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MLS 101: Hooligans and Fan Bans. (Or: Where Did that Code of Conduct Come From?)

Did anybody else sit down in your seats for the first game and pick up that little flyer thing detailing your rights and responsibilities as a fan and think, Wait, what?!?

Was this a PC Seattle thing? Or an acknowledgement that our fans are so amazingly and awesomely bad that we needed a special set of rules?

Actually, this Code of Conduct (which I'll discuss more in a later post) is an MLS-wide thing, and it's new as of the beginning of this season. After several incidents last year, and after wildly varying responses to incidents from stadium to stadium, The Great Powers of MLS decided that this would be a good time to codify.

What kind of incidents were those, you ask? Well, let's travel back to take a look, because this is interesting.

First? The Hoolie Fan Scuffle. This one happened during the Columbus-West Ham friendly last summer, and no, these were apparently not English hooligans traveling to Ohio (Ohio?!?) to mix it up with the locals. From what I've read they were locals themselves, but wearing West Ham jerseys. (Here's my take on this type of pseudo-European hoolie fan.)

Oh, and when the code of conduct talks about freedom from "thrown objects" (other than streamers and confetti)? We've already seen the beer. (Or at least an amber liquid that was apparently beer at some point.) Outside of that, though? Enjoy the video below.

I'm pretty sure that giving away seat cushions probably seemed like an excellent idea at the time. In the future, however, they may want to first check the aerodynamics.

No harm, no foul, though. It's not like people will get seriously injured by flying seat cushions.

But didn't I read that some brainiac club gave out freaking commemorative coins this year? Because, y'know, coins used as projectiles can't cause serious injuries. Or anything.

On a darker note, there was the incident in Columbus (where else?), caught on a homemade video and later posted on YouTube, where someone is heard repeatedly calling New England's Shalrie Joseph an Effing N-Word. (But, y'know, without the euphemisms.) Shalrie's crime? Scoring late.

Interestingly, when you click on the link that originally took you to the video, it now reads:

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Major League Soccer, LLC"

This is interesting because a) the video was fan-created, and b) MLS embraces YouTube and has probably the loosest standards of any league in the world for enforcing copyright violations of this sort. But this video was definitely a negative from a PR standpoint, and so it is now gone.

And last but not least, how does a Fan of the Year get himself a lifetime ban? Dave over at Red Bulls Offside has a very interesting two-parter from last year about former Red Bulls Fan of the Year Thomas Binkley, and how he ended up getting himself permanently banned from the stadium for using bad words. From Dave:

One story that has struck a strong chord with Red Bull supporters was the Lifetime Ban given to 2006 Fan of the Year and season ticket holder, Thomas Binkley. Binkley, or “Binks” as he is referred to, is an instrumental part of the Red Bull fans support structure. He organizes road trips, is a long time member of the ESC, and has supported the team through years of mediocrity and ownership changes - all from his home in Virginia! Yes, he actually travels down to every home game to take in the action, from deep in the heart of enemy (DC) territory.
That's dedication.

Binkley was later reinstated, along with the rest of the "Beckham 7." (Hee.) But the incident raised some questions about what kind of conduct should be punished, and how it should be punished, and who should make the final decisions.

So did this Code of Conduct solve these problems? Did it create potential new ones?

That's a topic for a later post.

This post is part of our MLS 101 series, where we take you through some of the things that are unique to MLS. For more, click here.

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