Austin FC has had a robust fan culture before the team even existed. It started with MLS2ATX, a group of fans that sought to get a team here and that morphed into multiple supporters groups who have built the fan culture that all of us have enjoyed along the way. But they didn’t do that all by themselves.
Since the club first started holding matches at Q2 back in June of 2021 we as fans of Austin FC have been fortunate enough to enjoy the massive Tifos that the supporters groups put on display. From the first ever tifo:
To celebrating the first playoff match at Q2:
Most recently celebrating Vin Diesel’s most complex on screen character:
But a lot of fans both in Austin and around the league wonder: how are these massive works of art made? So we went straight to the source to get a behind the scenes look.
We visited the worldwide headquarters of Texas Tifo Solutions, a business that specializes in creating huge works of art for fans to display. Located in East Austin the giant warehouse has a grassroots look to it, the kind of place where a devoted staff could work together despite the surroundings and accomplish great things, I would come to learn that this was not what I was walking into.
I was greeted at the front door by Myles Kile. “Myles with a Y and Kile with an I” he told me as we shook hands. He led me to his office, fully furnished in non-descript gray wall color and carpet, a large desk with a laptop and behind him an imposing bookshelf. The window to my right didn’t have curtains but instead had a curtain rod decorated with “split scarves” from matches he had been to around the world.
He started the company in 2020, recognizing early on that an MLS team in Texas with an actual fan base and owners operating more than just an academy pyramid scheme could make this a viable business. “I saw the passion from the MLS2ATX group and thought that more than just people from Ohio should benefit financially from this club starting up, why not me?” Myles said.
He took me on a tour through the facility, past a couple of offices filled with supplies until he led me to meet his lead artist, a man named Genezzys, (pronounced Genesis), a short, stocky body type from Nebraska who migrated down to Austin. “The whole art scene has changed, it’s like, so corporate now. Austin was different back in 2008, err, 2005, no, 2002, I definitely came here in 2002. I realized I could either sell out or be sold out by someone else. So I sold out” I noticed as he said this there was a work table stacked high full of designs that were based on the Austin FC crest with varying letters or slogans in lieu of “Austin FC” at the top and a few other club crests including the Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, San Antonio FC, and the El Paso Locomotive. I walked over to admire them, when I heard a loud yell from behind me and felt hands grab around my waist.
“You! You need to go now! You are messing with my art! You are messing with my vision!” as he stormed toward me, literally pulling me away from his ‘art’ until I was on the other side of the room. Myles looked at me, “artists, huh, let me show you to the printing room.”
“A printing room? It says on your website the tifos are painted.”
“Oh, that? No, we’ve never painted anything before, we looked into it, but its time consuming in terms of hours and you need people, just..so many people. It’s difficult in Texas with these fan bases to get supporters committed to spending those hours, there just aren’t enough of them. So to do the project right and have it look good, to really fool the fans around the league, we have this”
He opened both double doors at once, walking us into the bulk of the square footage of the warehouse. It opened up and on the very far wall I saw the printing room. It was 50 printers all next to each other, each able to produce about 1’ of the tifo themselves.”
“The tifos don’t take that long to print, we use the correct materials as told to us by Tifo experts who have been all around the world. We can do a full color tifo in a single morning…for an extra fee. Most of the budget goes to the Scotch tape we use to tape the pieces together.”
He informed me that these tifos cost the groups thousands of dollars, up to $50K depending on the size and how much design work is involved. “They’re mostly funded by the Front Offices, makes it seem like the supporters are involved. They get all sorts of perks, rides to the games, special seats, etc…its a great deal for them.”
I watched the printing out of a new tifo, a Bull stampeding over the Austin skyline for FC Dallas, but it was only 20’x10’ due to the size of their supporter’s section. The whole printing process took less than 30 minutes and would have taken even less time had Genezyss and Myles not gotten into a shouting match about whether the Bull wasn’t ripped off enough from the Chicago Bulls logo.
I took this opportunity to leave the building, thinking of how impressive this entire operation is during my entire drive back to TF9’s compound. I’d seen how the sausage was made, and I’m not sure I can ever look at another tifo the same way again. The blatant exploitation of true fans who want nothing more than to show the pride they have in their city and their club by someone with no explicit fandom or even love of the sport. Myles Kile was able to so blatantly profit off of it, I couldn’t tell if this was antithetical to soccer itself or meant he should be put in charge of FIFA.