Ron Patel is a smart, talented man that knows two things impeccably well: sports and business. Now, as the president of the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, Patel will need to use his experience and expertise to take the Toros to new heights. He arrives in the McAllen with an entrepreneurial background, in and outside of soccer. “Anybody can be entrepreneurial… you don’t have to start a business to do so. In any job, being entrepreneurial can mean coming to the table with new, innovative ideas and taking some risks,” Patel told BGN. “I started a company called Just Dine In in 2006, a multi-restaurant delivery service in Albuquerque. 7 years later, we merged with a much larger company and 2 years after that, we sold the company to Grub Hub. The lessons learned through that entire experience are invaluable. Starting something from scratch, growing, failing forward, acquiring businesses, merging and then being acquired by a publicly-traded company was an incredible journey! It was like 3 college degrees!” (Check out vintage Ron below back in 2012!)
He’s taken that business success and brought it to the soccer world. “I’ve been a fan my whole life but have co-founded two teams. I saw an opportunity to pursue my passion through business,” he said. He helped build Albuquerque Sol FC before turning his attention to the project that became New Mexico United. The 2019 expansion side had a special season on and off the pitch with a deep US Open Cup run, excellent fan support, and a playoff berth.
“After an incredibly successful inaugural season with New Mexico United (as the club’s Chief Revenue Officer), I was lucky enough to be approached about this position,” he explained when asked why this was the right move at this time for him and his family. “I saw a huge opportunity in a beautiful community where the soccer team could truly bring a community together like nothing else as before. I know that attendance is down but instead of discouraging me, that only fuels my fire and passion to get the club back to where it deserves to be.”
Since the announcement of his departure to South Texas, the supporters of New Mexico United have voiced their appreciation for everything Patel has done for their team. He said, “The love and support from the NMU fans has been emotionally overwhelming in a very positive way.” The 39-year-old is excited to create a similar bond with his new club. “I believe that while a football (soccer) team is owned by a person, it really belongs to the community. This team will strive to become the Valley’s team,” Patel explained.
One of the challenges in becoming “the Valley’s team” is that a lot of the people in the area are diehard supporters of a club in nearby Mexico’s Liga MX. They are steadfast in their support of a favorite team in that league and much more hesitant to dive full force into their local USL Championship team. Patel brings a unique perspective to approach the challenge of attracting them to the Toros. “I grew up in England and was, and still am, a die-hard Liverpool FC fan. However, we lived in a small town called Chester, and that was my local team,” he explained. “I would go cheer on Chester City FC because it was in my community and it was much less expensive than tickets to Liverpool matches. (I would go see Liverpool once or twice a year) I understand that many fans have their favorite team in Liga MX, but I urge fans to take the time to come and support their local team here in the Valley and bring their families as well!”
Not only will he be trying to attract new fans to H-E-B Park to watch the Toros, but he will also be navigating the hybrid affiliation between the Toros and Houston Dynamo. “The relationships with the MLS and NBA clubs are very important. We can learn so much from these organizations from their experiences on the business side and of course, on the field,” he said. “I’m still learning all the dynamics of the relationship so I need to listen and learn more!”
Nearly every single sports franchise has a president, but what exactly do they do? Explaining what he will be doing for the two organizations, he said, “My main scope of duties is to manage the team to success. I believe that the only true sustainable advantage that one company can have over another is the people in the organization. I want our people to dream big, take risks, be entrepreneurial, grow and achieve their dreams both personally and professionally. Owning businesses and being a part of two start-up sports franchises has helped me prepare for this challenge. I’m very excited! Somos Toros!”
Tonight at the club’s season ticket holder mixer, along with seeing the 2020 RGVFC jerseys, Toros fans will have the chance to meet Patel, as well as Houston’s Tab Ramos, Memo Rodriguez, Darwin Quintero, and Mauro Manotas. While the fans and media may be skeptical of the organization taking the next step, Ron Patel’s past successes have earned him a sizable benefit of the doubt.