They added more seats last season, and the new roof is supposed to trap in noise, but BMO Field may well be quieter than usual when the season opens on May 7. The Inebriatti, as Toronto supporters group located in section 114, will lose supporters privileges for this match, and a week later against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Travelling supporters will also have some privileges revoked for this first four matches of the season: the season opener against the New York Red Bulls, and the three matches following that. As such Toronto supporters will not be allowed to cheer in a section with flags and other supporter paraphernalia.
This comes after Toronto FC supporters did significant damage to Saputo Stadium in Montreal during the final game of last year's MLS regular season. This damage reportedly resulted from flairs lit after Toronto FC had lost 2-1 to Montreal in a match that saw the club lose an automatic playoff game. The inebriatti were held responsible for the incident.
Should they adhere to these rules, supporters could regain privileges for their April 6 game against the Colorado Rapids, and the Inebriatti could be also see their sanctions lifted against the Vancouver Whitecaps should they adhere.
The punishment certainly seems strong for the incident, but as the old saying goes if you play with fire, or at least flammable products, you are bound to get burned. As a result a large number of supporters are going to pay the price for the actions of a few.
The club are still expecting a small group supports to travel down to New York on Sunday, but it could have been much bigger. With Toronto FC on an eight game road trip to start the season it certainly would have been nice for them to have had a strong supporter contingent for at least one of their games.
For a league trying to make sure that supporters culture doesn't get unruly as it has in other places around the world, it only makes sense to make an example of this incident. Such blatant breaking of the rules can be never be tolerated if they league wants to uphold the safe environment that it has mostly created.
Now, let's not pretend like Toronto supporters are the only ones who caused trouble last year. There were reported incidents out of Orlando, where travelling Vancouver Whitecaps supporters were allegedly attacked. New York Red Bull and New York City FC supporters got into a fight outside of the stadium. Montreal Impact supporters reportedly attacked Toronto fans during their playoff match last season. Should they have been punished as well? Obviously.
But this isn't any sort of excuse on constellation for perpetrators and defenders of what happened in Montreal last year. The league aren't picking on Toronto supporters in this either, this was just the only time they had enough evidence to catch those involved.
Hopefully this teaches the Inebriatti a lesson as well. The group has undoubtedly added a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm to the South end of BMO Field, and has led the way in returning the stadium's atmosphere to its former glory. But developing the reputation that it has is only going to work against what the group aims to accomplish.
At the end of the day stadiums like BMO Field will sacrifice atmosphere for safety every time, and that is the right decision.