ISC Releases Open Letter to Don Garber regarding sanctions imposed on Houston Fans after the MLS Cup Final

Commissioner Garber,

We are writing on behalf of the Independent Supporters Council, a group made up of twenty-seven American and Canadian supporters groups, including supporters from almost every team in Major League Soccer. Our mission is to advocate for fair treatment of home and away supporters at all levels of American and Canadian soccer.

Our members and supporters across the league are alarmed by the recent punishment handed down by the league office to supporters groups of the Houston Dynamo, including ISC member the Texian Army. We, representing supporters from across the league, support the Texian Army’s official response to this matter and ask that the league meet with the Texian Army and the other Houston supporters’ groups to review this unnecessarily harsh action.

We have no issue with the league taking individual action against individual fans who violate stadium policy at any league stadium. As we understand it, there have already been individual bans issued to some Dynamo supporters responsible for the problems at the MLS Cup. We do not take issue with the individual bans. But we object to the league taking retaliatory action that serves only to harm supporters’ culture in Houston. The statement from MLS read “As of March 1, Dynamo traveling supporters will not be permitted to utilize items listed as Supporter Group Exemptions in the MLS Prohibited Items policy (e.g. flags, banners, confetti, drums).”

Banning flags and drums will not stop individual fans from smuggling smoke into the stadium or throwing prohibited items on the field. Cutting off safe, legal avenues of support does not punish the flashlight throwers. Instead it punishes supporters who spend their own time and money making flags and banners, and creating the atmosphere that the league loves to promote. Such broad-based punishments do not address the troublemakers. All this action does is punish the majority of supporters who show the passion and dedication you claim to value.

Furthermore, the Houston away supporters’ section at the 2011 MLS Cup was a supporters’ section in name only; it was a mixed group of fans, including both members of supporters groups and unaffiliated fans. It is one thing to ask the supporters to police themselves; it is not reasonable to ask them to police every Dynamo fan, especially on a trip where they were not given the opportunity to organize or screen the attendees.

We ask that the League:

1) Does not hold supporters groups responsible for the actions of unaffiliated fans. Hold the individuals who behaved poorly accountable without punishing good supporters groups.

 
2) When supporters do travel, take attacks on them as seriously as you do incidents involving them. Traveling fans are regularly treated to racist chants and thrown items, not from other supporters’ groups, but from other fans in the stadium. They do not receive support or follow-up from security or the front office at these stadiums. This does more to contribute to ugly incidents like we saw at the MLS Cup than any number of flags or banners.

 
3)If the league intends to punish supporters for incidents at games, work directly with the leadership of the affected supporters’ group first and give them an opportunity to appeal, rather than simply announcing an open-ended ban.

 
Banning flags, banners, and drums will do nothing to further the goal we both share: creating the best possible atmosphere in every American and Canadian stadium. No amount of heavy-handed bans and restrictive security measures will stop someone from throwing something on the field. That is an element that we must work together to eliminate. Work with us, not against us. Only by working with your supporters, instead of against them, will we build a relationship of mutual trust & respect and accomplish our common goals.

Sincerely,

The Independent Supporters Council

cc: Evan Dabby, Jon Radke, Brent Delgado, Art Castro, Christoph Schoenbeck

ISC Contact: Jimi Butler, ISC liaison to MLS – 202-549-6123 –

Soccer Supporters Unite

PORTLAND, Oregon – Soccer rivalries are known for their intensity, but leadership of soccer supporters groups from across the US and Canada set aside their rivalries last weekend in Portland, Oregon for the Independent Supporters Council (ISC) conference.

The ISC works to promote supporters’ culture in North America, and defend the rights of soccer supporters. Over the weekend, representatives of supporters of 16 of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer discussed issues facing supporters, and revised and ratified the Independent Supporters Council Charter, including the Supporters Bill of Rights.

“By speaking with a singular voice for all recognized supporters groups regarding issues that may be specific to one group, but that affect all, ISC can effectively use the collective leverage of all groups to protect the interests of each individual group,” said Jason Corliss board member of Red Bull New York’s Viking Army SC.

