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Flare won’t change security
April 25, 2009, 10:01 AM
Filed under: TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

There will be no additional police presence or special searches for flares tomorrow at BMO Field when Toronto FC plays Kansas City.

A 26-year-old female fan suffered second-degree burns to her leg when a lit flare struck her Wednesday during a Chivas-TFC game.

Two flares were tossed, but security, with the help of fans, quickly caught the alleged culprits, a pair of teens who were both charged with a variety of assault and weapons offences.

“This was an isolated incident,” said Bob Hunter, executive vice-president of venues for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

“But we have been tweaking the numbers of our security personnel the past 21/2 years.”

AN MLSEL official said earlier the offenders will lose their ticket privileges.

De Ro out two weeks

Midfielder Dwayne De Rosario confirms he has a torn hamstring, but says he doesn’t expect to be out more than two weeks. If he wants to push it, that could mean he gets back for the May 2 home game against Columbus, but he might test it in the Nutrilite Canadian championship match against Vancouver May 6.

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TFC fans not hooligans, police say after road flare incident
April 24, 2009, 5:27 PM
Filed under: TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

Concerns over potential Toronto soccer hooliganism were downplayed by police today, after a second incident in less than a month.

Two teenagers were arrested for throwing lit road flares onto the field and into the stands during the closing minutes of a Toronto FC match last night, a few weeks after a Toronto fan was Tasered by police while celebrating after a game in Columbus.

“We want people to know that we are not going to tolerate this type of stuff, but this was the action of such a small minority,” said 14 Division Inspector Paul Vorvis. “It’s not a huge problem and we want to keep it that way.”

Police allege an 18- and 17-year-old attending a Major League Soccer game between Toronto FC and Chivas USA lit two road flares and threw them at the playing field, with about 10 minutes remaining in the match.

One flare reached the pitch, setting a section of BMO Field’s artificial turf on fire and causing an estimated $2,000 in damage. The second flare hit the lap of a woman sitting in the southeast section of the stadium, causing minor burns to her upper thigh, said Insp. Vorvis.

Allusions to hooliganism have plagued Toronto FC fans since the team’s inaugural season in 2007, when the team first started playing in front of notoriously rowdy sold-out crowds.

Comparisons to the hooligans historically found in European football increased at the end of March, when a Toronto fan was Tasered during a confrontation with police after a game in Columbus.

Jack DePoe, the president of the Red Patch Boys — one of the team’s several booster groups — dismisses the idea Toronto fans on whole could be considered to be hooligans, adding that members commit to follow a charter expressly prohibiting violent actions.

“When you are talking about a very small number of people who do these sorts of things, I don’t think it is fair to be painting Toronto FC supporters with the same brush,” he said. “There is a line, we will go right up to it, but we will not cross it.”

Mr. DePoe said the latest incident could raise more unfounded criticism, allowing that while supporters are notoriously uproarious, the majority stay within the bounds of appropriate behaviour.

Insp. Vorvis said officers initially had concerns about the potential for hooliganism at Toronto FC games, but booster groups have a “fairly good internal mechanism to try and weed out hooligans.”

“These guys aren’t actually members of any booster club. It was just a couple of guys, it was one-off, and I guess they just decided it was a fun thing to do.”

Andjelo Franjic, 18, and a 17-year-old who cannot be named, both from Stoney Creek, were each charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and mischief under $5,000.

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TFC fans threw beer at Drew Carey
April 6, 2009, 4:24 PM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

Drew Carey, the host of The Price is Right hardly had a Bob Barker-Adam Sandler rumble type moment from Happy Gilmore Saturday. It was a beer thrown at the Seattle minority owner, after Carey’s side soundly beat the home side 2-0. The $10 beer may have been meant for Carey, but the television star walked away with nothing more than a few drops on his blue and green scarf “It was a great toss but the reporter standing in front of me got it worse,”Carey said. Nothing could have spoiled Carey’s day, after his expansion Sounders moved to 3-0. “And we get as many X-Box’s (Sounders sponsor) as we want. You guys get all the B-M-O’s you want. Whatever they are,” Carey joked. Well Drew, BMO is a bank. And many fans in attendance on a cold, windy day in Toronto would have asked themselves, what exactly they paid for.

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Battle of who has most passionate fans
April 3, 2009, 12:03 PM
Filed under: Seattle Sounders FC, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

With a 2-0 record and an average home crowd of more than 30,000 supporters per game, Seattle Sounders FC have taken MLS by storm thus far in their first season. But while Toronto FC greatly respects the Sounders’ accomplishments on the field, the Reds don’t quite buy into the hype that Seattle is now the hottest soccer market in the league.

