This morning the Texian Army issued the following response to the sanctions MLS levied against Houston Dynamo supporters' groups earlier this week. I've been clear about what I think about the sanctions. What do you think about the TA's response?
On Monday, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced the suspension of supporters privileges (flags, banners, drums, etc.) for Houston Dynamo supporters groups for at least eight away games in 2012. As one of the affected groups, Texian Army feels that the sanctions are unnecessarily harsh and intended to be retaliatory against all Dynamo supporters -- our most loyal and passionate fans.
To be clear, Texian Army does not condone throwing of objects on to the field or any acts of violence against stadium personnel. Following MLS Cup, Texian Army has been working with other Houston Dynamo supporters groups to make the transition from Robertson Stadium to BBVA Compass Stadium. Part of that effort focuses on communication between our groups' leadership and with unaffiliated supporters that stand with us at home and on the road. Better communication of league and supporters group policies could have mitigated the incidents at Home Depot Center at MLS Cup.
To that end, Dynamo supporters groups have made major steps towards establishing an umbrella supporters union and charter that lays out expectations in the supporters section and provides details to supporters about the expectations of being in the section and the potential consequences for violating standards and procedures.
One of the challenges the Texian Army and other supporters groups face is that there are no established consequences at the league level with MLS. To our knowledge, this is the first case in which sanctions have been assessed by the league on a team's supporters as a whole.
Several individuals who attended MLS Cup were individually identified by the Dynamo and have been assessed bans ranging from one-half to all of the 2012 MLS season at BBVA Compass. Despite these bans on individuals for misconduct, MLS has chosen to assess restrictions on all Dynamo supporters groups (Texian Army, El Batallon, La Bateria, and Brickwall Firm) as a whole.
To confound the situation, because of how tickets were sold for MLS Cup, there were many unaffiliated supporters mixed in with officially recognized Dynamo supporters groups. Word of mouth reports from supporters in attendance recount witnessing smoke bombs ignited and items thrown on to the field by unaffiliated supporters. This raises serious questions about the validity of MLS punishing established supporters groups for misconduct.
We are also concerned with an apparent lack of consistency in holding groups accountable. Its a well known fact that there have been numerous instances in MLS of home and traveling supporters igniting smoke bombs, throwing objects onto the field, and using obscene language & gestures. Again, while we do not condone these behaviors, we question why the league has chosen now to take punitive measures against a team's supporters groups as a whole.
MLS contacted Dynamo supporters groups after MLS Cup and knew of our efforts to educate our supporters on conduct and supporters groups plans to establish a supporters union with a code of conduct. Unfortunately the league imposed these sanctions without any further dialogue with Dynamo supporters groups. Furthermore, following the announcement, an MLS official informed us that there is no clear appeals process for these sanctions on Dynamo supporters groups.
These sanctions by MLS serve only to harm the Texian Army and other Dynamo supporters groups at a time when the team needs them the most -- on the road. We feel it also sets a dangerous precedent when the league imposes sanctions against all supporters groups of a team because of the actions of a select group of individuals. We call for further dialogue on this issue and hope that the league will reassess its decision to sanction Dynamo supporters groups.
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Personally, I think this is an extremely well-reasoned and logical response to the situation that makes many, many cogent points. First, it states unequivocally the TA's opposition to the throwing of objects on the field. Smart start.
Also, it makes what I think is a very key point, that the Dynamo supporters' sections at MLS Cup was not limited to SGs and that the individuals responsible for the actions described by MLS have been identified and already banned. Want some self-policing MLS? What kind of self-policing, not to mention other-policing, could they possibly want other than this?
All in all, reading over the TA response, it seems clear that Dynamo SGs are being singled out to send a message to MLS supporters' groups as a whole. This is a brilliant way to respond to this issue, in my opinion.