Anger As Photos of Banned Fans Used to Promote Game


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 this morning and see photography of the fans from the match in question used to promote tonight’s LA Galaxy v Vancouver Whitecaps match.

This photo of Portland fans holding flares in Salt Lake has since been removed from the MLS site


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 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:

Match Preview from LA – Can the Caps Upset the Champs?

Match Preview from Vancouver – Forget David and Goliath, It’s Class Versus Pace and an Irish Civil War in Los Angeles




About Author

Steve is the founder and owner of Prost Amerika. He covered the expansion of MLS soccer in Cascadia at first hand. As Editor in Chief of, he was accredited at the 2014 World Cup Final. He is the former President of the North American Soccer Reporters Association/ Originally from Glasgow, he is a supporter of the Great Glasgow Alternative, Partick Thistle.


  1. Apology or compensation? That seems totally un-necessary. Those involved knew they were doing something wrong. But using a photo of supporters breaking stadium policy to promote the league, that’s also wrong.

    Communication is really all that matters. Be it a league policy regarding smoke, flares, flags, etc… or simply stadium to stadium policy… and use of photography to promote the MLS via the league or team, should follow accordingly.

    You don’t have to be a mental giant to figure this out.

  2. MLS treats supporters with the same schizophrenia that the US treats terrorists. One day we’re arming the Mujahideen and the next we’re fighting the Taliban. Apparently today the TA is Mujahideen. Tomorrow they will be Taliban. I wonder if Garber has an Obama-esque kill list? If so, maybe we can get him a Nobel peace prize?

  3. As a Seattle supporter, this has been a source of frustration for me, too. Our FO repeatedly uses pictures of ECS with smoke/flares, yet they are strictly prohibited in the stadium. I can strongly sympathize with the TA here, as the whole thing can be viewed as jerking supporters around based on what the FOs and League want.

  4. Seems like a simple designer mistake to me. It’s common enough for in-house designers to have access to a trove of image files that would have already been cleared for use, often with little to no additional documentation. I doubt at would have used the photo had anyone on staff connected the dots. Overblown reaction.

    • It seems that whenever Portland fans get upset about some crass act by the authorities, there’s always a Sounders fan to tell them any reaction is overblown.

      Totally by coincidence, whenever Sounders fans get upset about some crass act by the authorities, there’s always a Timbers fan to tell them any reaction is overblown.

      I’m sure you’re all always right. 😉

      • surely it is fair to say that MLS and its marketing partners are always willing to take advantage of the general good publicity generated by the success of the PNW clubs, whom they were so overlate in bringing into their league. Does anyone know what percentage of nationally televised games on ESPN and NBC networks were Cascadia home fixtures? That’s a genuine question, I don’t know the answer, but I’ll bet it’s disproportionate.

      • How do you know I’m a Sounders fan? 🙂

        Maybe “overblown” is an inflammatory adjective. What I maybe didn’t get across is that, in my estimation, there’s no conspiracy, or even intelligence, at work here. As a reader of, you may tend to notice the relatively frequent presence of barbarisms, factual errors, and misattributions. Some readers get bent about it and can’t resist playing grammar police. They may wonder how in the world a professional editorial endeavor could be so darn sloppy.

        As the site’s subject is itself, if it gets its own facts wrong, its not going to get sued by anyone over it, or lose advertisers. Its churns out a lot of content and, while I’m sure the producers have pride in the quality of their work, deservedly so, it’s not easy to get everything right, always, when you’re cranking it out like that, especially when editors also seem to host podcasts, blog, appear in video segments, conduct chats and sometimes travel to games.

        The nature of fandom is, or course, to get upset. Unfortunate design errors are just not something that attracts my ire. So you can read a mixed signal into it, or irony, or just incompetence, and it may be worth a chuckle, but calling for an apology from “the authorities” seems a little, well, I guess it does seem overblown. The fact that the error happened certainly does seem worth pointing out, as you have here (even if I don’t agree with the sentiment), ’cause using pictures of flare-wielding fans does seem to contradict some stadium policies and photo editors might want to consider that. The pic is undeniably cool-looking, though!

        Oh and sorry if I seemed to be peeing on a Portland post. I wasn’t really paying attention to that. You Prostamerika people write great headlines.