Things have been a little rocky between management of the Orlando City Soccer Club and the team's supporters groups, ever since four unruly fans were arrested at a Tampa Bay Rowdies match against Orlando City in early July. First, Orlando City suspended both of its supporter groups – the Iron Lion firm and the Ruckus – and banned the four out-of-control fans from all future games through 2015. After a review of the incident, the club formed a fan advisory board to help keep an open line of communication with its supporters, and it reinstated the Ruckus. However, members of the group have been frustrated because they say the team's management hasn't given them an official code of conduct, telling them what the front office considers acceptable behavior at a game. One Ruckus member tells us that the group has been reprimanded for various activities at games, but nobody is telling members exactly what the team wants (and more importantly, doesn't want) them to do. This weekend, the Ruckus posted an open letter on Facebook to the Orlando City front office, letting it know that until it has a specific code of conduct for members, it will no longer participate in some of the typical supporter-group activities it used to take part in – no drums, no march-in, no banners. Those things have traditionally been an integral part of the team's games. The open letter from the Ruckus to team management is below.
Dear Orlando City Front Office,
We (the Ruckus) would like to express our continued commitment to the support of Orlando City. As stated in our own code of conduct, we continue our commitment to the supporting the team in the best way possible. The Ruckus’ purpose is now, and has always been, to support our Lions on the pitch in a non-threatening, non-violent manner. We will continue to do so.
As the first officially recognized Supporters Group, we are trying to determine what is considered acceptable language and behavior during OCSC matches. Unfortunately, the OCSC Front Office (FO) has continued to be vague with guidelines, frequently contradicting guidelines issued the week before. At every opportunity, as a group, we have attempted to comply with this ever changing situation including tailgating, dress, flag size, chant leader stands, leaning on fences, and language.
All of us wish to commit to supporting City on the pitch. This is why we have followed and complied with the constantly changing guidelines this year. However, the severity of penalties issued by the Front Office toward these constantly changing rules means that clarity is a must. Our members should know what counts as a violation and what is risked by violating such rules.
We are formally asking the FO to work with us toward the creation of a written and specific code of conduct. We ask for specifics because vague guidelines, rather than known rules, leave too much room for misunderstandings and are subject to interpretation. Thus negating our ability to protect ourselves. Additionally, organizing the efforts of supporter actions takes time and is difficult. Without clear rules, we can not police ourselves.
We, as a group, have decided that until FO clarifies rules, instead of ever shifting guidelines, the Ruckus will not be participating in actions that have become synonymous with the South End at Lions’ matches. We will not have a march in, nor will we provide any tifo displays or drums. We will, at our own discretion, chant. The severity of penalties and the ever shifting "guidelines" have become too much of a risk for us.
We are not happy about this action. We are, after all, supporters. We do not want the focus to be on us. We want it on the team. We sincerely hope that the OCSC front office understands our position and will work with us so we can bring the cheers, noise, and passion that mean so much to the City and the team. We want to be the best and loudest fans in soccer both now and next year in MLS.