Top Stories

Canadian corner: Fan power alive and well north of the 49

TFC Fans 1 (AP) 



It was a perfect storm of anger and frustration. Starting with a nasty 3-0 loss to Houston, shockingly continuing through a 2-0 loss in the Nutrilite Voyageurs’ Cup to USL-1 champion Vancouver and finally ending with a 2-1 spanking to the LA Galaxy, it was not the best week to be a Toronto FC fan. And many of the fans were quick to voice their displeasure with the team’s direction and form.

Seconds after the Voyageurs’ Cup loss I received a text message from one of the group’s leaders that simply read “Why do we put ourselves through this.”The feeling wasn’t isolated and quickly leaders from the three main groups started to discuss the possibility of holding some form of protest.

The youngest of the groups, The North End Elite, was the most vocal. It demanded a meeting with the TFC front office. Surprisingly the request was granted.  The other two main groups, the Red Patch Boys and U-Sector, were also invited. The meeting was scheduled for Friday, allowing for two days of hyperbole on the various discussion forums.

The meeting wasn’t pretty.

With captain Jimmy Brennan and coach Chris Cummins in attendance (the groups said that they wanted the team to know that their anger was directed at management rather than the team on the pitch), North End Elite announced that they were walking out of the LA game. Red Patch Boys said they would not walk out, but would protest by not buying concessions and not wearing TFC merchandise in the stands. U-Sector, although sympathetic to the frustrations, did not support an in-stadium protest.

All three groups followed through with their promises. North End Elite arrived at the game with flags and banners, stayed for the national anthems and the kick-off, then, as advertised, left. The Red Patch Boys section was far less red than usual and U-Sector showed up as per usual (even going so far as thanking the Red Patch Boys for the shorter beer lines in the stadium!).

For those that have followed the domestic game in Canada it was an odd sort of (to be charitable) empowerment or (to be less chartable) self-involvement shown by the fans. For years the Canuck footy freak took what he or she could get and liked it. It would have been unheard of for them to demand more.  But something happened back in the magical summer of 2007. Then, week after week a stunned football community looked on to see this mob of fun loving, unapologetic soccer fans. The sport had finally arrived. It had everyone’s attention.

So it was time to start airing long standing grievances. The first target was the CSA, which had been crippled by ineffective and amateur leadership for years.  When Costa Rica came to Toronto to play a friendly in September 2007 the fans mobilized. They filled the south end of BMO Field wearing black t-shirts that read “Sack the CSA.” The action was reported throughout Canada and around the world. More importantly, it got the attention of the CSA and although change is not happening as fast as some would like, there is little doubt that the organization is far more professional and far more focused on winning now than it was prior to “Black Wednesday.”

Now TFC’s management is the target. And, although it can be fairly argued that last week’s protests may have been premature, there is little doubt that the fan has become an important player in Canadian soccer.

Sure, to use a cliché, the inmates are kind of running the asylum. Thing is, it’s a step up from some of the leadership we’ve seen in Canada in the past.


  1. Just to clear up the back bacon vs. peameal, back bacon is still called back bacon in Ontario (as with everywhere else in Canada). Peameal is unsmoked back bacon rolled in cornmeal (ground yellow peas were originally used, hence the name) such that the edges of slices are coated.

    As for “Canadian bacon”, it’s just pork loin.

  2. Yeah, Fan Power!!!… Wait, they protested because of a Cup play loss sandwiched by two league losses???


    No, there’s discontent because for the last three years we’ve been fed the usual slow and steady approach by management. There have been no results, year-by-year to back anything up.

    If we can’t beat Mtl and Vancouver when they have roster salaries of half ours (two years straight), what chance will TFC have when those teams hit MLS?

  3. I thought MetroStar/Red Bull fans have been protesting for years (i.e., not showing up at games). It’s just that Club Management doesn’t remember them ever being there in the first place and has their heads so far up their asses to be able to hear any sort of fan protest.

  4. Unmentioned in the otherwise fine article is the role of the other teams owned by MLSE – TFC’s owners. The Leafs are a hockey team that has rarely been promising for decades in a hockey-mad market. The Raptors are forever in a cycle of bad, promising and then abandoned by the big name (McGrady, Carter and next????).
    The view of most Toronto sports fans is that the NHL/NBA franchises are maintained as status items, that corporate Canada supports Leafs/Raptors as the place to see and be seen. No hardcore pressure to win at any cost, just enjoy your night out.
    Although the TFC supporters protest was fuzzy and self-involved (and my blog took the U-Sector view), it was a brave attempt to say to all – TFC fans are different, their passions are larger than their expense accounts and they have expectations of excellence for themselves and their team. Since the protest did not hang on one or two issues, it was not swept away by a solution or two…although the recent roster moves have drawn attention as a possible improvement.

