BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS BY EM DASH PHOTOGRAPHY • EMDASHPHOTO.COM
As throngs of new Louisville City fans have discovered, the atmosphere cultivated at Louisville Slugger Field when LouCity takes to the pitch is both captivating and infectious. Perhaps the most extreme example of this is the case of the current president of the Louisville Coopers, Tom Farmer.
Farmer took office in January, but his route to the president of Louisville City’s largest supporters group began just a short 18 months before, when he attended his first Louisville City game with Elise, his wife of nine years, which he described doing “on a lark.”
Having grown up in Powell County, Ky., Tom – an IT professional for Humana and University of Louisville graduate – labeled himself as a baseball and basketball fan, and was less than interested in the sport of soccer. He went as far as to say that he had watched only a handful of soccer games, usually featuring either a U.S. national team or UofL.
All of that changed, though, after his first Louisville City match in 2015.
At that time, the Coopers themselves were only just getting acquainted with creating the colorful and exciting atmosphere that they have become known for, but Farmer knew he immediately wanted to be a part of the most vocal corner of the Louisville City game days.
At first Farmer was just another face in the crowd. Tthen starting by contributing to the organization through different odd jobs within the Coopers organization (like producing the Supporters Group’s own weekly podcast, Barrel Proof), he came to meet people he would come to know and consider his close friends. On one fateful night last season Tom quickly went from still relatively anonymous to famous (or perhaps infamous) among the Coopers’ loyal.
It was April 27, 2016, the “Rain Game,” as it has come to be known for the few Lou City faithful who stuck out the whole contest.
It was a Wednesday night, and the crowd was sparse for a mid-table opponent in the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and a foreboding forecast loomed. There were several weather delays, taking over 90 minutes in total. The match probably shouldn’t have gone ahead, and after the first stoppage late in the first half, the field was in poor shape.
Most fans, Cooper leadership included, felt the game would be suspended. As Farmer, Ken Luther, then president of the Coopers, and an “unnamed accomplice” went to stow some Coopers game-day supplies in the designated center-field shed, they noticed a ball had been left on the field and the goal in front of the Coopers section was sitting agape.
After what some might describe as an “unfortunate” series of passes, Farmer, having slipped and fell, got the ball to Luther in front of the goal, who consequently poked it into the waiting net. The security assigned to the game took exception to this, and escorted the sitting Coopers president (Luther) and Farmer off of the premises. The pair of them also went on to receive a letter from the club itself stating in no uncertain terms that should either of them set foot on the field again, they could be banned for life.
After an amicable meeting with then-Louisville City president Amanda Duffy, the air was cleared, but that didn’t stop Farmer from getting the entire Louisville City FC squad to sign his “Yellow Card,” as he referred to it, and hanging it proudly in his home.
It was on that night that Tom Farmer became “Tom Foolery,” a name bestowed upon him by Ken Luther.
Tom Foolery himself described the events that transpired that night as also having set into motion his path to becoming president, but more immediately, he became a member-at-large on the Coopers board of directors for the second half of 2016.
Farmer would be the first to admit he didn’t run much of a campaign for the presidency, but his platforms and goals were concrete. He set out to mend relationships between fellow supporters groups of LouCity that had become eroded at that point, he wanted to increase the footprint of the Coopers in the community, and he desired to make it easy for casual fans to become supporters of their local soccer team.
Categorically, Farmer has been largely successful in these endeavors. While the Coopers are the biggest and most visible fans at Louisville City matches, they (specifically Farmer) interact with the soccer club with the interest of not only the Coopers, but all supporters’ interests in mind.
Perhaps the most successful collaboration between the different supporter’s groups was the block party held at Goodwood Brewing before the July 15 match against FC Cincinnati, a collaboration between the Coopers and “the Black Sheep.”
As for increasing the footprint of the Coopers, look no further than the July 20 rally for a bespoke soccer stadium at Copper & Kings in Butchertown that was organized and promoted by the Coopers, along with the Butchertown Neighborhood Association.
While the Coopers’ membership numbers have been hovering around 350 strong, the supporters section in the stadium is usually filled to the brim, and the attendance at Louisville City matches has seen a palpable increase from season to season, and the club had a record 11,632 on hand last month for the aforementioned FC Cincinnati match.
Farmer immediately strikes you as a genuine person, and even though he is the head of an organization that exists to create a good time, he does not take his post lightly.
In one of my several conversations with him, he commented, “Every day I count my blessings that I get to be president of the Coopers. It’s been extremely fulfilling for me. … I’m very happy to be doing what I’m doing, and I’m happy that what I’m doing brings enjoyment to others.”
As he gets into the middle of his term, he continues to appear on Barrel Proof – the popular podcast – albeit as a host rather than a producer. He offers his casual point of view from time to time, as his soccer acumen is still developing.
One thing is certain though, and that’s the power of the supporters’ culture here. “I went to one LouCity match,” Farmer said, “and two years later I’m the president of the Coopers because I am so dedicated to this sport and this team.”
“ EVERY DAY I COUNT MY BLESSINGS THAT I GET TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE COOPERS. IT’S BEEN EXTREMELY FULFILLING FOR ME. … I’M VERY HAPPY TO BE DOING WHAT I’M DOING, AND I’M HAPPY THAT WHAT I’M DOING BRINGS ENJOYMENT TO OTHERS.”
–Tom Farmer, Louisville City Coopers President