TORONTO — Inebriatti, the supporters’ group turfed by Toronto FC for a fiery display at a Canadian Championship game in Ottawa, says punishing the many for actions by a few is unfair.
The group had previously accepted responsibility for the fireworks, which caused small fires in the stands and the pitch at TD Place at the July 18 match, with a cannon-like blast heard several blocks away from the stadium.
Inebriatti said in a July 23 statement that the incidents — while not acceptable — were "unplanned and accidental."
On Friday, the group reacted to the wide-ranging TFC sanctions imposed this week.
"We took responsibility for the events because our members brought the flares and the other groups should not have been punished for the actions of one group of individuals," Inebriatti said in a statement. "One person was responsible for the flare on the pitch and only a very small portion of our members travelled for the game.
"We co-operated fully with the (TFC) front office throughout the entire investigation and the individual has since come forward, presented himself to police and has been removed as a member. The incident remains under investigation by Ottawa police.
"During this time Inebriatti re-examined our behaviour. The leadership came to the conclusion we needed to restructure and focus our efforts in a less obnoxious fashion. Our commitment to this change was communicated to TFC.
"(On Thursday), TFC handed out collective punishment on a large group for the actions of an individual. We completely disagree with this approach. Collective punishment is not acceptable for the actions of one or a few members of a group."
TFC imposed "immediate and permanent termination" of Inebriatti’s status as an official supporters group and refunded all tickets associated with the group.
Inebriatti members are prohibited from entering the south end and supporters section of BMO Field until they have completed the online MLS Fan Conduct Education Class at their own expense.
The club said several individuals have also been banned from BMO Field and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment-owned properties indefinitely. The ban includes members of Inebriatti and non-members.
A source said five people had been handed lifetime bans with another three given indefinite suspensions with the chance of reinstatement. The source said 107 Inebriatti members are eligible to return to the south stand once they complete the league’s fan conduct course.
In its statement, Inebriatti cited its charity work in addition to spending "thousands of dollars on tifos, banners, flags and displays."
"To punish all of these people for the actions of a few is simply wrong and unjust. We regret this will create a void in support for the team we love. Being banned will not (a)ffect our love for the Reds and we will continue to support as best we can."
Veteran defender Drew Moor said he hoped some good could come out of the situation.
"I’m a huge fan of our fans and our supporters groups. And they’re extremely important to us." he said. "But with that being said, they need to conduct themselves in a safe and non-violent way. I want them there making the absolute best atmosphere as they usually do. But they need to go about it the right way.
"We all feel them when they’re there. But even more so, we feel them when they’re not."
In the wake of the Ottawa incident, Toronto also suspended supporter privileges for the U-Sector and Original 109 groups, meaning they could not bring in flags, drums or other paraphernalia. Both have since been reinstated.
It has been business as usual for the Red Patch Boys, Kings in the North and Tribal Rhythm Nation.