“MLS is beginning to appreciate the role of supporters, and aren’t just marketing the game to soccer moms any longer. It’s a step in the right direction, but we want to make certain all supporters can safely and passionately follow their team wherever they travel,” said Abram Goldman-Armstrong, a founding member of the ISC and board member of the Timbers Army 107 Independent Supporters Trust, which hosted the conference in Portland.

ISC initiatives include:

  • Coordinating an annual ISC conference open to delegations of supporters from all clubs in the United States and Canada, including in MLS, lower-league levels and women’s soccer.
  • Tracking incidents and advocating for stadium security trained to understand supporter culture.
  • Developing clear, consistent guidelines and fair ticket allocations for traveling supporters.
  • Organizing the administration and funding of a new MLS Supporters’ Shield trophy.
  • Advocating for an MLS schedule that is favorable to traveling fans, especially rivalry games.
  • Working for the adoption of a league-wide Supporters’ Bill of Rights.

Media contacts:

Brett Graham, Vice-President, Vancouver Southsiders
ops@vancouversouthsiders.ca

Jimi Butler, ISC liaison to MLS
roadtrips@screaming-eagles.com

The Independent Supporters Council was founded in 2009 to advocate for the fair treatment of home and away supporters, promote supporter culture, and oppose racism and bias in the stadium. www.soccersupporters.org

The Vancouver Southsiders are founding members of the ISC. They are dedicated to increasing the voice of supporters and fans and supporting the growth of soccer in Vancouver and Canada.
www.vancouversouthsiders.ca

Cascadia Cup 2012 Format

Cascadia supporters groups announce 2012 Cascadia Cup rules, call
for balanced schedule.

The supporters groups from the three Cascadia MLS clubs have agreed on new rules
for the Cascadia Cup after MLS moved to an unbalanced schedule in 2012.

The Emerald City Supporters, Southsiders and Timbers Army agreed that all
matches will count towards the Cascadia Cup, even though the new unbalanced MLS
schedule means each team will play a different number of home games against their
Cascadia rivals this season.

“We all agreed that this was the simplest format, one that all fans will find easiest to
follow,” says Brenton Walters, Southsiders spokesperson.

Portland Timbers will host both Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps twice,
Vancouver will see Portland once and Seattle twice at home, and Seattle will only
host each team once.

Despite this imbalance, the three supporters groups agreed to count all matches
equally in order to keep the 2012 Cascadia Cup format simple.

“It’s unfortunate that the league didn’t work out a balanced schedule for the
Cascadia teams,” says Garrett Dittfurth of the Timbers Army. “We think the league
should fix this for next season so that no team has an unfair advantage in Cup
matches.”

The Cascadia Cup will be awarded to the team with the most points after all matches
have been played or when there is a clear winner. In the event of a tie, the Cup will
be awarded to the team with the best goal differential.

Should the MLS schedule remain unbalanced in 2013, the Emerald City Supporters,
Southsiders and Timbers Army insist that it should allow for a fair distribution of
the home and away matches amongst the Cascadia clubs.

“Cascadia is home to the oldest and strongest rivalry in North American soccer,
and the value that the supporters put on the Cascadia Cup reflects that,” says Greg
Mockos of the Emerald City Supporters. “The league should pay attention.”

Background:
The Cascadia Cup was created in 2004 by supporters groups of the three Cascadia teams, and is awarded annually to the best team in the Cascadia region. Seattle and Vancouver have each won it three times, Portland has won it twice.

2012 Cascadia Cup schedule:
With the unbalanced 2012 MLS schedule, Portland plays four home and two away matches, Vancouver plays three home and three away matches and Seattle plays two home and four away matches.

  • May 19: Vancouver Whitecaps v. Seattle Sounders
  • May 25: Portland Timbers v. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • June 24: Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders
  • August 18: Seattle Sounders v. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • August 25: Portland Timbers v. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • September 15: Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders
  • September 29: Vancouver Whitecaps v. Seattle Sounders
  • October 7: Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers
  • October 20: Vancouver Whitecaps v. Portland Timbers

(Home team listed first.)