  5. I don’t understand the furor over a lack of a DP. Your team brought in DeRo in the offseason and a couple good rookies. For most teams that would be a good haul. The problem in Toronto seems to be the pressure to produce NOW. I understand that with tickets that expensive you have a right to expect results. But good teams in MLS are created out of multi-season stability, patient development of youth talent and team chemistry, and good coaching. Look to the Revs and Houston for this. Look what Columbus was able to do after a few years. Sometimes you don’t the right people right away. But the organization has to stop looking to Britain for answers (for worn-out overpriced players and an impatient whiny blowhard of a former coach) and start building right here. What is worth a complaint is the way they handled the Real Madrid thing.

  6. I dunno, the “walk-out” tactic might work for some, but FC Dallas fans have been trying it all year without much success.

  7. Yeah, Fan Power!!!… Wait, they protested because of a Cup play loss sandwiched by two league losses???

    Luckily this awful article is saved by an absolute classic display of American Ignorance versus Canadian Inferiority Complex in the comments section.

  8. “peameal bacon” is an Ontario thing. In the rest of the country it is back bacon (because it is bacon made from the meat from a pig’s back).

  9. Toronto FC fans are pretty much the scum of the earth. That is why they are always getting tased and beaten up.

  10. Perhaps worth noting that >90% of the fans at the game had no involvement in any of this and most were completely oblivious to it.

  11. There is nothing funny about the movie “Canadian Bacon”. Michael Moore wrote AND directed it, for gods sakes.

  12. “The youngest of the groups, The North End Elite, was the most vocal. It demanded a meeting with the TFC front office. Surprisingly the request was granted. The other two main groups, the Red Patch Boys and U-Sector, were also invited. The meeting was scheduled for Friday, allowing for two days of hyperbole on the various discussion forums.”

    This is awesome.

  13. Wow–I can’t believe the people saying “terrible fans” or “what whiners, protesting becasuse the season started poorly.” That’s not it at all:
    1. Every year, MoJo has said “we’re considering using our DP slot” or “we’re talking to someone about a DP signing” and it doesn’t happen.
    2. Every year, MoJo trades for a bunch of people then trades them away. The roster is a revolving door that goes a long way to explaining why the team never seems to settle.
    3. Every year MoJo signs some foreign talent and then it turns out that a lot of these players are tremendously over priced, in most cases clearly weren’t bargains (Cola League reserves for instance).
    4. The initial fricaso where Bob Gansler (definitely a veteran coach) was brought in to assist and left after his first year because it turns out that MoJo wanted him to be an assistant in title and pay but run the team while reporting to MoJo.

    I’m sure there are other factors. But the supporters clubs have made it very clear–they support the players, this has to do with management. The way most of us would do it is we’d stop attending. Or wouldn’t renew our season tickets. I think TFC’s approach is more likely to show results.

  14. The last few weeks have been utter embarrasing for FO and the team in general, and at times I’ve wondered why I still support a team who constantly frustrates. But one thing I would never do is walk out on the club, win or lose through good and bad you have to be with the club. It’s like a marriage. I love the support and passion NEE brings every game but there walkout was plain nonsense and reeked of snottiness. For an organization like NEE that prides themselves on old style football and are against modernization of the game I don’t know where they came up with the idea of this walk out. I can’t ever name an instance where the fans walked out on there club because they weren’t happy with what’s been going on.

  15. The French have never heard of French toast, either, and in England, no one has ever heard of an “English muffin.”

    Belgians are no bigger on waffles than anyone else. etc etc. Even those items commonly served as both chinese food and pizza south of the border are U.S. inventions.

  16. You beat me to it jloome. Nobody outside the U.S. has heard of “Canadian Bacon,” unless it’s a movie starring a bunch of funny-ass Canadians.

  17. Canadians are silly. btw… your bacon is really ham.

    Posted by: Trent | June 11, 2009 at 04:50 PM
    …and Americans are silly and ignorant. We don’t actually call it that. It’s a made up U.S. thing.

  18. C’mon Bob, lets not be so quick to judge. I like that there are fans and supporters groups that have that kind of passion for their club and league. In fact, MLS needs more of that. And kudos to the TFC FO for agreeing to the meeting and listening to what their fans have to say. I can almost guarrantee you wouldn’t find a pro team anywhere in the big 4 that would ever consider doing such a thing.

  19. It’s their house and I suppose they can do what they want, but walking out on your team? That’d make me switch my supporters club.

  20. Why do the fans think they know more about soccer? Or running a professional team? Or think they have a divine right to have a winning team?

  21. Yeah, Toronto fans are a bunch of whiny bitches. The south stand will be empty within 5 years. They’ve ALWAYS been bandwagon fans and this is just a taste of things to come. What a bunch of euro posers.

