Dear Don Garber and Mark Abbott,
We would like to congratulate you on negotiating a successful new collective bargaining agreement with the MLS players association. We are all excited to watch MLS kickoff its 20th season this evening when the Chicago Fire take on the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Unfortunately, there is a pressing matter that still needs to be resolved before tonight’s match: the unprecedented, arbitrary, unilateral and unnecessary sanctions on the Angel City Brigade Supporters Group.
Recently Major League Soccer, with the cooperation of the Los Angeles Galaxy, imposed an eight game sanction (four home, four away) on the Angel City Brigade. The Angel City Brigade is banned from the use of drums, trumpets, capos, flags, banners and the like. League officials made it very clear that this was a ban imposed by the league due to it being a MLS Cup Final.
The Angel City Brigade were handed this ban because of an alleged streamer throwing incident during the run of play at the 2014 MLS Cup final.
We are asking you to lift the ban immediately. We are asking this for three reasons:
This is a Unilateral Sanction: The alleged streamer throwing incident occurred during the run of play and was thrown by unknown individual or individuals. Let us be clear, the ISC never condones throwing anything on the pitch in general, especially during the run of play. That said, we also strongly reject the punishment of the whole for the actions of a few. The Angel City Brigade offered to work with MLS and the Los Angeles Galaxy to identify the alleged streamer tossers. They were told video evidence existed. They were then denied any opportunity to view the video or any of the evidence and a unilateral punishment of the whole group as leveled.
This is an Unprecedented Sanction: An eight game ban for tossing rolled pieces of tissue paper onto the field is an unprecedented sanction in MLS history
In 2011 traveling supporters of the Portland Timbers lit flares in Rio Tinto Stadium. These individuals were banned for 2 games home and away (incidentally the fact this act was condemned by MLS, MLSsoccer.com used the images of flares in the stands as promotion for the 2012 playoffs between the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps).
At the 2012 MLS Cup final Houston Dynamos supporters pelted David Beckham with flashlights that were distributed from MLS on a corner kick, tossed lit flares on the pitch and attacked stadium security from The Home Depot Center. The Dynamo supporters groups were given a 4 game suspension of support both home and away.
In 2013 fans from San Jose engaged in criminal and violent behavior while on an away match in Portland; behavior that eventually led to felony charges and extradition by the Portland Police. The San Jose Ultras travel and tifo privileges were initially suspended “indefinitely” only for them to be quietly restored four games later.
We believe that the cited examples and the sanctions handed down were appropriate given the violations involved. In this context, to suddenly place an eight game ban on a supporters group for the tossing of streamers is absurd.
This is an Arbitrary Sanction: The Angel City Brigade has thrown streamers before games, after goals and at random times for many years without consequence. In fact streamers were thrown before the 2014 MLS Cup Final without any problem. Streamers were thrown at last year’s cup final without issue. To impose unprecedented sanctions on the Angel City Brigade after the fact for actions that were previously deemed appropriate is arbitrary and unfair.
Over the past five years relationships between MLS, individual team front offices and supporters groups have markedly improved. This is in no small part due to all sides setting aside past differences and working together in the spirit of cooperation rather than conflict. As a result, the passion Supporters Groups bring to game day in the form of chants, drums, flags and tifos are now central to the imagery MLS uses to market the league.
Unfortunately, the past 18 months have seen an unfortunate shift back towards a more unilateral, conflict centered approach by MLS towards supporters groups. This latest ban on the Angel City Brigade is just a further demonstration of this deterioration.
Let us be clear, MLS 2015 is not England 1985. As supporters groups we categorically reject any version of support that has it’s roots in that era. We embrace the best from around the world be it songs from Latin America or tifos from Germany and leave all the other nonsense behind.
We ask that we be treated by who we are today – the vibrant, beating heart of every MLS match – instead of fears of the past in other countries or imagined fears of what the future might bring.
So in the spirit of renewing our hard fought cooperative work we ask that you immediately lift the unprecedented, arbitrary, unilateral and unnecessary on the Angel City Brigade.
The Independent Supporters Council of North America