If you haven’t been living under a rock or have had a single conversation with a Portland Timbers fan in the last year, you may be aware that some traveling fans received bans after displaying flares at their 2011 away match at Real Salt Lake.
Flares are banned at the Rio Tinto and there are competing accounts of whether laws were deliberately flouted but the consequences were fairly severe for those falling foul of the stadium regulations.
The resulting bans and the role of the Timbers Army leadership in both negotiating on behalf of, and identifying the culprits for lighter sentences, caused some personal animosity among fans that still lingers.
The whole episode hardly improved relations between fans and the Timbers Front Office and remained a sore point throughout much of 2012, at least until bigger and better dramas replaced it.
Therefore many in Portland were surprised to visit MLSsoccer.com this morning and see photography of the fans from the match in question used to promote tonight’s LA Galaxy v Vancouver Whitecaps match.
Flares are to be permitted at tonight’s game in Carson, CA but many in Portland are accusing MLS of hypocrisy in using photographs of them waving flares, having banned them for doing so in the same photographs.
The Timbers Army site called it a case of double standards. The article’s author Garrett Dittfurth also noted:
“On one hand the marketing folks think it looks awesome and really shows how edgy the league is. On the other hand they’ve hired outside consultants from all over the world to tell them how to discipline supporters groups for lighting flares/smoke and actively discourage it.”
One Real Salt Lake fan added on the Timbers Army page:
“I agree with the double standard and the league should not be using that TA photo from SLC to promote anything, as it resulted in people being arrested and banned from games/stadium… There seems to be a total disconnect between different groups in the FOs, between the fans and their FOs, between FOs themselves and between the FOs and the league. We all need to work together, ALL of us to make this league successful.”
The photograph has since been removed but the debate has now reopened on whether those banned, some of whom may well have been in the MLS promotional photograph, should receive an apology and some compensation.
As the Salt Lake fan has pointed out, there seems to be a disconnect; in this case at least between those writing on MLSSoccer.com and what is actually happening in the Supporter Culture universe.
One may also ask if the occasional visit from MLS officials ‘on safari’ in their own country to visit Cascadia is a sufficient level of communication and contact to avoid PR missteps like this.
Lastly one may ask whether this whole issue arises out of a desire to use Supporter Culture solely as a marketing tool, with insufficient knowledge of what that culture actually is and an insufficient desire to actually listen to supporters.
Supporters are not supermodels, existing purely to be photographed, with no interest in the final product or the direction of the sport. They may not always hold the views the authorities wish to hear but if they are going to be seen, then surely they deserve to be heard as well.
LA Galaxy v Vancouver Match Previews: