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Butler: When the hooligan element paid MLS a visit

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Noel Butler
4/19/2013 4:31:39 PM
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A rightful wish of MLS is for old football to take the top tier of North American soccer far more seriously.

This for a league which aspires to the Frank Lampard's and Kaka's of the world. 

Who then, when they woke last Saturday would have thought by day's end MLS would be mentioned in the same breath as Millwall's infamous hooligan element.

For missile throwing at FC Dallas Stadium you may as well read fighting amongst yourselves and the police at Wembley Stadium. Major League Soccer and Millwall Football Club both victims of the so termed English disease.

Occurring moments after the FC Dallas central defender George John had scored the game-winning goal in their match against the current MLS Champions making the incident even more unsavoury is the missile was thrown from the FC Dallas Supporters Group section.

Making it downright disturbing and with longer term consequences add in just a week previously the central defender was substituted early on in the match against Toronto FC after suffering concussion-like symptoms.

No irony is lost on the fact in early March John returned to FC Dallas following a two-month loan spell at West Ham, who are located a hop skip and a jump from Millwall.

His sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time last Saturday night was five staples inserted into the back of his head. With a previous concussion medical repercussions may though present themselves to John.

Although it could be stated this is very much an isolated incident this is not the first time a bottle has been thrown by someone in the crowd at an MLS match.

When speaking earlier in the week with Impact captain Davy Arnaud the MLS veteran recounted an episode from a couple of seasons ago. Where during a match against Real Salt Lake of all things a whiskey bottle was thrown on to the pitch.

For their part FC Dallas issued a statement immediately after last Saturday's match. It advised the perpetrator had been apprehended and stated the matter would now be dealt with by a joint task force comprising of stadium security, Fresno Police and MLS.

MLS Executive VP Dan Courtemanche who likely did much of the heavy lifting framing league protocol voiced his concerns when telling TSN.ca, "The safety of our fans, players and everyone attending an MLS match will always be our top priority. MLS and our member clubs have very detailed security standards."

With the 2013 Amway Canadian Championship about to get underway next week and where two of our MLS clubs square up to each other at BMO Field Paul Bierne Toronto FC's VP of Business Operations has absolutely no concerns about his club's supporters.

Bierne telling TSN.ca, "We have the utmost faith in our fans and we understand that while they are passionate and vocal, they are also respectful of the game and its players. In the exceptional situations we point to our BMO Field code of conduct."

Moreover and something FC Dallas would likely have wished was club policy there are no bottles of any shape or size sold at BMO Field and as further measure to reign in the would-be hooligan, plastic water bottles have their caps removed.

Paying a visit to BMO Field next Wednesday will be the Eastern Conference leaders. Saputo Stadium falls under the watchful eye of Executive Vice President, Richard Legendre who has decades of experience overseeing and controlling large crowds.

The Impact's policy is simple, zero tolerance.

"It is forbidden to throw objects of any kind onto the field at Stade Saputo. Anyone caught doing so will be expelled from the premises. The Montreal Impact and its security staff are strict on this matter," Legendre informed TSN.ca.
"At Stade Saputo, beer is served in a plastic cup, while water bottles are served without the cap. The incident involving the FC Dallas player is extremely unfortunate." 

The Whitecaps who play in Edmonton next Wednesday evening have a code of conduct for their supporters at BC Place - woe betide anyone who violates any local, provincial or federal law.

Bobby Lenarduzzi, who began his career as a player back in 1970 and who has now worked in the sport for over four decades, has likely seen it all. Lenarduzzi was outraged by the incident in Dallas.

The Whitecaps' President telling TSN.ca, "It's unacceptable. It would have been bad enough had it been a visiting player, but it's even more ridiculous that it was a home player being hit by the bottle after scoring the winning goal." Adding, "But in either case, it is completely unacceptable."

A spokesperson for the CSA when asked what their policy was advised TSN.ca, "We tend to try and prevent this as much as possible. All our home matches have a list of prohibited articles that fans will not be allowed to bring in the stadium. As such, all bags, jackets, and guests are subject to search upon entering the facility."

The CSA has an extensive and exhaustive list of prohibited articles that supporters are prevented from bringing into the stadium.

Big shame items on the FC Dallas Stadium banned list doesn't include been caught in possession of an irrational mind. Local media earlier in the week reported a 33-year-old had been arrested for intoxication. No word still on if any assault charges are pending.

They certainly ought to. Looking to the legislation adopted by the UK government when hooliganism was at its height in the 1980's stiffer criminal charges and punishments were at the top of the list.

No other nation has likely had greater experience of both dealing and coping with crowd trouble than the English. Combined with the unprecedented security and preventative measures which have been adopted for decades up and down the country it places the English at the top of Russia's list as they seek assistance to reign in their very sizeable hooligan element ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

It would be foolhardy for MLS to think what happened at an FC Dallas match last Saturday will not occur again at some point in the future.

Likely not at FC Dallas stadium, but almost certainly with deeper consequences for all concerned.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Fabian Castillo George John (Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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