Full Cascadia Cup criteria:

  1. Greater number of points earned in matches between the teams concerned
  2. Greater goal difference in matches between the teams concerned
  3. Greater number of goals scored in matches between the teams concerned
  4. Reapply first three criteria if two or more teams are still tied
  5. Greater goal difference in all cup matches
  6. Greater number of goals scored in all cup matches
  7. Smaller number of disciplinary points in all cup matches (yellow = 1 point, red = 2 points)

The Real Deal

At Last Night’s Board of Directors meeting, I was thrilled to be unanimously elected as President of The Vancouver Southsiders.

These literally are big shoes to fill after the wonderful two years we have been led by John Knox aka Johnnie Monster, but I will do my utmost to ensure that we continue to grow and remain the most visible supporters in Vancouver and the No1 Supporters Club in Canada.

To give you some background on myself, for those who don’t know me. I have been involved with The Southsiders for about 10 years now and was one of the founders when we made the decision to go “legit” a couple of years ago.

For our first year, I was your Treasurer, but took over “Events” for 2011, which I have thoroughly enjoyed despite a few obstacles we had to overcome.

I will continue to head up the “Events” in 2012, but will be assisted by some “young blood”.

I also have a wonderful friend and Vice-President in the shape of Brett Graham aka piltdownman, to assist me in working with the Front Office of Vancouver Whitecaps FC and an exciting new Board of Directors.

One of the first thing I will be doing is changing my Southsiders forum name to The Real Deal, which as I mentioned at the AGM is a nickname given to me by Peter Schaad, and is way more appropriate given my age!

The Tractor Boy nickname was given to me by Zach Meisenheimer way back around 2001, because of my penchant for wearing an Ipswich Town top in the Southside as back then replica shirts were hard to find!

We already have several Korean members, but I’d like to welcome the entire Korean soccer loving community to join us out as we’d love to share their well-known passion of the beautiful game.

We may not number the Emerald City Supporters in Seattle or Timbers Army in Portland, but we have our own individuality which I fundamentality do not want to change.

The Bloggers we have in the Southside are probably the best in the MLS and this shows that not only are we a witty and sarcastic bunch, we are also amongst the most informed and envied in the entire MLS.

Thank you for all the messages of support, and I know that, with you, that we are going to have a fantastic year in 2012

Chris Deal

“The Real Deal”

events@vancouversouthsides.ca

photo courtesy of VanCityVilla

MLS Supporters Summit 2012 :: Collaborating Towards Solutions

This last weekend I had the great honour and privilege of representing the Vancouver Southsiders at the MLS Supporters Summit in Los Angles. I attended many meetings between supporters and with MLS Officials.

Independent Supporters Council of the United States and Canada was a
meeting held at a Mexican restaurant close to the Home Depot Centre.
This was the third annual general meeting of the group and was
attended by supporters groups that belonged to the ISC, both press and
club officials were NOT allowed in.
At this meeting issues and best practices were discussed.
It was very clear that scheduling was the most important topic to the group.
Almost everyone was in agreement that a Balanced Schedule is what the fans wanted.
There was also displeasure of Derby matches being scheduled midweek, and thus not
allowing away fans to travel in good numbers. There also seems to be a
league wide problem of rescheduling and moving reserve matches which the group feels needs to be addressed.
The second biggest priority of the group was pushing for larger away allocations. The group would ideally like to see the amount increased to the FIFA recommended 5% level.

After that the leaders of the MLS Supporters groups attended a meeting at the Home Centre Presidents room with club supporters liaisons and was lead by Evan Dabby, MLS Senior Director of Operations. At this marathon meeting a wide variety of issues were discussed. This included most thing from the ISC meeting as well as how to improve communication, possible the establishment of Supporter Sub Committees, and enhancing game day experience.

That evening La Dolca’s Massimo Cusano and I met the Whitecaps FrontOffice for dinner. In a more casual setting some of the issues discussed earlier in the day on a more local level.

