We’re not in Richmond Anymore
We’re not in Richmond Anymore
With MLS comes a higher level of play accompanied by equally higher expectations, not only of the respective front offices, but of the fans. This is good news; and make no mistake. We made it. We made it to MLS in 3 short years; this is nothing short of impressive, if not amazing. But we’re not in Bethlehem anymore.
As much as The USL could be frustrating with its Busch League disorganization and tangible minor-league-ness about it, we were largely free to express ourselves as we saw fit (within reason). MLS will be different. The regulations are heightened and the oversight is significantly increased. No more sneaking wacky waving inflatable flailing arm tube men into opposing stadia.
With MLS on the verge of negotiating a new, global television deal when the current deal runs out in 2022 MLS is looking to ensure its product is consistent across the board. MLS keeps a close eye on its fans and they will be on the lookout for anything that may affect their negotiations.
MLS Security Meeting
The leadership of the FC Cincinnati Supporter Groups had an opportunity to meet with MLS security and FC Cincinnati front office personnel to get a better idea what the expectations in the coming season would be. MLS head of security, Jeff Stonebreaker (yes, that’s really his name) walked us through MLS’ concerns, goals, and some best practices.
So What Now?
So let’s talk about the “What” the “So What”, and the “Now What”.
What? FC Cincinnati and its supporters have a great reputation, the supporters have a great and well renowned relationship with its front office, and to date have had very few fan conduct issues (RIP, smoke violation fees).
So What? MLS suggestion to Cincinnati; “Stay the course.” MLS indicated that if we keep doing as we are (for the most part) they don’t anticipate any issues from us. They’ve got bigger fish to fry (San Jose, Toronto, Chicago, NYCFC, etc.) who have attracted a lot of negative attention from MLS security and their respective front offices.
Now What?: We are the new kids on the block. Let’s prove to the league that we’re the professional organization that deserves to be here that we indeed are. We are not a fanbase that supports violence, field intrusions, or objects thrown on the field (all issues MLS is tracking). We’re here to have a good time, cheer for our city and our club and watch The Beautiful Game.
Fans will of course be able and encouraged to have a good time, but there are some key changes we’d like to outline.
Key Changes (MLS Ain’t Playin)
MLS will be holding the individual clubs accountable for fan conduct issues. If they see something that club or supporters have not already addressed and it continues to be an issue, the club itself may face sanctions from MLS. We do not want this to happen. It makes everyone suffer and it is not fair to the fans who want to support their club and city without undue controversy. Additionally, if you see something, say something. The first line of defense is self-policing. If you see someone getting out of hand, if you hear about a potential violent counter, if you feel unsafe or worried about someone else’s safety, please reach out to a supporter group leader. They will have contacts with the front office, MLS, and security personnel to address issues as they arise and ideally before they have to be handled by the club or MLS.
MLS will be monitoring supporter activities including but not limited to embedded personnel within marches and gatherings home and away, and cameras facing the crowd, particularly in the supporters’ sections and the away sections. If you violate the fan code of conduct while at a match or on your way to or from it, it is very likely that you will face bans from future matches or stadia.
The level of security at the MLS level is higher, across the board. Many stadia have “clear bag policies”, metal detectors, wanding stations, designated supporter entrances, and stringent requirements for away fans insofar as their requested entrance time, and what they’re allowed to bring to certain stadia. Additionally, away fans (The FCC faithful when we’re away and those traveling to our stadium) will often be accompanied by a security detail well in advance of kickoff (2 hours in the case of Seattle) that will remain embedded with the away fans for the entirety of the match, and upon exiting the stadium.
This will be the new norm, and not just a requirement of FC Cincinnati fans. Away fans visiting Nippert they will have a designated entrance to the stadium in the East the leads to the away section in the upper deck of the south east (Section 215), separated from home fans by tarps (depending on how many tickets are sold) and accompanied by a security detail including UCPD that will remain with them for the duration of the match. Additionally, cameras will be fixed on their section, which is directly across from the broadcast boxes individually identifying any bad actors and recording their actions.
Code of Conduct and Prohibited Items list
We have attached the MLS fan code of conduct and the FC Cincinnati Prohibited items list for reference. Additionally, as information becomes available, the FC Cincinnati Supporters groups will update and maintain a website (https://www.thebailey.info/) that will contain pertinent information.