This evening, officers from Triangle Soccer Fanatics and Oak City Supporters met with members of the Carolina RailHawks front office for our regular monthly meeting. We talked about issues relevant to supporters such as stadium policies, security, upcoming events, watch parties, roadtrips, and other activities where we work hand-in-hand to ensure the best experience for RailHawks fans. We enjoy a very collaborative, transparent, and productive relationship with RailHawks President Curt Johnson and his staff.
That spirit of collaboration extends to the NASL League office, where we participate annually in the league supporters group leaders summit. We have an on-going dialogue with League COO Brian Melekian about topics such as TV coverage, visiting supporters policies, security, and post-season planning. We even received a direct call from NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson last summer for a frank discussion after we issued an open letter to the League related to our ownership challenges.
Unfortunately, not all supporters groups in all professional leagues in North America enjoy this same level of collaboration. A perfect example is the controversy brewing in DC where a member of the District Ultras has been handed a one year ban from all Major League Soccer events and his entire supporters group losing match privileges for an incident prior to a recent DC United match. The issue centers around setting off a standard smoke device (frequently used by supporters groups including Triangle Soccer Fanatics inside stadiums) in the parking lot of RFK stadium.
While Triangle Soccer Fanatics is not in a position to comment on the specifics of this incident, whether Mr. Parsons did in fact violate any policies or endanger any individuals by his actions, or whether his ban is warranted or not, we do stand with our fellow member groups in the Independent Supporters Council in calling on all professional soccer organizations in North America to implement clear, fair and transparent rules and review processes that would regulate bans and sanctions placed on supporters groups or their members. We are open-minded as to what form this due process might take, but it is our belief that such a process should be open, include representatives from supporters organizations, and have an independent appeal process.
The passion and exuberance with which soccer supporters celebrate their team does sometimes cross the line. However, adjudicating those incidents in a closed, arbitrary process with no due process is not productive for any parties involved. It disrespects the efforts supporters groups make to enhance the League’s perception, creates mistrust, and stresses relationships that are integral to the success of all involved. Supporters Groups, Professional Soccer Teams and Leagues must be partners to grow the sport here in North America and an open review process is critical to that continued partnership.