The Santos Laguna Away Game
Richard gives us an insight about what the Front Office were thinking.
Richard Bamber
Sep 15th 2011

Photo: Mani Nadjmi

It’s not often I take to the blogs but it has been apparent that there has been a lot of comment about the arrangements for the Santos game, most of it from an uninformed point of view. As someone who was consulted & party to the discussions leading up to the decisions made I would like to share with you some of the things considered.

Before I start I would like to state that this blog is not going to deal with comments about the way security policed the section on Tuesday night, I plan to cover that at a later date.

I would like you to imagine you are in the shoes of Jeff Plush & his team and are tasked with how to divide up the stadium for the home game against Santos Laguna. Your projections say that about 4000 Rapids fans are expected while up to 8000 Santos fans may show up. As it is a Mexican team the crowd supporting Santos will be mainly Hispanic & prior experience says they will want to pay cash on the night to get into the game. Clearly with a stadium capacity of 18,000 there is no question of turning anybody away.

In America all MLS clubs practice ‘soft’ segregation between groups of fans supporting opposing teams.The idea is that while there defined sections for the most passionate supporters, no part of the stadium becomes a ‘no go’ area. However one thing you do try to do is not give large numbers of opposing fans a reason to mix. You do this by laying out the stadium in such as way that the different groups of fans get different routes to enter / exit the stadium & to / from their seats. It is much more than just picking a section for both sets of fans; it’s about considering where everyone will be tailgating pregame, which gate people will be entering through & which routes supporters will be taking round the concourses.

First, due to CONCACAF Champions League Regulation 10.4 you have to close the only standing section in the stadium which means there goes the terraces. Meaning that the BSG & the Pid Army need to be relocated to the stands adding to the mix.

So then you have basically three options for placing the Santos fans:

1. West Stands – This inconveniences your highest paying season ticket holders (& no they are not part of the supporters groups). Plus it puts Santos fans right by things like the team store, guest services & most of the service tables located on that side which are mainly there for the benefit of home fans.

2. South Stands – This initially sounds like a good idea as none of the supporters groups are located there. However if you give the away team this part of the stadium you struggle to give the opposing fans the separate routes talked about earlier. One result of this would be that the supporters tailgate would probably have to be moved from the VIP West lot & the BSG Shuttles would have to move to lot A on the East side.

3. East Stands – This allows you to give the Santos fans their own tailgate area, own entry / exit gates & side of the stadium. You can even set up a dedicated ticket office for them to process expected high proportion of game day sales. It also preserves the supporters group’s tailgate & march into the stadium plus gives them the Cantina for a half time drink. Class VI in section 108 do end up being inconvenienced but as only 4000 Rapids fans are expected you can easily offer them like for like seats on the west side for the same price. The other big potential kicker is that the Santos fans will be featured more prominently on TV.

So you have a difficult decision make & with all decisions there are going to be people who are inconvenienced & negative sides to it. But it really is a case of weighing up all the pros & cons and then deciding what is best for everybody.

I really think the Rapids chose the best option here as it provided the best balance between providing for home fans & addressing the issue of having a large away support in the stadium. The Santos fans generally paid $20 for a ticket while the BSG & Pid Army were offered tickets for $10 – 2/3 of the price of a terrace ticket for a much improved view. Season ticket holders got a similarly good deal, paying $8.35 a ticket (if bought as a 3 game strip) rather than the $13 for a regular MLS game.

For those complaining about how the Santos fans were treated better I have to ask how so? The terrace supporters groups paid the least to get into the game for better than usual facilities. The Rapids even relocated the capo stands for us & relaxed the rules on flags, banners, drums & other cheering items. They let us stand for the full 90 minutes. We had the best bar & smoking area in the stadium right by our section & the shortest distance to / from the parking lot. What else do you want?

Clearly if supporting the team from a premium seat is what you care about then the terraces or south stands are not for you. The BSG has ticket deals in other parts of the stadium or you can always go & sit with Class VI who exist to cater for that type of supporter.

One of the messages that come from this is that if we don’t want to see away fans outnumbering the home fans then we need to get more Rapids fans to the games. Complaining to the front office & not renewing your season tickets is hardly going to help achieve that, is it?

One side point is that, on reflection the Front Office should have fully considered the Santos game as soon as the Champions League group fixtures were released. They should have moved the BSG & Pid Army just once to the south stands. Im sure, with all the extra phone calls and extra hours spent moving peoples tickets a second time, they now understand it could have been handled a bit better & dont need us to continually point it out to them!

Anyway the 3rd & final Champions League group game will be next Wednesday September 21st at 8pm against Real Espana. We plan to run two shuttle departures & Class VI / Pid Army will be providing the tailgate. Info & reservations can be found at here. Ill see you on the bus!

- Richard

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