Remember the last time NYC FC came to visit Red Bull Arena? Happy days for the New York Red Bulls: two goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and three points.
It was a good day out for RBNY fans. And quite possibly a good day out for NYC FC's supporters. They bravely crossed a river and a state line in the name of championing their team on its very first derby. As so often happens on the first time, they were a little hasty: fumbling the unfurling of a banner...
...and carelessly dropping a smoke bomb or flare on to the pitch.
The latter caught the attention of both MLS and RBNY. Both the league and the Red Bulls brought sanctions down on NYC FC's supporters, meaning that fewer will be allowed to band together in the away fans' section at RBA (the ticket allocation to NYC FC's SGs was cut from 1,500 to 500) and they won't be able to carry very much with them.
In a message to supporters' on nycfcforums.com, Third Rail president Rox Fontaine outlines the scope of the prohibitions on those few fans who will be forming the NYC FC SGs' contingent at RBA:
As you’re already aware, we had some sanctions handed down by MLS and Pink Cows that greatly restrict our typical game day experience. We have NO exemptions for this match. I repeat, there are ZERO exemptions. No flags of any kind, no banners of any kind, no streamers, ticker tape, confetti or others projectiles, no beach balls, no instruments of any kind and, of course, no smoke bombs, flares or other pyrotechnics. If you violate their policies and are caught, you will be arrested!
Ouch. Tough times to be a supporter of NYC FC. But fans - even those fearful of rivers and inter-state transport systems - are resourceful. The Third Rail has hatched a plan to protest the sanctions, to show MLS and RBNY that supporters of New York's newest team will not be silenced. They will protest. Specifically, they will protest with food.
My call to action is to respond to Pink Cow sanctions with your money. Don’t give it to them! Bring your own food and a drink to the stadium in a clear bag at or below their dimension requirements. It’s legal and it’s a powerful way to make a statement without tarnishing the NYCFC supporter brand.
On Sunday August 9, Red Bull Arena shall bow to the awesome power of the packed lunch. Be wary, Red Bulls fans: our visitors will have their own sandwiches. They may also have soda.
It is the Third Rail's hope that this pale blue picnic will shake RBA to its core:
Don’t spend a dime in their arena and it will be noticed. Can you imagine All 500+ of us not walking out to the concourse at half time and having our own "block party" right in our section? That’s a strong visual and I believe it would have a major impact.
The soda-and-sandwich protest may very well have a major impact, though perhaps not as intended by its participants. The third (the teams met at Yankee Stadium in June) and perhaps final (might not be room for both these teams in the playoffs) edition of the New York Derby in 2015 will almost certainly be a sell-out. The Red Bulls announced they were 500 tickets short of capacity in mid-week. There is already a healthy secondary market for tickets. Certainly, it can expected the Arena will more full than usual - and that is traditionally a problem.
On the concourses, Red Bull Arena is, generally speaking, a disaster whenever it gets close to full capacity. When the stadium is packed, the Arena's concessions stands seem perpetually under-prepared: service is slow, lines form quickly, tangling and intersecting with equally long lines for the bathrooms. Throw in a stream of pedestrian traffic trying to weave through the festival of waiting, and you have an often bewildering and invariably frustrating half-time experience.
This has two implications for NYC FC's picnic protest.
First, sadly, it is unlikely to be noticed (Red Bull already told 1,000 of you not to show up at all): 500 or so people is likely no more than a fraction of those who simply don't bother to get food or drink at half-time because of the maddening inefficiencies of RBA's concessions (don't blame the staff - this issue has persisted through many seasons: the blame lies with management) and the constricting space of the concourse (the pitch is a beauty and the seats are wonderful - but someone didn't put quite enough thought into how all those happy spectators were going to get round each other during the break). When there are 20,000 or more in the stands - unless you time your run very well - there is only a slender chance of getting a pee and a pint and getting back to your seat before the second half kicks off at Red Bull Arena.
Which leads to the second implication for the picnickers: if they follow through on their plan, they'll make the match-day experience a little easier on themselves and everyone else. Fewer people clogging the concourse means a better-than-usual chance for harried parents to get kids through bathrooms and concessions before the whistle blows for the second half. And not leaving your seat at all at half-time is one of the better ways to enjoy RBA when it's full.
Rage on, NYC FC fans. Pack your 12" x 12" x 3" clear, gallon-sized bags with snacks and eat them as angrily as you please. And thank you for doing your bit to make RBA a more enjoyable place for the rest of us.