After all, it was Toronto’s fan support that generated headlines during the Reds’ expansion season in 2007, and with Sounders FC coming to town on Saturday for TFC’s home opener, head coach John Carver thinks that the BMO Field fans will show that they can top any level of support from the Pacific Northwest.

“The commissioner threw the gauntlet down to our fans saying how good the atmosphere was in Seattle,” Carver said on Monday. “It was great in Seattle, but that was [a case of getting] bums on seats. We’ve got fans who sing and are right behind the team. There’s a difference between getting people through the door and getting the crowd supporting the team. I’m looking forward to Saturday and [Seattle] see what a real atmosphere is like.”

While Saturday’s match already seems to be turning into a battle of who has the most passionate fans in MLS, the stakes on the pitch will be even higher. The Reds also enter the game on a roll after picking up four points from two road contests — a 3-2 victory in the season opener in Kansas City and a 1-1 draw last week in Columbus.

Saturday’s game at BMO Field is the only match on this weekend’s MLS schedule that features two unbeaten teams, so both sides knows that a win would help them lay claim to early-season supremacy.

“You’ve got guys coming in who are playing well, who deservedly have six points,” Carver said. “Although they’re classed as an expansion team, they’re not really. They’ve got a top coach in Sigi [Schmid] who has them well-organized. … They’re coming in here on a high and it’s set up for a nice game.”

This is the first time in TFC’s three seasons that the club has been undefeated heading into the home opener, and the fast start has created an even bigger buzz than usual around Toronto.

“I’m really looking forward to this one,” said captain Jim Brennan, a veteran of all three TFC home openers. “We’ve had high expectations this season. The squad is completely different from the ones in the first year and last year and I know the fans will be up for this one.”

The road results add even more weight to TFC’s home schedule, as the thought before the season was that TFC would need to perform away from BMO Field in order to have a chance of making the MLS Cup Playoffs. Now, however, the pressure has somewhat shifted, and the onus is on the Reds to match or better their impressive 6-2-7 home record from last season. Just two teams (playoff-bound Houston and Real Salt Lake) had fewer home defeats then TFC did last season.

So the Reds know a few things about being a new club that wins at home, and now they hope that they can pass a taste of the expansion road-result blues onto the Sounders.

“Teams around here always seem to do well at home,” Brennan said. “We’ll see how they are on the road. It’s very difficult on the road in this league and we’re dangerous at home, so it should be a good test.”

Brennan and the rest of the TFC back line will no doubt have their attention focused on Seattle’s top scoring threat, Fredy Montero. The Colombian striker has collected three goals in the Sounders’ first two games to take the early lead in the MLS Golden Boot race. Brennan believes that the road atmosphere may have a particular effect on Montero given that it will be the forward’s first MLS away game.

“He’s a good player, he’s scoring a lot of goals and he seems to be on form,” Brennan said. “But as I said, we’ve got to see how he does on the road when he’s out of that comfort zone. We’ve got good players here, we’ll be watching him and marking him.”

While Montero has carried the Seattle attack, Sounders FC have been no less impressive on the other side of the field. U.S. goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller has recorded two clean sheets in his first two career MLS starts, picking up seven saves and showing the form that made him a fixture on the U.S. national team and in Europe’s top leagues over the past two decades.

“He’s an experienced goalkeeper,” said TFC striker Chad Barrett. “He’s going to fight that line, he knows when to come out, when to stay. He’s a very smart ‘keeper. … To have your first away game be up here in Toronto, he’s going to be really tested and I think he knows that.”

The Reds will have all hands on deck in their attempt to break Keller’s shutout streak, as midfielders Amado Guevara and Carl Robinson are expected back from international duty. As well, Barrett is looking for his first goal of 2009 as he looks to rebound from what he considered to be a sub-par performance last week in Columbus.

“I just had a bad game, to be honest,” Barrett said. “My touch wasn’t there, my touch was affecting my work ethic which it shouldn’t have been, but I’ve got my head on straight again.

“I’ve been in this league long enough, I’ve had my droughts, I’ve had my scoring streaks. It all comes in streaks. Once I get one, a bunch will follow.”

Saturday’s game will be Barrett’s first home opener as a member of TFC, as he joined the team in a midseason trade last season. Barrett played at BMO Field as a visitor as a member of the Chicago Fire in 2007, and thus he knows full well that Sounders FC will quickly realize that they’re a long way from the Emerald City.

