Chicago Fire's feud with supporter group continues
The Chicago Fire and its most vocal supporters find themselves in a lose-lose situation with no clear way through.
The Fire announced Friday it has denied an appeal by Sector Latino Chicago and no longer recognizes Sector Latino as a supporter group. The Fire is revoking the tickets of all fans in that section in the southwest corner of Toyota Park for the rest of the season, returning fans' money for those season tickets.
The Fire has accused Sector Latino members of throwing bottles onto the field, instigating a fight with an opposing team's supporter after a game in May in the parking lot and lighting smoke bombs in the stands.
"Recently, members of the supporter group Sector Latino Chicago committed repeated violations of (the MLS and Toyota Park fan code of conduct)," the club wrote in a statement. "Despite providing the group's leadership with multiple opportunities to correct or eliminate such misbehavior, serious violations continued, including after being given a final warning.
"Although not all members were involved, the number of violations by certain group members -- including some of the group's leadership and the unwillingness or inability of the leadership to prevent further violations -- left no alternative ..."
The Fire denied Wednesday's appeal by Sector Latino, saying it "failed to provide any evidence that contradicted the league and the club's findings."
The Fire first revoked the Sector Latino tickets for the June 9 home game vs. New England. Other supporters groups, located behind the north goal, responded by sitting quietly during the match or not entering the stadium at all in support of Sector Latino. Section 8, the Fire's Independent Supporters Association, has called for that boycott to continue with Saturday's home game vs. New York City FC.
It is not clear how long the fan boycott will continue.
The Fire (5-7-5, 20 points) is in seventh place in the 11-team Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer at the midpoint of the season.
The Fire is averaging an announced crowd of 14,276 fans through the first nine home games this season. Only two teams -- the Columbus Crew, which has threatened to move to Austin, Texas, after this season, and D.C. United, which has had to find alternate home fields while waiting for its new home stadium, Audi Field, to open -- are averaging fewer fans in the 23-team league. The league leader is second-year franchise Atlanta United FC at 48,036.