On Sunday Morning I attended a meeting on the future of the Supporter’s Shield. The current shield isn’t a shield at all, and is rather small. A KC Supporter has spearheaded a campaign to replace this with something better. This would be funded by the supporter groups.

Later that morning about 150 supporters attended the “Supporters Summit with MLS Commissioner Don Garber”. This is the session which was streamed online. I won’t go into too much details as most of you likely watched online, but about half the session was spent with people questioning the new imbalanced schedule. The paper I wrote on how the league can reduce travel and keep a Balanced Schedule was mentioned several time and was handed to the Commissioner at one point. Other things that were brought up were the future of friendlies and adopting a NHL style transparency to discipline actions.

If you would like more information about any of this please contact me privately as much that was discussed is somewhat sensitive.

Brett Graham aka piltdownman
Southsiders – Vice President & Director of Stadium Ops

BC Place Loud and Proud in the Southside Crowd

I’m a Vancouver Southsider but I enjoy the taste of prawn sandwiches too much to give them up. So it was that on Sunday, when the Whitecaps started life in BC Place against the Portland Timbers, I was sitting up in the press box, stuffing popcorn into my face like it was oxygen and watching the game from above.It was a beautiful place to watch the game. BC Place looks like a real soccer venue, with the retractable seats extended near the touch lines and the elegant new plastic pitch showing hardly a trace of the throwball game two days earlier. The only thing missing was one of the soccer teams: the Portland Timbers showed up but, sadly, the Vancouver Whitecaps seemed to have sent eleven statues instead.More important, it sounded like a real soccer venue.I was standing amongst the Southsiders for the last stand at Empire Field two weeks ago and, though I and many of you chanted ourselves hoarse, our noise vanished into the night air with our team’s defense while, to the northwest of us, Seattle’s Emerald City Supporters boomed and echoed. They had a lot more to cheer about, of course, but it was still disheartening. All of the talk was “it’ll be a lot better at BC Place”, but I was not optimistic.

Well, it was better. A lot better. The Timbers Army was assembled through open doors to the left of me, close enough that I could have thrown a beer at them. They’re justly recognized as the best supporters in Major League Soccer and their “our house in the middle of BC” was a big, if geographically inaccurate, hit. But it seemed like they’d just be getting into their groove then, in a dense little wedge in one corner of the vast concrete stadium, there’d be the boom of “WE’RE BLUE! WE’RE WHITE!”

There was no question whose house it really was.

Visually, audibly, the support was a treat to watch from afar. Was it the way the Southsiders were concentrated into a smaller area? Was it the carefully-designed and labouriously-crafted tifo which got the game started off right? Was it the building itself? The megaphones? A sense of occasion, of purpose? Whatever it was, it was hard not to leap to my feet and join in “Boundary Road” as it rang, clear and true, across the stadium. I knew exactly when it was the eighty-sixth minute.

The Southsiders still have room to grow and improve. But too many people to name in both the Southsiders and the Whitecaps have done yeoman’s work getting us this far. There’s been so much growth, so much hope, so much promise over the last year that it was remarkable to see it coming together, to see the tifo and the flags and hear the chants and songs of fans ten times more exuberant than the team they were supporting.

It was much more meaningful than a mere stadium; we’ve seen three of those in twelve months. Stadiums come and go, but Southsiders are forever.

Ben Massey, aka Lord Bob
http://www.eightysixforever.com
Follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/Lord_Bob

86 Thank Yous From the Southsiders’ Vice-President

I’m sure everyone realizes what an amazing and awesome event last Sunday afternoon was.

To think that this time last year the Southsiders were a bunch of a 100 or so people standing in the rain behind the net at Swangard out in the ‘burbs.
Now we stretch back for over thirty rows in a multi million dollar, state of the art facility in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

What I think is even more exciting, is the way we have stepped up our game and have created a spectacular atmosphere that we can all be proud of.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you who helped bring together what was historic moment not only in our lives, but for the Whitecaps, the Southsiders and the City of Vancouver.

