Three away fans were arrested outside Orlando City Stadium after New York City FC’s 1-0 loss to OCSC on Sunday. An off-duty police officer working as private security for the game was briefly hospitalized for a knee injury allegedly sustained in a tussle with one or more of those away fans.
For a moment, forget what you’ve read from inside the apocalyptic hellhole that is MLS Reddit, or on the various overlapping kangaroo courts of Soccer Twitter. Let’s bear witness to what the executive board of New York City FC’s largest fan organization, the Third Rail Supporters Club, wrote today about the various shameful incidents that came to pass last weekend in Florida, for which no single group comes off looking angelic:
TO Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City Football Club
On behalf of the membership of The Third Rail, we demand that Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City Football Club explain the lack of away supporter security protocols in place before, during, and after the March 5th 2017 match at Orlando City Stadium that led to 198 travelling NYCFC supporters being exposed to unacceptable levels of abuse and harm, in and around the stadium.
Furthermore, we demand meaningful reforms to all security protocols at Orlando City Stadium to ensure a safe environment for all away supporters and that NYCFC reiterate its commitment to the safety of its own travelling supporters.
NYCFC supporters at the March 5th match between NYCFC and Orlando City SC have reported that they feared for their safety before, during and after the event. What occurred on Sunday endangered NYCFC’s most dedicated supporters and has led many to refuse to travel to future away NYCFC matches.
The Third Rail considers the following events to be unacceptable breaches in away supporter security:
· NYCFC supporters were led to walk through one block of the crowded Orlando City SC pre-match fan zone experience to get to their assigned stadium entrance
· NYCFC supporters were forced to walk through a line of Orlando City SC ticket holders to enter the stadium, creating two crossing, perpendicular lines between opposing supporters
· In the stadium there was no buffer row of seats between NYCFC supporters and Orlando City SC supporters. Insults, physical threats, and homophobic slurs were yelled at NYCFC supporters from people sitting one row below, as well as from neighboring sections.
· Match tickets in the NYCFC section were sold to Orlando City SC supporters
· Security for the NYCFC section was minimal and passive. There were only two security officials, one on either side of the section, and two police officers, one at the top of each stairwell, all of whom did not stop Orlando City SC supporters entering the NYCFC section to claim their seats
· Due to the lack of security around the NYCFC section, a member of the NYCFC front office, without the aid of security or Orlando City SC officials, was forced to remove the aforementioned Orlando SC supporters from our section
· Upon exiting the stadium, all 198 NYCFC supporters were instructed to walk east on West Church Street among Orlando SC supporters with minimal and unacceptable levels of security for a group that size. During this walk there were multiple instances of violence, physical threats, and homophobic slurs directed at NYCFC supporters.
We find the lack of planning and security surrounding the post-match walk down West Church Street to be particularly troubling and dangerous.
While Orlando City Stadium has just opened, and Orlando City SC is refining many of its game day protocols, Orlando City SC has hosted home matches and attended away matches in Major League Soccer for the past two years. The lack of security planning present on March 5th is inexcusable in this context.
We look forward to hearing an explanation from Orlando City SC and NYCFC as to why NYCFC supporters were put in this position on Sunday night, as well as learn how Orlando City SC will implement meaningful reforms to their away supporter security protocols in the future. Additionally, we also look forward to receiving reassurances from NYCFC regarding their plans to ensure the safety of all travelling NYCFC supporters in the future. We stand ready to engage in constructive discussions with all involved parties around maintaining the safety of all NYCFC supporters, at home and away, this season.
Board of Directors
The Third Rail SC
In perusing the various social media pages among NYCFC fandom, plenty of supporters of all stripes are getting behind the Third Rail’s statement in a big way. This isn’t to say that the response is unanimous. Far from it. But it’s worth mentioning the support in light of the fact that nobody has openly criticized the Third Rail — which has received no uncertain support directly from the front office — quite as much as members of other NYCFC supporters groups.
There is no shortage of former Third Rail members that left the group during or after Year One either for other groups, or none at all (full disclosure: I was a Third Rail member in 2015 and didn’t renew, though not for any reason that was emotionally charged). The fact that New York City with no special love for the Third Rail have Tuesday’s statement speaks volumes. It’s of a piece that says the bullshit narrative that NYCFC away fans are hopeless hooligans bent on assaulting cops and attacking their hosts is exactly that— bullshit. Third Rail is rightly pushing back against this gross mis-characterization.
Every fanbase has bad eggs. Even criminal ones. May each and every one receive just comeuppance. But to label New York City FC fans (or Orlando City fans or San Jose Earthquakes fans) as especially unruly compared to any other MLS establishment is to fly utterly afoul of the facts.
To repeat: those who broke the law must answer for their crimes, no matter which colors they’re wearing. Period. But if NYCFC supporters are going to be treated as whipping boys by opposing fanbases completely outside of any reality — and if outsiders continue to assume out of sheer ignorance that “NYCFC fans” and “the Third Rail” are synonymous — the various concerned parties here in the Five Boroughs will continue to take those folks to task. And that’s the way it should be.