MLS Approves Away Ticket Policy In Pacific Northwest

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Dec 15, 2010

‘The Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers have reached a unique agreement which will make it easier for fans to travel to away Major League Soccer games.’

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‘Under the plan, the Whitecaps, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders will make up to 500 tickets available for visiting fans. This will allow the away supporters to sit in the same section and cheer on their teams.

Paul Barber, Vancouver’s chief executive officer, said the ticket arrangement made sense because of the close proximity of the three cities and the rivalries built in previous leagues.

“We’ve been working very closely with Portland and Seattle over the last couple of months, and also with the league, to make sure we have a policy that is not only consistent for our three clubs, but the league could adapt and roll out across the rest of the league as well,” Barber said in an interview Wednesday.

Dan Courtemanche, the MLS’s executive vice-president, said the league currently has no set policy for tickets for visiting supporters.

“Prior to the start of the 2011 season, MLS will announce league-wide guidelines for travelling supporters,” Courtemanche said in an email to The Canadian Press.

Barber said the Whitecaps should know before Christmas when the team will play its inaugural MLS game, and if the match will be at home.

“We are pretty relaxed about who we play, as long as it’s a home game,” he said. “If it’s a home game we will be delighted.

“If it’s a home game against one of our big rivals, we will be even more delighted.”

The demand for Whitecaps season tickets is also approaching the 16,500 cap set by the team.

“We have to make a big decision early in the new year whether we raise the cap on the number of season tickets we were originally prepared to sell,” said Barber.

Under the ticket plan, host clubs will make the 500 seats available in advance to the visiting team. The visiting club will sell those tickets, at face value, directly to their own fans, Barber said.

The idea is to help create a good atmosphere for games while also trying to keep a lid on rowdy behaviour by travelling fans. Travelling fans who cause problems wouldn’t be sold tickets for future matches.

Barber agreed North American soccer matches don’t normally have the violence that sometimes erupts between fans in other countries.

“The atmosphere at games here is different,” he said. “The rivalries are not quite as intense, the history is not quite as long.

“Never the less, this is high level sport. Emotions run high. It’s important that if we have fans from visiting teams in the same building as the home fans that we manage it properly . . . that we make sure everyone knows what is expected of them. If there are any issues we will be dealing with them promptly and very efficiently.”

Currently the arrangement is between just the three clubs. It could be extended to other teams in the future, like Toronto FC or Montreal, when they join MLS in 2012, said Barber.

A spokesman for the Toronto FC said the club does not have an formal agreement with other teams.

Toronto supporters usually travel in groups to games in Columbus or New England where tickets are easily obtained.

Toronto does hold back some tickets for visiting fans. If those tickets are not used, they are released to the general public.

Courtemanche said D.C. United regularly has hundreds of supporters travel to New York and Philadelphia for away matches.

Barber said the high demand for season tickets in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland could make it difficult to purchase a game-day ticket.

The three cities all had teams in the old North American Soccer League and United Soccer Leagues.

The Whitecaps will start their MLS season at Empire Field, a 27,500-seat temporary facility located on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in East Vancouver. They will move to B.C. Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver once the $565 million in renovations are completed on the building.

The soccer configuration for B.C. Place will be around 25,000.

The MLS season will begin in mid March.’

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