Orlando City announced new changes to game day operations at Orlando City Stadium today in the wake of fans throwing objects onto the field during last week’s loss to Atlanta United. CEO Alex Leitão and Vice President of Gameday Operations Alex Wolf addressed the media and answered questions on the subject.
The club will eliminate bottles and cans in the stands, install more security cameras around the stadium, and follow up on banning identified offenders for anywhere between one and two years.
Leitão expressed the club’s frustration and disappointment in the behavior of the fan base. “It’s something that is not acceptable. Something we do not tolerate,” Leitão said. “I was very sad to see our stadium turn into a trash can from our home fans.”
While the club CEO labeled the actions unacceptable, he doesn’t want that to affect the passion on game day. “Their voice is more than welcome. They can show their frustration to the team or the referees. But they can’t throw things on the field,” he said.
Since the incident, many fans have labeled the throwing of objects as nothing more than passion. Leitão addressed these claims by saying, “We need their passion. What happened in our last home game, in that situation, is other than passion.”
Following the incident, the club used video surveillance around the stadium to identify some of those who threw objects onto the field. The club has currently identified 38 people who will all be banned from entering the stadium from one to two years, depending on what Leitao termed “their level of involvement” in the incident. Wolf refused to comment on the 38 violators but stated that they are still reviewing video to see if anyone else needs to be suspended.
Patrons who are suspended for their involvement will be notified via mail, with the suspension taking effect when they receive the letter, a date of which the club will be aware. Once the suspension has been served, they will be notified on the process of being allowed back into the stadium.
Leitão stated that the decision to suspend the 38 individuals was not an arbitrary one and the club was careful to avoid mistaken identity. “We are absolutely 100 percent sure from multiple camera angles,” he said.
While members of the supporters’ groups were involved in the throwing, Leitão and Wolf wanted to make clear that it was not just those two groups involved and that those identified came from all areas of the stadium. They stated that there would be no sanctions put on the groups and that, due to the widespread throwing of objects from around the stadium, the proper approach was to focus on individuals involved in the incident. The club has also spoken with the Iron Lion Firm and Ruckus leaders. Leitao said that the groups are in agreement with the club that there is no place for that behavior in the stadium.
While some patrons of the stadium have been suspended, others were trespassed from the grounds on the evening. The difference between the two is that trespassing occurs when the violator is caught by security and is issued a trespass by the City of Orlando. Suspensions are for those that were identified by the club. However, both trespasses and suspensions carry the same threat of arrest if they attempt to enter the stadium.
In addition to providing new information on identifications and suspensions, Wolf also announced new stadium policies to take place starting immediately. Prior to each home game, a new fan code of conduct video will play on the video board featuring players. This will start prior to Wednesday night’s Orlando Pride game. If any objects are thrown on the field, a public address announcement will be made and a video board graphic will be displayed.
Orlando City Stadium will also be what Wolf termed an “all pour stadium.” This means that all drinks must be poured from the can or bottle into a cup without a lid. Ticket holders in suites will be allowed to have cans but will not be able to leave the ticketed area with the can. The club will also be using more cameras to create a 360-degree view inside the stadium for if any future identification is needed.
While the club is always in constant contact with MLS, Leitão stated that this was entirely the club’s decision and not prompted by the league.
“I take responsibility for what happened in our last home game against Atlanta,” Leitão said. “It’s not going to happen anymore.”
All of the new policies will be for the stadium and not specific to Major League Soccer events held in the building.