All of you who sung and screamed at the top of your lungs out for the full 90 are to be commended. We may have woken up with sore throats and a raspy voice on Monday morning, but I think it was well worth it.  I would like to give a special thank you to our Head Capo, Pat aka AJAX79, ably assisted by Kris and Dan for leading the chants. I’m sure everyone agrees that they are steering the atmosphere in the right direction, which will only grow and improve in time. A huge thanks to our drummers Massimo and Chris for drumming in time which I believe really helps everyone keeps in time.

For those Southsiders who volunteered their precious time on Saturday to help with the game day presentation, a huge thank you from myself and the club.  For those of you unaware of it, those little Whitecaps flags were placed by thirty-five Southsiders who now know BC Place inside out.

A massive thank you to the crew who helped set up the Tifo in the evening. Adam who created the amazing tree for the bonfire together with Kris in the Southsiders arts and crafts department. Adam also took it upon himself to create ‘Disco Valentine’, which if you ask me is bloody brilliant. I also need to thank my fellow board members who have been working their asses off all season long to get us to where we are today. 

I think we all also need to thank the Whitecaps FC, whom without their co-operation we would have achieved all we have.
Firstly to Gary Chung and Roberto Carbrone from the Whitecaps FC Ticketing Team for helping many of us move our seats in order to make more compact sections. I strongly believe that this extra effort on their part has allowed us to really come together as a group at the Stadium and in time organically grow. From the Whitecaps Marketing Department I also really need to thank Caitlyn for the tour and Shawna for the Graphics.

More than anyone I need to thank Hillary Campbell at the Club as well as her team, including Jodie and the ‘Poncho Men’. They worked around the clock to get their stuff ready but made time to help the Southsiders had everything we needed to achieve our goals. Hillary even offered to personally go back to Empire with me at midnight Saturday night to go looking for some missing tifo items. Without all their hard work, your match day experience wouldn’t have been nearly as spectacular.

We do not need to rest here. We still need to grow bigger and louder, and with your help I know we can.

You’ve had a few days to rest your voices, we now need to get ready for the next match on Thursday and for the remainder of this season.

Come on You ‘Caps

Brett Graham

Vancouver Southsiders Director of Stadium Operations
Vancouver Southsiders Vice President

Thank you Southsiders, and keep it up!

Let me start by giving you all a big round of applause!

I didn’t know what kind of feed back would be posted on the forum but I am more than pleased by the comments I have read.

As head capo, I take my duties very seriously and am always woried about peforming them to the best of my abilities. After the match I really didn’t know what to expect to read here (forum) but am more than happy with the response. I honestly didn’t know what to expect since it is our first go at it with our new system but am pretty pleased with what we brought so far. This is our first go at it and will only get better and better.

My goal as head capo, along with my assistants (Kris and Dan), is to get things going and as often as we can and also try to pick eveybody up when the team goes down. I also try to keep the chants going longer and it really seems to be working and on a whole, I BELIEVE that we are on the right track (pun intended ).

You guys/gals don’t know how much it means to me to here all the great comments of how people on the far end of the stadium can hear us loud and clear and can even here us over the TA even when their seats are right there. That’s frickin awesome and is what I am trying to accomplish while performing my dutties as head capo. Even when we are able to get most of the east side standing and clapping while they have smiles on their face was great. We are truly having a positive impact on the rest of the crowd and the media has also stated this fact.

Another note is that the march was epic. It was so loud and I recieved emails from people that were blocks and blocks away when we were marching telling me that they heard this loud singing and ran over to where it was coming from to see an army of Southsiders marching. You were all treated like movie stars with cameras and video cameras all over the place. Great advertisement for our group, well done . Another thing is thank you all for being safe and respectfull of everyone around us and our surroundings. It’s important that we keep that up. I even had a VPD officer come up to me when we were aproaching BC Place and thank us for being so respectful and problem free.

It sounds like we started off with a bang and it will only get better from here. Minor adjustments will be made on my part to better my performance and all you have to do is be loud and proud and bring it match in and match out. All I ask is that everyone looks to myself and Kriss for direction in regards to vocals and for the physical aspect (clapping, bouncing ect…) as well, we can inprove on the later a bit. Next match it will be easier for all of you to see us since we should be able to be more mobile.

