Los Angeles Football Club - Q+A with Pat Aviles, Supporter Relations
Los Angeles Football Club may have started their inaugural season in MLS last year, but the supporter culture was solidly thriving well before the first player on the roster was ever announced. LAFC took an inclusive, grassroots approach with the community from the very beginning and the results are evident. On any given match day at the Banc of California Stadium, you can find the north end packed to capacity with the various supporters groups that make up The 3252, the independent supporters union for the club. We chatted with LAFC’s Patrick Aviles, Manager of Supporter Relations, about their first season and the unique and dedicated supporter culture that surrounds the club.
Tell us a little about your background, how you ended up with LAFC, and your roll with the club and how it relates to the supporters.
I have always loved soccer since I began playing at age 5. Growing up, I played everything from AYSO to Club to High School to a little bit of college soccer. I continue to play in multiple adult leagues now, both indoor and outdoor. I always followed the United States national teams, both men’s and women’s. After the 94 World Cup I watched MLS grow in the 90’s and survive the early 2000’s. When I graduated college in 2010, I took a trip to the World Cup in South Africa and that changed my view on what the culture around the game was all about. I met so many people from around the world and had so many conversations about the clubs they supported back home and what they loved about the game. I fell in love all over again with the sport, but more importantly everything outside of the pitch. In 2015 I heard rumblings of a new club starting up in Los Angeles and found anyway I could to be a part of it with my only goal to help grow the game and the culture in our city. Now here I am, a part of LAFC and about to begin our second season in MLS with one of the best supporter culture scenes in the whole league.
The idea of an independent supporters union, such as LAFC’s 3252 is really interesting. What is the roll of the 3252 and how many current supporters groups fall under their umbrella?
The 3252 is an Independent Supporter Union, which means it completely functions separately than the Club. It serves to unite the various groups who passionately support LAFC. This city is so big and there are so many different cultures that it is natural to have more than one group. Having the union as an umbrella really allows them to work together and stay united in the name of supporting the Club. They can work together to make an impact both in the stadium and out in the community
The club have really made a statement culturally across U.S soccer in a relatively short amount of time. What do you think the key elements are that made this happen?
I think that it was key to really get out into the community with the people who love this game and this city, and listen to them. From the beginning, we held so many events that served just to bring people together who love soccer, love the culture it comes with, and wanted to meet like-minded individuals. Asking the fans and supporters what they wanted out of the Club that was still building and had not even signed a player yet allowed for real ownership in the building of LAFC. Supporters wanted safe standing in their section, affordable ticket prices and food/beverage prices, along with a team that represented the diversity of the city. Over the years, we were able to build that together with the supporters and that’s what we have now at Banc of California Stadium.
What was a highlight for you in the club’s inaugural season?
There were so many. It’s obviously an entire season filled with “firsts” and unbelievable memories. The first game was a road trip away to Seattle and that one really was special because so many supporters and fans travelled together to see what would eventually be our first goal and our first win in Club history. It was the culmination of years of building and dreaming finally becoming a reality. Then you have the home opener at our stadium in the heart of the city. Everyone knew it would be sold out, but to see the building actually packed with people standing on their feet singing for our team was truly special. I could go on and on with memories from the inaugural season.
On that same note, do you have a favorite “away day” from 2018/19?
Other than the first game ever up in Seattle, our away day in San Jose was unbelievable. We invaded Northern California with 6 buses and about 500 supporters total. We were the loudest ones in the whole stadium! The game was going terribly for about 75 minutes but then our team mounted a comeback and we ended up winning 4-3 in the dying moments of the match. We all went wild. It was like we stole 3 points and had a party in someone else’ house.
When you joined LAFC, did you ever imagine that it’d be where it is today?
Yes and no. Yes because I always knew that Los Angeles was a soccer city. Soccer has always been a big part of the history here and there are so many people that truly love the game in LA. I knew that we had something special being built with a stadium in the heart of the city and some really amazing owners and staff that truly believe in growing the game and the culture in an authentic way that really connects with people. But I have to say that I never thought it would be this amazing. To see such a beautiful soccer-specific stadium filled up with people watching a really great team is a blessing. Sadly it doesn’t happen in every city around the league so you have to be thankful that it happens here. By and far, to have the supporters we do, to have The 3252 leading the heartbeat of the Club is something that has never been seen before in Los Angeles. You have to see it to believe it.
What does the future hold for LAFC (for the club as well as the supporters)?
Greatness. Making a bigger impact in the community and getting more people involved and excited about the passion for LAFC is everyone’s focus. I know that we’ll see success on and off the field. Winning trophies will come and our supporters will be there to throw the biggest party this league has ever seen.
Is there another club domestically or abroad that you admire from an organizational or cultural standpoint?
Borussia Dortmund was a big inspiration to many of us here at the Club. They have been at the top of global supporter culture with the Yellow Wall for a long time, but it is also how their Club really owns the pride in their fans, their community, and their city that I admire. Many clubs say it in their marketing, but BVB truly exemplify what it means when no single person is bigger than the Club.
Can LAFC win the MLS Cup in 2019/20?
Without a doubt.