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Toronto FC suspends supporter group perks after flares spark fires

Montreal (AFP) – Major League Soccer champions Toronto FC said Thursday they are suspending “all supporter group privileges” after some of the club’s fans set fire to the Ottawa Fury stadium in a Canadian Championship match on Wednesday.

Ottawa police and fire department personnel responded and the match was halted briefly after flares launched from the Toronto FC supporter section set the fans’ own flags alight.

One video posted on Twitter shows the fans scrambling to put out the flames in the stands while another showed a small blaze erupting on the pitch in front of the Toronto section and being quickly stamped out.

“The safety of our fans, employees and supporters is the highest priority for TFC,” Toronto FC President Bill Manning said in a statement on Thursday. “The events which took place in Ottawa last night involving TFC supporters were unacceptable and needlessly put the safety of others at risk.

“Due to the seriousness of this incident we are left with no choice but to suspend all recognized supporter group privileges indefinitely as we conduct a thorough review of TFC’s recognized supporter program.

“We are fully cooperating with the Ottawa Police Department as they investigate this incident and work to identify those responsible.”

Jeff Bradley, director of communications for Toronto FC, said perks enjoyed by members of the supporter groups include being allowed to bring items such as oversized flags and drums into their designated sections of the stadium.

Those privileges will be suspended while the investigation of the incident continues, he said.

The Fury had seemed less concerned in their post-match statement, saying the smoke and fire “appeared to be more serious than they were”.

They noted, however, that the contraband flares had gone undetected in stadium security checks and said police had launched an investigation.

Toronto beat the Fury, a United Soccer League outfit, 1-0 in the semi-final first-leg match in the tournament which gives the winner Canada’s berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Defending champions Toronto are six-time winners of the competition.

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