I am very proud of our first kick at the can and considering that we were basically doing this blindly (since we had no other practice in our new home) you all did great!

Lets keep it up and become even better to close out the season and next year we will be an even bigger force to be reckoned with!

Again, thank you everybody for coming together and with alll the possitive feedback from people all over the stadium, this can turn into something even bigger!

Cheers!!

Pat
AJAX79

Southsiders: Find Your Pride

First of all, thank you all for enduring what has been in many ways the worst season I’ve experienced in decades of supporting this club.

The play has been entertaining at times, but the results have been simply awful.

We’ve been annihilated on the field. We’ve been stomped out of playoff contention. We’ve completely flamed out of our regional and national derbies.

We’ve seen good friends and excellent people within the Whitecaps organization run out of town or relegated to obscurity.

This is just about the WORST season I have ever experienced in 25 years as a Whitecaps supporter.

However…

This is also the BEST season I have ever experienced, and I’ll tell you why.

Time and time again, the Southsiders have found themselves staring down the barrel of some extremely difficult obstacles which other MLS supporters groups simply have not had to overcome…. and you know what? We’ve come out on top EVERY TIME.

We fought and won our right to exist.

We fought and won our right to stand and sing in a designated section.

We fought and won the release of more seats at a lower pricing tier.

We fought and won the right to bring flags, banners and tifo into Empire in spite of a prohibition by the PNE.

We fought and won the increase to the league’s cap on away travel from 150 to 500 seats.

We fought and won access to away tickets at a fair price when a club-sanctioned travel agency was gouging us.

We fought and won the battle with said travel agency by sending buses down the I-5 at half the price.

We fought and won our right to be heard with respect to discourteous and unlawful conduct by PNE security.

We fought and won the opportunity to relocate our seats en masse at BC Place.

And in the days ahead, I’m quite optimistic that we can get approval for capos with megaphones with BC Place. You have a very capable representative in VP Brett Graham (Piltdownman) working with the Whitecaps on that issue right now.

When you take all of this into consideration, that’s a track record that every single Southsider can stand up and be proud of. You won’t find a SINGLE supporters group in MLS that has scrapped its way through as much BS as we have and come out on top as often as we did.

Once upon a time, long before these battles I’ve mentioned above, we squared off against many well-heeled and influential detractors.

Wealthy developers tried to kill our dreams of a waterfront stadium. They hired a renowned PR firm which created bogus community activist groups to turn the media against us. Whitecaps supporters were demonized as hooligans hell-bent on destroying the Downtown Eastside and harming the vulnerable people within it. We were branded as menaces to public safety and social order, and many clueless reporters regurgitated that nonsense on the front pages of their respective publications.

To put it simply, we got the shit kicked out of us…. and that’s when we did what the Southsiders have always done best:

We fought back.

We exposed those developers and the smear campaign they were trying to perpetrate. We exposed their lies, and we ran those jerks straight out of the media spotlight.

Where’s Reliance Holdings and the Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition now? The Gastown Residents Association? Central Waterfront Coalition? Long gone, with their tails between their legs.

Where are the Southsiders? We’re Canada’s largest supporters group, and we’re about to set up shop in the Whitecaps new $600 million palace downtown, that’s where!

My point here isn’t to relive old glories. It’s to share a lesson that those of us who have supported this club for many, many years learned the hard way through immense struggles and personal investment of time and energy.

There are going to be times when supporting your club feels like a very difficult thing to do. Your credibility will be questioned. Your very existence will come under scrutiny. There will be devastating losses, humiliation, criticism, finger-pointing and embarrassment. Maybe some of you are disappointed with how we sounded in comparison to the ECS. Consider it a life lesson.

There will always be groups larger than ours. There will always be groups more cohesive than ours.

So? Who gives a toss?

