Cascadian Supporters Groups Ready For Travel Battle
The excellent Prost Amerika website broke their story about possible restrictions being placed on travelling support in the MLS next season in the Cascadia republic at the end of last month.
Since then, the Southsiders, Timbers Army and ECS, the three main supporters groups in the region, have reacted with one voice to the Clubs – we’ll be travelling in numbers anyway, so get it sorted.
The Whitecaps, Timbers and Sounders front offices have been conspicuous by their lack of comment on this issue, but it’s one which we, the fans, are not planning on letting slip to the back burner until we get the answers we are looking for.
Last week, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson gave some encouraging words to Prost Amerika when he said:
“What I can tell you is this…the fans of all three teams will be pleased when it’s all said and done. We’re focused on the issue, and we’re in communication with Seattle and Vancouver, and they’re focused on the issue.”
There has been no official comment from either Seattle Sounders or our very own Whitecaps, but with the latter, we’re still working on our home support seating plan never mind anything else. That said, allowing a decent travelling support up the I5 from our Cascadian neighbours is a must to help establish the region as the MLS footballing hotbed we’re all hoping it will be and create the gameday atmosphere that the fixtures command. The Caps need to be building this into their seating plan.
Seattle seems to be the main worry in all of this. The rumours coming out of Flounderland have suggested that Caps and Timbers fans will have an allocation of the league minimum 150 tickets for away support, a staggeringly small and short sighted figure from the MLS.
Looking in from afar, it strikes me that this decision can be put down to fear and a complete misunderstanding of football culture, not only from Sounders ownership but also by MLS bigwig Don Garber.
Sure there is a chance that if you have a large travelling support then there could be trouble. None more so that when say the Leafs come a calling on the Canucks. None of which is ever reported hysterically in the media of course. Keeping them all together in the one section though should surely be preferable than masses of them being scattered throughout the stadium amongst the home support, because believe you me, we’ll be travelling to these games in numbers with or without tickets and we’ll be buying them from any source, in any part of the ground. That is what is a recipe for trouble.
What is more worrying to me though is the seemingly complete lack of understanding by some of football culture. Don’t give me all that “North America is different from Europe” bullshit. For a rabid supporter in Vancouver, Seattle, Glasgow, London, Milan or Paris, it all boils down to the same thing. Pure passion and pure desire for your team to beat all that is in front of them and the chance to see them do it both home and away.
Very little beats the atmosphere of an away game in your hated rivals patch. That’s when it all becomes tribal and that’s when the memories are made. Are you going to talk about a 1-0 win against Kansas at BC Place or a 3-0 victory against the Sounders at Qwest? What game would you rather go to?
This season’s highlight for me was the two playoff games against Portland and the trip to Merlo Field to see the Caps triumph in the tie was worth every minute of the long journey we made. Last season’s playoff semi final in Portland was the best away game I have ever attended in my 27 years of actively following teams around the world. I’d go as far as to say it was the best game I’ve ever been to.
Can you imagine no Liverpool fans at Old Trafford? No Spurs fans at the Emirates? Can you imagine what the atmosphere at those games would be like?
It appears that many within MLS are only interested in the home markets for each team. They don’t want empty seats to be seen on TV and the fear is that there would be some if sections were given over to the away support. Some will argue that they don’t want to take away seats from the home market. Surely that would just create a demand and the chance that more people will buy season tickets so that they don’t miss out in future years?
Then there’s the whole “home field advantage” pish. Having away supporters in your ground should make the home support rise up further and spur the team on more. With the numbers we’re talking about, we’re not exactly going to get overrun and outnumbered and outsung. If your team can’t win because there’s away fans present then you should be asking questions about your team.
Clubs, sorry, franchises like Seattle don’t care because they sell out their stadiums anyway. Clubs like Vancouver and Portland however do seem to show signs that they know what they need to create the atmosphere that will bring people away from other sports and into their teams.
Last year, in my other blog, I wrote an article called AWAYDAYS about the importance of away travel in football. To date, it’s been my most read article ever, with hits well into the thousands and most of them from North America.
The fans here get it. It’s a shame that some of the powers that be don’t, so it’s up to us to tell them.
Look at the east coast teams for examples of how to do it right. The Red Bulls (Empire Supporters' Group) and DC United (Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles) have been traveling back and forth since the beginning of the league. With Philadelphia in the mix that's another close-by game for United fans (I'm a Barra Brava member so this is from the perspective of a United fan.) The Red Bulls put the United fans in a separate section. In RFK, our management puts the Union or Red Bulls (or Sounders) supporters in the upper deck because of some incident back in the early 2000's.
Rather than banning the away supporters after the incident, the management let both the ESG and the Barra Brava expel the people responsible for the incident. There have been no problems since then. I'm sure the Timbers Army, Empire Supporters Club, Gorilla FC, etc. would be able to police themselves also.
As for the stadium experience, we had a TON of fun trying to out-sing the Sons of Ben both up in Philadelphia and at home in RFK. At home, our DC UNITED! cheer drowned out their COME ON THE U!. Both sets of supporters loved it, the players loved it, and the non-supporter section fans loved it.
Also, check out the Toronto-Columbus rivalry. Closer to your neck of the woods, Chivas-LA probably has some lessons for the Sounder management, too.