“They’ve got a great fanbase out there but I don’t think it’s anything compared to what Toronto fans bring,” Barrett said. “This was my most hated crowd to come to as an away player, but now that they’re on my side it’s awesome. I think the Seattle players that have been here, they’re dreading coming to Toronto.”

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Thank media for the riot that never was
April 1, 2009, 7:29 AM
Filed under: TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

It’s never particularly appreciated by the media when one of its own criticizes its performance.

After all, covering the news accurately is a difficult job that has been made more difficult over the last decade by rapid cutbacks throughout the industry.

But this week, we saw an example in Canada of what happens when media jump on the opportunity to sell a story without regard to facts or balance.

It’s a story of alleged hooliganism. The reality, however, is that the only beating handed out last weekend in relation to said hooliganism was to the truth, and the assailants used keyboards.

Last weekend, Canada’s sole Major League Soccer team travelled to a game in Columbus, Ohio. As in 2008, Toronto FC brought as many as 2,000 fans with them; soccer is a growing and passionate sport.

Of course, not everyone among that 1,500 is sensible . Supporters of both teams drank too much, got into fights and three were arrested. Far from extraordinary, this can happen at any sports venue serving alcohol on any weekend.

However, instead of having a decent plan to keep two groups of antagonistic fans separate after the game, the venue let them out together – into the waiting arms of Columbus riot police, who among other concerns allegedly sped through heavily congested areas in squad cars and maced sections of the crowd who had nothing to do with any skirmishes.

This was not a riot. If anyone thinks it was, they’ve never seen the real thing. This was a few individuals – maybe even a few dozen – being drunken fools. With nearly 15,000 people at the game, that’s no statistically different than an average tilt between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.

There was also some exceedingly minor stadium damage. If you talk to both sides in the debate over the “misbehaviour” it comes down to a section of tin bleacher seats being badly dented by celebrating fans jumping up and down on them, and one railing being tossed onto the top of a tent – a railing which, according to some of those who removed it, was already falling apart.

Yes, the idiots who later tossed it onto the tent below deserve to be barred. No, it wasn’t all 1,500 Toronto visitors. But it would’ve been hard to tell that reading their hometown press’s coverage of the event, which near- universally vilified Toronto tourists as hooligans.

Never mind that 90% of the reporters doing the criticizing weren’t even at the event.

Don’t worry that many of them quoted anonymous newsgroup postings from people attending as their “facts” without bothering to counterbalance, or consider context, or look for unbiased observers – or even find out their sources’ real names.

And put it completely out of your mind that it’s unfair to smear the 99% who didn’t get involved.

Why should you ignore those facts, as most covering this issue chose to do? Well, because soccer hooliganism makes a good story on a slow day. That’s why.

The fact that it didn’t happen that way, as is increasingly the case when the cut-to-the-bone media industry reports on a major event, is just yesterday’s news.

There’s a lesson in this story to those who think news can be produced for next to nothing: if you’re not actually at the event and your staff is substandard due to low pay and cutbacks, they will get the story wrong.

Eventually, that costs readers and money. That will be the inevitable consequence of an entire industry trying to cut to the bone: eventually, the only people left doing the jobs are the boneheads.

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MLSE express `disappointment’ over fans’ road violence
April 1, 2009, 7:27 AM
Filed under: MLSE, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

Unruly visiting Toronto FC supporters “crossed the line” in their post-game confrontation with hometown fans and police in Columbus, says the team’s owner.

“It’s a real disappointment,” Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said of Saturday’s incident.

About 2,000 TFC fans travelled to the game in Columbus against the Crew, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

After the game, police called in backup from across the city. A video of a man apparently being Tasered while being subdued by a group of officers was posted on YouTube.

“For the most part, our fans are terrific,” Anselmi said yesterday, adding the fact that so many go on the road with the team is “great; the players love that.

“But they’ve also got to behave. You get a couple of guys on the fringe there that don’t and it reflects on all of us – our city, our country, the sport, our franchise.”

Noting that those in the centre of the melee were “probably fuelled up on a couple of extra wobbly pops,” Anselmi said TFC officials have been in touch with their counterparts in Columbus and the Major League Soccer offices to find out exactly what happened, to try to ensure it doesn’t reoccur.

“Come and have a good time and enjoy the game and cheer as loud as you can,” Anselmi said. “But you can’t cross that line, and it sounds like a couple of them did.”

Sgt. Rich Weiner of the Columbus Police Department said the post-game incidents, which are unusual for Crew games, overwhelmed the security on hand.

“It was big enough to ask cars from all over the city to respond to that area because there were numerous fights and disturbances,” he said.