We’re not the first supporters club to have a nightmare of a season. We’re not the first supporters club to be out-sung by visitors at home. It happens. That’s football…. and it’s part of what makes the supporters culture so interesting.

Did we have an off night against Seattle? Perhaps…. But that’s only one bad night in 12 years of coming through like champions in every other respect as a supporters club.

A lot of people have posted messages here on this board, and also on Twitter, about their disappointment with us. Don’t waste any time or energy on this. We don’t need to defend ourselves. The only thing that matters is YOUR belief in the Southsiders, not somebody else’s. Get louder. Get more cohesive. Do it OUR way, on OUR timetable.

As Southsiders president, I have always been open to suggestions from members who want to discuss how we can do things better and more efficiently.

That said, I have absolutely NO interest at all in any criticisms or attacks coming from non-members and other self-entitled “slack-tivists” who sit in the stands, twiddling on their smartphones, demanding we do a better job entertaining them.

There are two types of Whitecaps supporters in Vancouver:

Those who roll up their sleeves, make flags, make banners, print flyers, sing their guts out, attend supporter functions and volunteer their time…

…and those who haven’t earned the right to tell me or my fellow Southsiders how this group should or should not go about our business. These jokers say they’re embarrassed by our performance? I’m ASHAMED by their reluctance and apathy.

Ask yourself: What kind of supporter are you?

I know which category I’m in… and those who are in my category shouldn’t waste a second of their time worrying what the smartphone slack-tivists think. We’re a part of a special movement which has traditions and culture that bring far more to the match day experience than any armchair analyst ever will.

True supporters will find pride in the darkest circumstances, and they will always rise above adversity. That’s what the Southsiders do best.

We don’t do what we do to entertain the crowd. We don’t do what we do to compete with other groups.

Find your pride and keep fighting. It’s not a talent show. It’s not American Idol. It’s not the Ice Capades. It’s football.

If you HONESTLY do your part and contribute, there’s not a single person who can take that away from you.

I’ll close here by thanking all of our volunteers who have been working so extremely hard to produce tifo, lead chants and spread the words to our songs with newcomers. You people are the gasoline that keeps the Southsiders engine running, and your contributions to the movement are ALWAYS appreciated. If there is anyone who has a right to feeling disappointed with Saturday’s show of support, it’s you… and in NO WAY should Saturday be construed by anyone as a reflection of your efforts and dedication to the cause.

It’s time to dig deep, Southsiders. Don’t give up. Find your pride and the noise will follow – that’s how it works, and it always does. Be prepared to sing your balls off, because the Timbers Army is going to bring it twice as hard as the ECS did. The ECS has numbers, but the TA has a much bigger heart.

Get ready for the loudest match of your lives.

Johnnie Monster
President – Vancouver Southsiders

A Newbies Perspective of Portland Away

Normally when one thinks of “traveling supporters” in football, they imagine a group of die hard European fans, who wake up in the wee hours of the morning to embark on a six hour journey to cheer their club in the opposing team’s city. Not very often does this occur in North America due mostly to the long distances between team locations. However, I think that trend is changing dramatically.

In the MLS, we have seen numerous new teams enter the league over the past few years. Cities such as Kansas City, Chicago, Salt Lake, Houston, and Toronto all have teams in the continent’s biggest professional football league. Three teams in particular who have done so much for the league in its short stints are the Northwestern teams: Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps. These teams have formed possibly the most watched, and most intense derby in North America: The Cascadia Cup. The name derives from the area of which all teams are in called “The Cascades”, and in the few games that have been played this year in Major League Soccer, it has already earned a massive reputation. Seattle and Portland’s thrilling 1-1 draw, Vancouver’s Eric Hassli making a name for himself across the globe after a superior goal to tie Seattle 2-2 at Century Link Field and the immense support that these matches drew are just a few of the highlights of the already huge Cascadia Cup rivalry.

