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SOCCER

Rising FC, ultras move on from banner display

By - Sep 18, 2017

By Emily Wirtz/For The Sporting Nation
Los Bandidos, Phoenix Rising Football Club’s Ultras as they call themselves, has a message they want to spread throughout Phoenix and the soccer community—one of anti-racism and anti-fascism.
Ultras in the international soccer community are generally known for their intense passion for the sport, their boisterous presence in the stands, and for some clubs their ultras are known for their violent and intimidating nature and political stances. The ultras of Phoenix Rising FC, however, are promoting a different message in Phoenix—acceptance, peace and a sense of unity or belonging. 
During the intense current political climate in the U.S, Los Bandidos are vehemently anti-racism and anti-fascism. The group promotes the message with signs, banners and apparel. Large banners inscribed with bold letters that state “No Racism” and “Love” are hung in the Los Bandidos supporters section to clearly emphasize their message.  
A self-proclaimed dedicated leader and member of Los Bandidos who did not want to be named said, “This team is the face of the city and this city has a bunch of different faces and we want to show that.” He also said the group's motivation behind their bold message is to, “defend our community and the stadium. We don’t want any sort of incidents or environment where people don’t feel safe, whether it is because of their racial background or their orientation.”
The supporters groups for the club have their own section behind a goal and their presence is felt throughout the entire stadium. Vice president of marketing and sales for the club, Sam Doerr, said the club works with supporter’s groups like Los Bandidos by giving them their own section of 1,000 seats and their own entrance into the stadium to allow them to set up their flags and banners early. They come equipped with megaphones and drums and participate in organized chants and songs.
To ensure the two supporters groups and the club’s relationship stays mutually beneficial, Doerr said club staff regularly meet with the groups to ask what the club can improve, and they give the groups feedback on what they can work on. “Having that open communication line with our supporter’s groups is important because we rely on them for the energy and the atmosphere, thus we allow them more freedoms; drums, smoke, etcetera,” Doerr said.
Doerr highlighted a few of Rising’s marketing tactics to encourage more people to attend games and build a loyal fan base. “Continuing to help grow the supporter’s groups and getting college kids integrated are two of our biggest areas of focus to build a fan base,” Doerr said.
Doerr also said that the club added nine brand ambassadors on campus at Arizona State University that wear Rising FC apparel and hand out tickets to encourage local college students to attend games, as well as having players go to the local college campuses to generate interest. In an additional effort to get local students interested in soccer and the club, ASU and Grand Canyon University students can attend games free of charge by showing their student ID cards at the entrance.
Los Bandidos gained media attention in August for an anti-Nazi banner displayed in the stands during a Phoenix Rising FC match against Sacramento Republic FC. The team asked the unofficial supporters group to remove the banner, which resulted in Los Bandidos removing themselves from the game. The team and the group have since made amends and Los Bandidos returned for Rising’s next game. 

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