About 20 police cruisers arrived on the scene to assist, he said.

Weiner said he couldn’t confirm a Taser was used to subdue someone.

But eyewitness Chris Hough, who took pictures, said he very clearly heard the crackle of the Taser, which occurred when the man was already held by at least five officers.

“It just seemed over the top,” said Hough, 28, who drove from Toronto with three friends.

Hough said he saw a few isolated scraps, but generally the overall mood was “passionate about the game” and not violent.

A list of reports on the Columbus police website shows two incidents for Saturday at the stadium. One was for “disorderly conduct and resisting arrest” in the parking lot and the suspect was from Toronto.

The second incident involved a suspect punching someone in the face as police watched and then running away. Both the suspect and victim in that case are American.

Geoff Miller, the away-game organizer for the Red Patch Boys, the best known of TFC’s supporters groups, said “there’s no doubt that it’s a bit of a black eye.”

But he rejected suggestions that TFC fans were out of control.

“For the amount of fans and the amount of people that we had down there it was really, really minor,” said Miller.

He said problems began when security mixed TFC supporters, who had been in their own area of the stadium, and Crew fans together at the end of the game.

“Of course, words go back and forth, people have had too much to drink” and then a fight broke out.

“Now, people with cellphones and stuff they take … and the next thing it’s on the Internet and it gets blown way out of proportion,” Miller said.

Miller said he bought about 1,000 tickets for the game for TFC boosters. That means up to 1,000 others had no affiliation but asked to be seated with those from Toronto.

“Ninety nine per cent of those guys were all fantastic as well,” Miller said. “But it’s that 1 per cent that has too much to drink or thinks that the proper way to support is by getting in fights.”

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Some TFC fans arrested, Tasered, after CLB game
March 31, 2009, 7:16 AM
Filed under: Columbus Crew, TFC Supporters, Toronto FC

They are the “12th man” for Toronto FC, the big reason the team found instant fan appeal and why BMO Field is the place to be for a memorable game experience.

But some TFC supporters gave themselves and the club, a black eye in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday with behaviour that led to brawls, police stun guns and even condemnation from Toronto fans who were at the 1-1 game against the hometown Crew.

“My information is that as fans were leaving, several fights broke out in the parking lot and the special duty officers had to request assistance,” Rich Weiner, public information officer with the Columbus Police Department, said yesterday.

“Some people were Tasered, some were arrested. I know at least a couple were taken to jail, but if (charges) were of a serious nature, I would know by now. Those involved likely would have posted a bond.”

Whether the arrested fans were Canadians or Americans is unknown. The Columbus Dispatch reported at least three arrests, but police would not confirm the number.

The Crew and a TFC official did not immediately return calls from Sun Media last night.

A YouTube clip of a TFC fan getting tackled by several officers after apparently being hit with a stun gun was one of many crowd images posted yesterday and there was heavy web traffic with varying accounts of the crowd antics during the game and the fighting afterwards.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Toronto fans made the six-hour drive, most of them belonging to designated clubs such as the Red Patch Boys and U-Sector.

“Some, but not all, were drunken boobs who didn’t know if they were in Baffin Island or Columbus, Ohio,” a fan named Chris told Sun Media, not wanting his last name used.

“They were very disrespectful during the American anthem, they hid under a giant red flag and threw smoke bombs at the security guards on the sidelines … one of my own friends was even chanting ‘you have no health care’ at their fans.

“I try and keep an open mind, but I also believe in respect. They are blue-collar people such as ourselves. There were some tough looking Columbus fans with bandanas covering their faces who were headed towards the TFC fans, so when you ask for trouble, you get trouble.”

The Dispatch reported part of a steel bleacher railing was pulled out by Toronto fans and thrown on a tent below and some bleacher seats damaged.

Some mace or pepper spray was used to break up the scrappers and wafted through the parking lot causing discomfort to families and young children.

Jack Depoe, president of the Red Patch Boys, said there was an understanding with Crew Stadium security that most Toronto fans would remain inside after the game.

“Until the coast was clear, for lack of a better term,” he said. “But I don’t think the execution was as good as it could have been.” Most fans of both teams used the same exit.

“There are people passionate about soccer on both teams,” Depoe said, “The MLS hasn’t had this kind of attention before. To me (the police involvement) seemed heavy-handed, but I don’t know Columbus. You get the same kind of crowd behaviour at a Buffalo Bills’ game.

“I can only speak for Red Patch Boys. There were 700 of us, we had a blast, a few beers, but as far as I know, none were arrested.”

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