This past Saturday, August 20th at 7pm Pacific Standard Time, was the first meeting between The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps at Portland’s newly renovated JELD-WEN Field. I had the pleasure of being one of the travelling Vancouver supporters who made the five hour trip to Oregon which entailed waking up at 5:00am. In the days leading up to the trip, I couldn’t have been more excited. I got up at the appointed time, showered, brushed my teeth, dressed, picked up my suitcase for the overnight stay at Portland’s “Heathman Hotel” and got into the car with my father eagerly awaiting the normally grueling drive. In this case, it wasn’t a grueling drive at all.

Upon arriving in Portland, immediately I felt goosebumps. The similarities to Vancouver were extraordinary, and the people were very friendly. I checked into the hotel and relaxed for a couple of hours and read a book to kill time, and at 4:00 pm, put on my Whitecaps shirt and scarf, and headed outside for the ten minute walk to the stadium. Even at 5:30pm, ninety minutes before kick-off, Portland’s Timbers Army (Ultra group), and Vancouver Southsiders (Whitecaps ultra group), were already filling the stands at a brisk pace. The atmosphere was electrifying and a European football kind of feeling was in the air, and I cheered and sang with the 500 Southsiders that were in the stands.

Although the match didn’t turn out the way I had hoped with a 2-1 Portland win, I was extremely grateful to my father for making the trip possible so that I could see my home team play an away game. It gave me a sense of pride, like I was helping out my club who I love dearly. The next two Cascadia Cup matches will be played in Vancouver, then after that we’ll have to wait for the 2012 MLS season before the next set of fixtures start, but one thing is for sure: I will be in Seattle and Portland cheering, singing, and standing strong for my team, The Vancouver Whitecaps.

Now, what does this mean for football in North America? Firstly, it shows the amount of support that the teams get. Portland Timbers draw an average of 18,000+ fans and are out of the playoffs in their inaugural season, and have already sold 2,000 season tickets for 2012. Vancouver, despite being last in the league, drew the third highest average attendance in its’ inaugural year, gathering 20,600 fans to Empire Field. Seattle draw just over 38,000 on average to their games, and have the largest ultra group in North America. That leads me to my next point: Ultras. There are many die hards in the Northwest, and all over the MLS in general, but the ones that everyone pays attention to are the Emerald City Supporters (Seattle), and the previously mentioned Timbers Army and Vancouver Southsiders. In just a few months, Vancouver’s paid membership went from 100 to 700, and is still growing. Portland has over 1000, and is also still growing rapidly, Seattle has over 2200 and also continues to grow increasingly faster every day. All in all, games like these can draw new ultras to their respective groups. I for one, joined just two days ago upon returning to Vancouver after my Portland trip. The thought of being an ultra and being a part of a group who supports my team the same way I do is an experience that I want to continue.

Another point worth noting is the atmosphere at the games. The Northwestern clubs, particularly those south of the border, create a European type feel to the games, and that should trigger a gradual upswing in fan support for these teams. In addition, it will influence other clubs and should make their ultras increase in number similar to the Cascadian clubs.

However, along with the positive aspects, there are the negatives. One of these is the potential for “hooliganism” and officials have to take security measures to ensure the safety of all fans. There are ultras attending games who support violence, racism, and other politically incorrect and controversial views and are only too happy to make them known to their fellow spectators. Italian ultras regularly who don’t get their way have been known to become violent, and Turkish ultras literally kill each other for supporting the rival team. MLS ultras certainly aren’t like this, in fact, they’re against hooliganism and what it stands for. This is something Cascadia Cup officials need to realize, as it’s preventing the away allocation for games to be shortened to just 500 per match. Maybe with a little bit of cooperation (which is what supporter groups of all three Cascadian teams do), the officials will realize that there is no danger of violence and will raise the allocation in the near future. Right now, all the ultras can do is attend away games in support of their teams and respect the rival teams supporters and their right to cheer for their team without fear of reprisal.

Overall, it was a great experience travelling to Portland, and I hope to do it again next year in both Oregon and Seattle as the remaining two fixtures will be played in Vancouver. For now, I am happy to report that MLS is on the rise, and so too are the fans and the atmosphere that they create. Look out for us, because we’ll be taking the footballing world by storm one step at a time.

BianconeroSouthsider