says, recalling the simple decision that set his life on a whole new trajectory. It wouldn’t take long for this interest to grow from a mere fascination to a true passion.

Over the next 10 years, the strength of that passion would grow, eventually leading him to take the initiative in founding the Savannah Clovers Football Club with his friend Phil Higgins in 2016.

Sykes, who has lived in Savannah since he was five years old, made it clear from the beginning that the club was meant to be part of the community – rather than just existing within it. In fact, it was one of the major motivating factors that pushed Sykes to form a soccer club.

“There was a gap here in Savannah when it came to soccer,” says Sykes. “Up the road in Charleston, Charleston Battery. Down the road in Jacksonville, Jacksonville Armada. There was even talk of Atlanta getting a team at the time.”

Sykes began his time as co-founder with the title of Club President, but it soon became clear they would need someone to be their “boots on the ground” guy to build a relationship with the city of Savannah. With such an intense love and connection to his community, it came as no surprise that Sykes made the jump. That position is one he still fills to this day, his current title being chief community officer.

From day one Sykes etched a clear motto into the very foundation of the club: “Club, culture, community.” The way Sykes sees it, all three serve to influence one another. The club has a responsibility to contribute to both the community and the culture of the community.

One of the major ways Sykes and the club contribute to the community is through direct community service.

“We’ve done a few meet and greets with fans, later in the season we’ll be doing a canned food drive, and we will be doing a school supplies drive at a game prior to the start of the 2023-24 school year,” he says.

Sykes has also used this position to further the goals of DEI. A recent example is a pro-am match he organized between Clovers players and the local Hispanic league.

“[The Hispanic league] plays every Sunday at the same arena we use for our matches,” says Sykes, explaining why they decided to collaborate with the local league. “A few of our players have built a great connection with them over the past few years.”

Sykes’ love for the club he helped create and grow is palpable, spilling from every anecdote he pulls out. When asked what his favorite moment in Clovers history was, a question one would think to be rather simple compared to the philosophy of community engagement he had spent the previous half hour expounding on, it was near impossible for him to name just a single moment.

“My favorite moment ever was a game against Michigan Stars FC,” Sykes said, finally deciding on a memory that tops them all. “We had sold around 800 tickets, which I knew with walk ups would be over 1,000. But when the game started people were still coming in. We ended up having over 2,000 that day, and it really really felt like a proper soccer match.”

Perhaps the only thing that trumps his love for Savannah Clovers FC is the love he holds for the city that has raised him into the man he is today. His passion is driven by this love, and everyday he uses it to improve his club, his community, and further his culture.

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