Orlando City Soccer Club have cracked down hard on their so-called supporters who ran riot in a USL Pro vs. NASL clash with Florida neighbors the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Sunday.
Four men were arrested, two for disorderly intoxication and two for battery on a law enforcement officers, as Orlando’s fans repeatedly tried to intimidate and entice members of the Rowdies supporters group, Ralph’s Mob, into starting fights during the I-4 Championship game which Orlando won 3-2. The fans in questions jumped barriers to get at Tampa Bay fans at Al Lang Field, while small fires were also started as flares and fireworks were let off. See pictures of some of the fighting, here.
Police have since released the names of those involved as Stephen Marva, 24, shoved a police officer as he tried to start a fight, then Charles Tolman, 30, hit a police officer with a flag. Jimmy Galvez, 28, and Jared Ambrose, 24 were charged with disorderly intoxication. Marva, Tolman, Galvez and Ambrose have been banned from all future Orlando City games pending the outcome of their court cases.
In an open letter to fans, which you can read in its entirety below, Orlando City’s joint-owner and Chairman Phil Rawlins spoke of how the “incidents reflected very poorly on the club” and then banned all current Supporters Groups (The Ruckus & Iron Lion Firm) until they sign a new “Code of Conduct” agreement with the club that adheres MLS fan rules.
Acts of hooliganism likes this should not be popping up anywhere in the world, let alone a soccer match in a civilized nation such as the USA. In other countries violence in the stands at soccer games, plus in and around the stadiums, is still a huge issue. Let’s hope this doesn’t spread to the U.S. as we all love the passion MLS and the lower leagues are creating, but there’s no place for scenes like this to play out.
Kudos to Orlando for nipping these despicable actions in the bud and not tolerating any of this nonsense. They have proved once again that even if a few of their fans let them down, Orlando will be a great addition to the MLS family from the next March onwards.
At last Sunday’s game in St. Petersburg a small portion of our fans were involved in a number of incidents that reflected very poorly on our Club and entire fanbase. The Club wants to make it abundantly clear that it will not tolerate any such behavior, will not be associated with fans who think this type of behavior is acceptable, and takes the situation extremely seriously.
Orlando City is proud of the reputation it has built in the community and will not allow a small number of fans involved in unsavory behavior to tarnish our organization. For these reasons the Club, following consultation with local law enforcement and Major League Soccer, has taken immediate action which includes (but is not limited to) the following steps:
- The four fans arrested have been suspended from all future Orlando City games pending the outcome of legal proceedings;
- Both current Supporter Groups – The Ruckus & Iron Lion Firm – have been indefinitely suspended pending their agreement to a new Fan Code of Conduct which follows MLS Supporter Group guidelines;
- All privileges associated with being a Supporter Group (e.g., use of drums, flags, large banners, etc.) are temporarily suspended. The Club is in the process of implementing new guidelines to become a “Recognized Supporter Group” which will involve privileges (such as use of drums, flags, large banners, etc.) for those groups that comply in the future;
- A copy of the new Fan Code of Conduct is being distributed to all fans.
We extend our apologies on behalf of our fans to the Rowdies organization for the events of last Sunday. The Club has also written a letter to the Tampa Bay Rowdies expressing the same.
In closing, as a Club, we have worked tirelessly over the last four seasons to be a model organization on and off the field. We are very proud of what we have accomplished with the support of our fans, partners, players and staff. We know that the vast majority of our supporters already fully comply with the Fan Code of Conduct, love the game of soccer, and are passionate fans of Orlando City. We will not allow our good name to be sullied by the actions of a few. We will, without hesitation, do everything we can to continue upholding the Club’s core values as we transition into Major League Soccer.