It’s been a pretty good week for the St. Louligans. On Wednesday night our new USL-Pro franchise, STL FC, awarded us the first ever season ticket for the club. It’s an indication of how far supporter culture in the United States has come. Increasingly clubs are turning to supporters groups to add to the game day experience. It’s a testament to the hard work we’ve all put in since AC STL folded that 5 years later we’re still here and the new team reached out to us to be a part of what they’re building. Yes, it’s been a good week. And just when I was about to write a glowing piece extolling all our virtues and beating my chest about the power of supporters groups… I was reminded about the other side of that coin. While I’m still very proud of us all and want everyone to celebrate where we are and where we’re headed, today I’m going to take the time to issue a warning.
Last week in a friendly between the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) and Orlando City FC (USL-Pro, soon to be MLS) an incident occurred in the stands between supporter groups. You can read more about the specifics here if you need details. The gist is that a few members of one of the Orlando Supporter Groups (unclear which group) “invaded” the Rowdies section in an attempt to steal a flag or light purple smoke or incite violence. It really doesn’t matter what the intent was, what matters is that in a charged atmosphere and with alcohol courage- absolutely no good was going to come of the invasion. Violence erupted. Now, I will say that I do not blame either the Iron Lions Firm or the Ruckus as a whole, or Ralph’s Mob for reacting. I blame the 4 idiots that thought it would be cool to start some shit. Those 4 were arrested and banned for life from attending Orlando City matches (as well they should be). The problem is that the club had to react. They had to do so swiftly and harshly to send a message. Orlando City has suspended both the Iron Lions Firm and the Ruckus indefinitely. No supporter benefits until they complete some sort of checklist which includes subscribing to a strict code of conduct. They can’t tailgate. Can’t bring in drums or Tifo. Can’t chant. Can’t do anything organized at the games. Understand that 99% of the supporters are good fans that did nothing wrong, but the knuckleheads forced the front office to do this. And let’s not lie to ourselves- this is not an isolated incident. Atlanta Silverbacks supporters started the season banned from the games. Ultras in San Jose have been in a constant battle with their front office for years. Colorado, New England, Columbus, and many other US supporters groups have all gotten into trouble at different times and mostly it’s been because some small group of idiots did something stupid.
Let’s make this 1000% clear right here and now. We will not tolerate this sort of nonsense. We’ve gotten some grief in the past because our name is a little too close to “Hooligan” for some. We chose St. Louligans because it mocks the stereotypical Hooligan idea. Our battle cry is “THIS IS SILLY!”. We’re here to have fun. Have a few beers. Watch some soccer and help our team win. Sure we have spirited enthusiasm and we try to get in the heads of the opposing players. Do we cross the line sometimes? Yes. Yes we do. Our job is to have fun, support our team and dance all over that line. BUT we cannot ever cross over into violence. We will not allow that. Our group can be intimidating to the players on the field, but that should never spill over. After the game we want to shake the hands of our opponents and slap the backs of our players. And when we do our job well opposing players will usually laugh and wish they had fans as passionate and loud as us. Before the match I want to share a beer with rival supporters and after the game share another one.
We are not 1980’s English Hooligans that arrange fights with rival fans. We are not Spanish or Italian Ultras that throw bananas or make monkey sounds at players. We are not German Nationalists that raise Nazi flags and use games for political agendas. We’re soccer fans. If you’ve seen Green Street Hooligans too many times and want to act it out- go somewhere else. I fully expect that we’ll have issues with the front office of St. Louis FC, but they had better be simple misunderstandings or things that can be easily remedied. We will not hesitate to remove somebody from our section and publicly sever ties if they aren’t there for the right reasons. I do remember back with AC that a group came into our corner looking to start trouble- they even punched a fan. We will help you find the exit if that’s what you’re looking for. The actions of a few ruined it for everyone in Orlando and now a lot of people are reacting badly to the front office. It’s a no win situation and will take a long time to work out. In the meantime they’ve hurt their team by getting the whole supporter section suspended. If we don’t want our front office to do something like that then we have to help them by not allowing that nonsense in the first place. We are VERY lucky that we have a great relationship with the GM, Head Coach and several members of the STL FC staff. We cannot afford to let someone ruin that by doing something stupid. We’re all deputies in this situation. If you see something going down either handle it or get someone to help you handle it. There will be security personnel at the games by our section- be their allies. Ask them for help if needed and help them do their job. If something comes up that needs attention grab one of the “leaders” to help sort it out.
Again, I’m sorry that in this week of celebration I had to bring all this up, but I’d rather do it now than after an incident. I know that we cannot completely control what happens, but if we’re all on the same page to start with then it’ll be that much easier. We’re going to be getting a lot of new fans next season and I welcome them all with open arms, but if anyone steps out of line I will become Vice President of kicking somebody out of section 8.
Thanks for reading,