Some say participating as a travelling fan is a privilege.
Opposing teams in theory don't have to open sections of their stadiums for away fans, but it is a standard practice around the soccer-world to allow fans to cheer their team on the road in an organized fashion.
On Aug. 1, the New York Red Bulls traveled to Philadelphia to play the Union. Given the proximity of the two teams, a full contingent of Red Bulls fans from the Empire Supporters Club, Viking Army, and Garden State Ultras supporters groups traveled to PPL Park.
Due to the size of the travelling contingent, away fans were placed in section 132 of PPL Park, rather than the standard 133. This left the supporters section exposed on both sides to home fans, and the need for the Union to deploy APEX Security on both sides to monitor the situation.
Our friends over at the Brotherly Game, break down the situation with detail, showing how this deployment lead to incidents breaking out among Union and RBNY supporters. Whenever alcohol and rivalries are mixed, tensions are going to be high, and we're not going to take a side on who started what.
What we do know is that Once a Metro did get confirmation of skirmishes breaking out from the Union, with a spokesperson saying, "we had [a fight] between the two supporters section that led to two ejections."
Apparently tensions rose after Union fans started holding up NYCFC jerseys (hey guys, you do you, I guess) at the travelling contingent, and then Red Bulls fans responding to rile up Union supporters.
Due to the set up of the away supporters sections, Red Bulls supporters are cornered off in their own section on the concourse, unable to travel around to the whole stadium to prevent skirmishes from happening. After the match, fans travel downstairs to the away exit, passing only one set of bathrooms on the way out. Once a Metro learned that fans were denied entrance into the stadium bathrooms before leaving, being led to port-a-johns on the way out.
When asked for comment, the Philadelphia Union said, "Our [security] report does not indicate that any bathrooms were closed for Red Bulls supporters. For a supporters group this large we have the opportunity for RB supporters to use either the portable bathroom outside, or the bathroom outside of their section in the concourse. But no fans were forced into the portable bathrooms outside.
"Since most incidents involving away supporters typically happen in restrooms, the portable restrooms are possibly encouraged for safety purposes, but at no point would our security personnel force anyone to go into the portable restroom."
This statement directly clashes with two supporters who spoke to Once a Metro.
One supporter said, "We had no access on the 3rd level where we were sitting. And the only thing accessible on the ground level were port-a-potties."
This account was directly corroborated by another supporter who said overall the trip to Philadelphia "was a disappointing experience."
"After the match the supporters were brought down through the back of the section and when we reached the ground level there were security officials waving us over to the exit and the port-a-johns," the supporter said.
"Everyone who veered to the bathrooms (and there weren't many), were told to go in the opposite direction. The port-a-johns were not too gross by then, but it would have been nice to wash my hands."
Request for clarification from the Union on the incidents were not returned.
In the end, it is a shame for both sides that skirmishes broke out and security reacted in a way to those skirmishes that diminished the experience for away fans. Once a Metro does not condone violence, but we can hope that the next visit to PPL Park goes off without incident.
First, a clarification about the Union's statement on the bathroom situation. The original statement from the Union was a general statement and did not address the post-match handling. When Once a Metro went for clarification on post-match, the Union did not respond.
Twitter User @Lar1sa also gave us her account of the situation.
Fence was across concourse to separate us. At the end, fence was moved closer to exit to bar access to bathrooms. https://t.co/SU47zNzOWL— Lar1sa (@Lar1sa) August 5, 2015
@Once_A_Metro I didn't. I made note of it as I had to cut through the port-a-john lines to leave the stadium. Can't believe they're denying.— Lar1sa (@Lar1sa) August 5, 2015