New England hold summit with supporters over fan chant
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Members of the New England front office, a group of Revolution season-ticket holders and representatives from MLS and the local police and stadium security departments met at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night to discuss the recent imbroglio involving the club's hardcore supporters in the Fort.
The two-hour session allowed all parties to exchange facts and ideas and permitted the frustrated supporters ample opportunity to vent after an incident during the second half of the Revolution's 1-1 draw with Chicago on June 18 revived lingering issues with stadium security practices.
A common, three-word chant shouted in the buildup to goal kicks taken by the opposing goalkeeper sparked the problems. Several patrons outside of the Fort complained to Revolution and security personnel about the vulgar word used to conclude that chant during the course of the match. A member of the Revolution front office and several security officers proceeded to address the situation with the supporters in the Fort during the second half of the match.
After the initial entreaties by the Revolution representative were unsuccessful, the security officials stepped in with aid from Foxborough police officers. The subsequent measures led to one arrest and one person placed in protective custody and prompted several fans to walk out in protest at the nature of the remedial steps and their impact on the section as a whole.
Information — reliable and otherwise — and opinions about the incident swirled across the web and through social media channels in days that followed and they evoked several displays of support from supporters' groups across the league last weekend.
The palpable discontent among the Revolution's three supporters' groups — the Midnight Riders, the Rebellion and the Rev Army — encouraged club brass to invite all season-ticket holders to discuss the issues in detail.
“When we have an issue, the best way to deal with it is live,” Revolution chief operating officer Brian Bilello told MLSsoccer.com after the forum. “From the beginning, that's what we wanted to do. There was a lot of back-and-forth in the social media trying to get some facts corrected, so things didn't escalate before we had a chance to meet.
“This is always the best way to get everyone together, invite everybody here and get everybody talking. We always try to be open in that regard.”
This particular forum sought to reconstruct the lines of dialogue between two parties. The club and its supporters entered with separate contentions, considerations and viewpoints regarding a complex matter fraught with complications on all sides. But the first step toward a solution involved sharing some of the emotions still lingering from this particular event and others that have occurred over the years.
“For perception purposes, for the Revs front office and for ourselves, having that first town forum to air out all of our grievances and put it all on the table is step one,” Rebellion founding member Brendan Schimmel said. “I think a specific and far more pointed meeting with far less people will serve to better bring about a solution. This was more of a group therapy session as opposed to a solution session. I look forward to that solution session.”
Most of the possible answers will likely focus on improved methods of communication between the Revolution, the supporters' groups and all of patrons within the sections encompassing the Fort to ensure everyone in the section is on the same page regarding acceptable behavior and possible corrective measures.
“It's not really about what happened,” Bilello said. “It's about how we can prevent it from happening again so we can move forward and create an environment where all fans can come and have a great time, especially one where our supporters can come and have a great time. That's the goal.”