  22. Toronto’s concerns are hardly the concerns of the rest of Canada.

    And is this not season 3?… are you serious? Walking out on the team, protesting after a tough start to the season.

    It’s my understanding that the U-Sector are the longest serving fan group (back to the days of the Lynx, etc). They were the lone “supporters” group not to protest. They are the true fans.

    If antics like this took place in any other soccer league around the world, those leagues would drop from 20 to 5 teams.

  23. Wow… what terrible fans! As supporters, you’re supposed to stick with your team through it all! This is just showing that you will only cheer for a successful team. I would never do this for any team I cheer for. It only makes it worse. What could be more demoralizing for the players than to see their most passionate fans leave or not wear team colors in protest of the play on the field? This isn’t just a problem that you can fix by saying “oh ok, we should play better now! Sorry about that, guys! =)”. It’s a process that takes time, and often requires new players, new coaching, or both.

    So stop bitching and support your team, you hosers!

  24. prob with TFC fans is they protest everything. The smallest things (like not enough bank machines at BMO Field) bring an outcry. And then like a girlfriend who suddenly explodes one day, TFC fans add up every perceived slight into one big protest. And then TFC fans praise other team’s organizations as a way to criticize TFC’s FO. For example, in the criticism of BMO Field’s fieldturf, more than 1 TFC fan has said NYRB have a “world class organization” because they are building Red Bull Arena…. hahah.

  25. Marc, good point– especially since 12k is only their “reported” ticket sales. The actual number of people at those games is far less. The fans have voiced their protest by disappearing for years.

    Anybody have a decent guess at the TRUE attendance for Red Bull games? 5k? Less?

  26. Wish the FCD front office would grant a meeting with their fans. We aren’t even allowed to carry signs into the stadium that are critical of the FO.

  27. If red bull fans were to protest ocrapio would def be let go of. Hope he mans up n decided to admit that he missed up , brong in some of the most horrible players (for 6 figures) n that he is leaving.. If not, my people in salzburg eventually will get rid of him

  28. Kudos to the TFC fan groups. I have been quick to criticize TFC fans (when traveling supporters created problems at Columbus for instance or thrown stuff from the stands) but have always praised the atmosphere and support the fans and groups provide the club. Additionally, TFC fans marching with DCU fans in the stadium support march (plus even bringing a banner!) was just pure class.

    MLS will become a more competitive league not by buying more foreign talent (though that isn’t a bad thing). Because we’ve seen some foreign talent come here on a vacation. The two things that will have the most immediate impact on the competitiveness of games and urgency/energy level are:
    –greater difficulty to get to the playoffs (and expansion is doing that so ironically, expansion, rather than watering down the talent is upgrading the level of play) and…
    –pressure from the fans. The typical MO for a fan disappointed with the performance of the team in MLS is to stay home. For fans to pressure players to play more attractive soccer, to pressure the FO to perform at a higher/more coherent level, that will only sharpen MLS clubs and improve the product on the field. Energy from the stands and pressure to perform raises the intensity level on the field.

    Kudos to the TFC fans. Oh, and by the way, the TFC front-office doesnt’ do a good job–they deserve the pressure. Foreign signings have been mostly dreck, drafts have been hit or miss despite a lot of picks, most of them high. And trades have been mostly a series of card shuffling.

  29. There’s a lesson for everyone to learn there, particularly in the US, where apparently it takes a bunch of Canadians to remind US citizens what consumer power really is and how it works.

  30. I second the applause for the TFC fan groups- I also would like to know what the arguements were in the meeting with the club. Have not seen TFC play a lot this year but their offseason was fantastic so if performance is the problem then I would be pissed with the players not the management but if it is about the (BS) with Madrid than it makes sense it was not targeted at the players. Any more info other than their passion that I so hope Philly generates.

  31. Eric (and all others curious),

    There are a few issues – the Madrid prices, moving the Red Bulls game and a failure, in the opinion of some, for the FO to follow through on promises to improve the team.

    The tipping point was the loss to Vancouver.

  32. Ha, ha! These drunken idiots actually line up INSIDE the stadium to buy overpriced beer. I bet you they drink themselves silly outside, then stand in line inside for more.

  33. Props to the TFC fans for being able to actually get access to the FO.

    Nice to see some supporters be able to flex their muscle in a non-violent but still constructive way.

    Also about time that the CSA get it’s act together.

    It is a special group of circumstances; they have more leverage than most of the supporters outside of TO. And to their credit. What they are doing up North, I don’t think could be replicated in most of the MLS or USL cities down South.

  34. Duane – what are the specific points raised to management? Besides getting fleeced for the Real Madrid game. What are the fan groups’ complaints and their proposed solutions?

  35. WoW……. i would love to live in Toronto and be part of this Fan grups…!!!

    Man WHy do I live close to the Red Bullss



Leave a Comment