On Sunday night, four Orlando City Soccer Club fans were arrested in Tampa on a variety of charges after fights, disorderly behavior and smoke bombs broke out in an exhibition game against Tampa Bay Rowdies.
In addition to the four arrests, 16 Orlando City fans were ejected from Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, the home of the Rowdies NASL team.
During the game, Orlando City fans set off several smoke bombs in full view of security guards. Later in the game, a smoke bomb canister was ignited, which filled the area of the stadium with clouds of smoke, and appeared to start a fire (see video below). Thankfully, no one was injured.
The incident, which could have easily resulted in injuries, was extremely careless of Orlando City supporters.
While a smoke bomb canister is considered an explosive and isn’t allowed in a stadium, the Orlando City Soccer Club promotes smoke bombs as a reason to join the club and become a season ticket customer. According to the Orlando City Soccer Club, the club “encourages self expression” and lists smoke bombs as one of the selling points (see below; this was posted before Sunday night’s game).
As a team that will play in MLS next year, it’s completely irresponsible for a club to promote this type of behavior. Smoke bombs present a safety risk and threaten the safety of fans, players and stadium employees. They should not be allowed in soccer stadiums. And in encouraging fans to use smoke bombs, albeit for home games, this policy can quickly escalate into uncontrollable behavior as was witnessed in Tampa this past weekend.
The sooner Orlando City stops endorsing the use of smoke bombs, the better.
In a statement from Orlando City Soccer Club, it read “As a club we are committed to creating a safe, comfortable and enjoyable soccer experience for all fans in and around the stadiums where we play.” But if the club is committed to a safe experience, why is it promoting the use of smoke bombs?