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Fire Issue One-Game Suspension To Section 8 In Response To #Free101 Protests

The club also sent out a wave of permanent bans to individual supporters

MLS: Toronto FC at Chicago Fire Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of the toughest loss of the season, the Chicago Fire responded to their continuing difficulties on the pitch by exacerbating one of their ongoing problems off of it.

The club issued a notice to Section 8 Chicago today informing them their supporters privileges would be suspended for Saturday’s home match against the New York Red Bulls. The club said the sanction was in response to individuals affiliated with Section 8 participating in a recent in-stadium protest supporting Sector Latino.

Photo via Section 8 Chicago

Section 8 held their monthly board meeting on Tuesday evening. As former board member Maud Squiers observed, it was the first regularly scheduled board meeting in recent memory in which a representative from the club was not present.

During the meeting, board members and attendees discussed the Sector Latino ban and the club’s seeming refusal to discuss it and other supporter group issues with Section 8. The ISA resolved to suspend organized supporter activities until the club agrees to come to the table and discuss the recent spate of bans.

Roughly 24 hours after the public announcement of the boycott, the club gave Section 8 notice of their one-game suspension. Per the official communication, the decision was a result of individuals associated with Section 8 and affiliated supporters groups participating in a fan protest near the end of the Toronto FC game on July 21st. The notice warns that “[s]hould there be additional incidents of misconduct or noncompliance with the [MLS] Fan Code of Conduct further action will likely result.”

This is the second official sanction against Section 8 Chicago this year. The first was a suspension of supporter privileges for traveling Fire fans attending away matches against the Red Bulls and Toronto FC this past April.

As fans were reacting to the Section 8 suspension news, a number of individuals were reporting they had received notifications of permanent bans and refunds of season tickets, similar to notices sent out after Sector Latino was exiled earlier this summer.

Section 8 released an official statement this afternoon reacting to both the one-game suspension and the wave of individual permanent bans.

The ISA rejects the premise of these bans as there was never official communication or notice that entry to 101 was prohibited. These most recent actions show the level of distrust and apathy that current Fire management have for their most loyal customers. We are disappointed, though hardly surprised, with this continued breakdown of supporter relations, and will continue to ask for a public meeting to address the current state of the club. We would like answers to why video and photographic evidence was used in this situation but not used in the instances leading to the cancellation of all tickets in Section 101. Until these issues are addressed the ISA will continue the suspension of organized support.

The board would like to reiterate that Section 8 Chicago is an Independent Supporters’ Association (ISA) for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. The ISA is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization run by volunteers through an elected board of directors whose central goal is to represent all Fire supporters. Section 8 Chicago does not have members, nor does it have a structure that facilitates the recognition of “affiliated supporters groups”. The... statement by the Fire reflects that the Front Office continues to misconstrue Section 8’s purpose as an association and effectively bans organized support from any individual entering Toyota Park on Saturday. Such a widespread ban on top of bans of individuals who participated in a peaceful protest is unduly harsh and borders on illegality.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a prominent member of one of the Harlem End supporters groups said that resolving the breakdown in relations between the club and fans hinges on the club agreeing to come to the table— and that doesn’t look likely any time soon.

“Both sides of this issue are very entrenched,” the supporter told Hot Time In Old Town. “I don’t want to pretend I’m a psychologist that understands Nelson [Rodriguez], but all my interactions with him indicate he will never admit he is wrong here and meeting with us means that something was wrong.”

Asked how Section 8 might move forward if the club continues to maintain radio silence, they responded: “We will have no choice really but to just focus on outside of the stadium activities and not work on in stadium support for a while. This has become a waiting game and with the team currently looking like there are no playoffs and the [US Open Cup] out of the picture there is very little reason for S8C to go back.”

Hot Time also asked them about fears that the club was trying to establish a context in which they might permanently ban Section 8 as they did Sector Latino. “I don’t think that is their plan for now, but I do think they are not happy with the way S8C is structured. They want to be able to obtain a list of names from SGs about who is a member and S8C cannot and will not do that because we are not a supporters group. I don’t think they will ban us but I do think they want to find a way to create some sort of list of supporters names.”

We’ve reached out to the club for comment but have yet to hear back. We will update this post if and when they respond to our inquiries.