I often think of football here as a kind of novelty, a minority sport that has to work quite hard among people who sometimes don’t quite ‘get it’. Like basketball in the UK, or football in America. This is a little unfair to Finland, as the recent controversy over away fans in MLS demonstrates – at least people in Finland understand why fans travel to watch their team, whereas in MLS it seems that’s a new concept.
Here’s what’s been happening since it was covered by Tom Dunmore at Pitch Invasion.
A week has passed since Pitch Invasion published an article largely based on an interview with the head of Section 8 Chicago (the Independent Supporters’ Association of the Chicago Fire and not, I’d like to make clear, an individual supporters group) that criticised the decision of Toronto FC to only offer around 100 tickets to visiting Chicago Fire fans for their upcoming game in October.
Section 8 Chicago had requested more than they had taken in May last year, well over 200, believing that with six months to plan and only one trip to Toronto this year, they could continue to develop the tradition of strong travelling support demonstrated over the past decade with trips to Columbus, the only shorter journey for Chicago in MLS and one that has regularly attracted hundreds of travelling fans.
The Away Support Issue
The criticism of MLS by Ben Burton in the article was not a kneejerk reaction solely to this trip. Similar problems getting enough seats together for Toronto in 2007 led to Burton having to turn away many fans who wanted to make the trip and he has expressed concerns before about safety in other stadia, believing the general issues surrounding away support need to be discussed.
Burton wrote to MLS Commissioner Don Garber about the issue in May 2007, noting that “In the short term there’s perhaps nothing that can be done for this trip. But long term the ISA firmly believes that more measures need to be taken to accommodate traveling fans. This is a topic that we would like to discuss with Major League Soccer for the long term health of the league and its supporters.”
Though Burton has been in contact with the league about it since, he described progress as “glacial” and his comments in the article last week expressed a frustration that more progress had not been made. Perhaps neither he nor I quite expected the firestorm of interest to erupt that came out of it, though.
Maybe I’m over confident in Finnish administrators, but I do think that this wouldn’t be possible in Finland.