Things got heated Thursday night during a Canadian Championship semifinal between Toronto FC and host Ottawa Fury FC. Literally. Like, fires were started.
Late in the second half, flares lit by a group identified as Toronto FC supporters sitting in the north end of TD Place caused a banner to catch fire, with some pieces of the burning flag ending up on the pitch before they were stomped out by stadium security. The fans also lit firecrackers, which, like flares, are not allowed in the stadium.
Here’s a good view of the fire spreading to the field while the game was being played (it was halted for about five minutes):
Ottawa Fury FC issued a statement after the game:
“There was an incident at TD Place this evening during the Canadian Championship semifinal match between Ottawa Fury FC and Toronto FC of the MLS. Members of the TFC supporters group smuggled a small quantity of fireworks into the stadium and ignited them during the second half of the match. The fireworks flared and boomed for a short time and were quickly extinguished by TD Place security. No fans were injured in the incident and the perpetrators were ejected from the building.
“Upon seeing smoke and fire, which appeared to be more serious than they were, fans in other parts of the stadium notified Ottawa Police and Ottawa Fire that an incident had occurred and emergency services quickly responded. Upon arrival they confirmed the incident had been resolved and returned to their respective stations.
“All members of the visiting supporters group had been subjected to bag checks and security scans prior to entering the stadium and no fireworks or other devices were detected. TFC has apologized for the behavior of the members of the supporters group responsible for igniting the fireworks. Ottawa Police have launched an investigation into the incident.
“Public safety is of paramount importance and TD Place will review this incident and security policies to determine how they might be modified to prevent such incidents in the future.”
Toronto FC issued a statement of its own later Thursday, saying it had suspended the privileges of its recognized supporter groups in the wake of the incident.
“The safety of our fans, employees and supporters is the highest priority for TFC. The events which took place in Ottawa last night involving TFC supporters were unacceptable and needlessly put the safety of others at risk,” the statement from Toronto FC President Bill Manning read. “Due to the seriousness of this incident we are left with no choice but to suspend all recognized supporter group privileges indefinitely as we conduct a thorough review of TFC’s recognized supporter program. We are fully cooperating with the Ottawa Police Department as they investigate this incident and work to identify those responsible.”
One of the groups, called the Inebriatti, posted a message denying responsibility on its Facebook page.
Another group, the Red Patch Boys, expressed dismay that the club had taken action against the supporter groups.
Toronto FC’s next match is an MLS game Saturday night against the Chicago Fire in Bridgeview, Ill. It hosts Ottawa in the second leg of its Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday.
According to the CBC, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which operates TD Place, will be fined by Soccer Canada for failing to detect the prohibited flammables.
After the game, a 1-0 win for the visitors, Toronto FC Coach Greg Vanney apologized for the “embarrassing scene” created by his team’s supporters, who seem to have a thing for flares. In June, a group of Columbus Crew fans were walking toward their home stadium when, they told police, they were met by six men in black Toronto FC T-shirts. One of the Crew fans was knocked to the ground and suffered burns to his leg when “somebody used a flare on his lower extremities,” Columbus Police Sgt. Dean Worthington told ABC6.
Here’s Toronto FC’s fans on flare-lit march before the MLS Eastern Conference final last year, again against the Crew.
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