Toronto FC hands permanent bans to four supporters after violence at BMO Field
Toronto FC has handed four supporters a permanent ban in the wake of ugly scenes in the stands at Tuesday's Canadian Championship loss to CF Montreal.
All four have been "immediately and permanently banned" from all MLSE facilities and cannot apply for reinstatement in the future.
It marks the first time the Major League Soccer club has resorted to permanent bans. In the past, offenders have been able to apply for reinstatement after a year.
TFC said more people could face sanctions, given the investigation is ongoing and preliminary findings showed "multiple fans" had violated the stadium's code of conduct.
All four fans banned had Toronto FC ticket accounts with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
"It's disappointing," Toronto president Bill Manning said in an interview. "We take this seriously. We hold keeping a safe environment in our stadium as our highest priority. The visiting Montreal fans should be able to come to our stadium and enjoy the game even if they're rooting for the opposition. And we expect that from them when we go to Montreal.
"These type of violations of what we call the code of conduct in our venues, it can't be tolerated."
In response to Tuesday's incidents, CF Montreal has banned visiting Toronto fans from Saturday's MLS rematch at Saputo Stadium, closing the visiting supporters’ section
Tuesday's game, won 2-1 by Montreal, was marred by several incidents in the stands.
There were fights involving some travelling Montreal fans in their perch in the north corner of the east stand. One video showed several people brawling at the top of the stand.
It appears the intrusion into the visiting fan section was premeditated, according to someone with knowledge of the incident who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Following the final whistle, Toronto midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye had to be restrained on the field from going after some abusive TFC fans in the south stand. Video posted on social media showed a fan throwing a megaphone on the field in Kaye's direction.
Some supporters groups in the south stand have leaders with megaphones who orchestrate chants.
The club did not identify the four supporters who had been banned. But they include the megaphone-thrower, The Canadian Press has learned.
Asked about how the lifetime ban is enforced, an MLSE spokesman said the identity and likeness of the four individuals are known to all venue security and if they are seen at an MLSE venue in the future, they will be arrested and charged with trespassing.
Kings in the North, one of the supporters groups, issued a statement after the game distancing themselves from the incident.
"There is absolutely no place for this filth in our stands," it said.
The performance on and off the field drew plenty of social media comment, including calls for Toronto front-office firings with the injury-depleted team mired at 2-3-6, in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
"Fights in the stands. A megaphone thrown at players. Bad football. What happened to our club?" tweeted a fan under the handle TFC Forever.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press