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Chicago Fire, supporters groups reach compromise after 2018 drama

Aug 11, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls players listen to the national anthem before MLS game at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — For most of the 2018 season, the Chicago Fire and its supporters endured a war of words that featured season ticket holders being banned from matches and supporters boycotting home matches.

On Wednesday, the Fire and Section 8 Chicago, the independent association for Fire supporters, announced a compromise as the 2019 season nears. The short version is that the second supporters’ section is moving from section 101 to section 137, behind the south goal. On top of that, all of the fans banned at one point in 2018 can come back in 2019.

As a result of the compromise, Section 8 has ended its boycott, which took place for the final five home matches of 2018. In a statement, Section 8 referred to this as an “amicable consensus.”

“After several months of boycott against the Chicago Fire front office’s suspension policy, we look forward to returning to in-stadium support for the 2019 season,” Section 8 chairwoman Nicole Hack said.

Section 8 leadership and the Fire front office had multiple meetings in the offseason to discuss a way forward. This is the result of those discussions.

“Over the course of four productive and informative meetings during the offseason – where we saw a genuine spirit of cooperation – the club and supporters have agreed on a path forward,” Fire president and general manager Nelson Rodriguez said. “The focus will be combining our efforts in support of each other and ultimately giving our team home field advantage.”

This marks an important step in easing the tension between the two sides, which started when the Fire revoked all tickets in section 101 for multiple incidents that violated the fan code of conduct.

The conflict started with a fight in the Toyota Park parking lot after a May 20 home match against Houston. Members of the supporters group known as Sector Latino were involved in the fight, but not all the individuals involved were identified. The Fire issued a final warning to all of section 101.

At the next home match, a smoke bomb connected to Sector Latino went off, which was another violation of the code of conduct. The Fire’s response was to revoke all season tickets in section 101, including for those who were not involved in either incident. Additionally, the Fire no longer recognized Sector Latino as a supporters group.

Things got worse when some supporters protested in the vacated section 101 during a match against Toronto on July 21. All of the fans identified in that were given season-long bans. That sparked Section 8’s boycott.

While the members of Sector Latino will still be able to have a separate supporters’ section in the new home in section 137, the Sector Latino name is still not recognized by the Fire.

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