By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In 2014, fledgling soccer club Lane United FC was looking for sponsors. They soon connected with Oakshire Brewing, beginning a partnership that has helped each organization evolve.
“I thought Oakshire would come in as a minor sponsor,” says Lane United founder and managing director Dave Galas, recollecting his original pitch to Oakshire co-founder Jeff Althouse. “Jeff stopped me, pointed to the front of the jersey, and said ‘I want that. I want to be the title sponsor.’ They’ve been our main title sponsor ever since.”
For Althouse, it was another way a local craft brewery could be at the heart of community sports and outdoor activities, as Oakshire had also been with Playground Sports and Human Foosball League.
“I grew up playing soccer and always felt at home with my teammates, coaches and the soccer community,” says Althouse. “When the opportunity came up to partner with our local upstart club, Oakshire jumped at the opportunity. We often identify as an underdog in a market of large brewing companies, just as an upstart soccer club fights to exist as an organization, and on the field at every match. It's a natural fit.”
Based in Eugene and founded in 2013, Lane United plays in the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division, a stepping stone for many professional players and a source for Major League Soccer franchise reserve squads. Oakshire is Lane United’s official kit sponsor, and club jerseys are emblazoned with the 10-year-old brewery’s logo. Club events are also held at the Oakshire Public House, which is no stranger to fans of football — the globally beloved feet-only version, that is.
“The Public House had just opened when the sponsorship began,” says Galas, who is a fan of Oakshire’s Reclamation Lager, Overcast Espresso Stout, and Sun Made Raspberry Berliner Weisse. “We did a lot to drive business to the pub. That first year was also World Cup, and the Public House showed lots of games there, like the U.S.-Portugal game, when they got a special permit to open early. The building was so full, people were sitting outside.”
Like Althouse, Galas grew up with soccer in his life. Spending part of his childhood in Geneva, Galas would watch matches with Liverpool, St-Etienne and the Dutch national team. When he founded Lane United, Galas saw the club as integral to providing value to the community. Part of his original goal for the team was to have a regular soccer presence at then-vacant Civic Stadium (which burned down in 2015). The club currently plays at the Bob Keefer Center in Springfield, though Galas and others are working to establish a new stadium presence at the former Civic site, which upon completion will serve as the new permanent home for the club.
That new Civic site will also incorporate beer and pub areas on the grounds as part of the stadium’s infrastructure, says Galas. “Beer plays perfectly into the fan culture,” he explains. “The culture of soccer fandom is very social. There’s plenty of drinking, but it’s different from your traditional American sports. There isn’t a tailgating scene, but there’s a drink at the pub beforehand. Various groups get together at the pub during the game. Having a brewery as title sponsor plays in perfectly with that culture.”
Oakshire’s original commitment runs through the 2017 season, but Galas says he and Althouse will be discussing options on how to continue supporting each other. “We are very much a hometown, grassroots organization,” says Galas. “Oakshire’s approach to community outreach and the beers they brew go into that same mentality.”
Althouse also recognizes that sense of synergy with LUFC, as well as a shared purpose in the broader community. “Oakshire's partnership with Lane United Football Club allows us to connect with the most passionate local sports fans who share our values,” he explains. “We're thrilled to host LUFC events at our Public House in Eugene, and we love cheering for our home team at the pitch. Soccer and local beer just go together.”
Lane United Football Club
Official Lane United FC supporters’ group
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.