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Yankee Stadium Restrictions Draw Ire of NYCFC Supporters

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In what has already been a difficult period for New York City supporters leading up to March, Yankee Stadium set down a list of regulations that was negatively received by passionate fans. The restrictive parameters made by Yankee Stadium officials further run the risk of alienating supporters before the inaugural season.

The prohibited items set by Yankee Stadium include flag poles, fixed banners, flags or banners above six feet, electronic megaphones and smoke. It was also made clear that TIFO displays in the Third Rail supporters sections can’t cover the aisles, all displays must be approved by Yankee Stadium, capo stands have yet to still be determined, and that only one drum can be brought in by club staffers.

While some of the rules such as no smoke or having approved signs make sense, not allowing fans to bring in poles, banners to place on any surface, tall flags above six feet, and drums is too harsh as it interferes with the match experience that soccer fans are accustomed too.

While team-related matters and what happens on the pitch is very significant, the fans are just as important. What is New York City or frankly any professional sports club without their fans, especially in regards to the most demonstrative supporters?

The Yankee Stadium restrictions take away from the appealing environment associated with supporter culture. It was already going to be difficult for there to be a great atmosphere during matches considering it’s a baseball stadium and the official supporter’s group is so far away from the field.

It goes without saying that a positive atmosphere inside the stadium has a vital impact on players during matches. The supporters need to be the 12th man and putting some of the most expressive fans a distance from the field with limitations on what they can bring in sets them at a disadvantage to make an impact.

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A subdued atmosphere will make going to New York City matches unappealing to supporters. As American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta put it, “Looking at the Yankee stadium rules, it sounds like NYCFC games are going to resemble Wimbledon or PGA events.”

The supporters are angry because they are the ones buying the tickets, the merchandise, and putting in their time, effort and commitment into supporting New York City. Supporters believe that their rights of free expression are being infringed upon and no one cares for feeling overly controlled when they are paying to be at Yankee Stadium in the first place.

Stadium restrictions are not just limited to Yankee Stadium as this is a league-wide issue. The Los Angeles Galaxy used severe sanctions to punish one of their supporters groups, the Angel City Brigade, for throwing streamers on the field. The Citrus Bowl, home of Orlando City, has an extensively long list of prohibited items including megaphones, signs larger than 11” X 17”, inappropriate signs, poles longer than 12”, and so on.

Some New York fans that are fed up with all the negative press surrounding New York City are quick to point out that the team shouldn’t be blamed for Yankee Stadium policies. Yet New York City should be aware of how vital it is that matches have an engaging soccer atmosphere which is unique of the baseball culture already associated with Yankee Stadium.

Frankly if you’re going to have a soccer team play at Yankee Stadium, the fan experience can’t be like going to a baseball game.

As tenants of the home of the New York Yankees, New York City and its supporters figuratively have to play ball with the stadium rules until a location is secured. Securitas, the security company in charge of Yankee Stadium security during games, oversees restrictions that affect both soccer and baseball fans. Yankee fans likely also aren’t allowed to set up banners or bring in flag poles even though you wouldn’t expect them too considering that’s not evident at baseball games.

As an iconic landmark of New York City, Yankee Stadium will always be subject to strict supervision. The Yankees are primarily interested in maintaining the traditional and valuable atmosphere associated with being at the “House That Ruth Built.” As New York City supporter Mike Begley stated, “They’re (the Yankees) not in the football industry. They’re in the Yankee industry. They want to sell “The Yankee Stadium Experience”, which is safe, friendly, corporate, boring as hell, but – most importantly – lucrative. And they want to sell that at baseball games, college football games, boxing cards, papal visits, and of course, our matches.”

As Begley also elaborates on, one cannot blame the Yankees for maintaining the manner in which various events take place at their stadium. Yankee Stadium has a successful formula for overseeing game-day experiences and they will stick by their ways no matter what sporting event is taking place.

Now New York City of course knew this was going to be the case so why would they agree to play at Yankee Stadium and put their supporters in this situation? The answer is that besides having nowhere else to play, Yankee Stadium with all its faults is still a great place to start out playing at until a soccer stadium is built.

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The Yankee Stadium rules have further illuminated how important it is that New York City finds their own place to call home. Yet, until they start playing in a soccer-specific stadium, Yankee Stadium’s prominence and accessibility still make it a worthwhile place for New York City to play in for the meantime. Starting out at Yankee Stadium gives New York City a sense of legitimacy and authenticity in New York sports culture which is important for a team just starting out.

So what ultimately will New York City supporters do with the hand they’ve been dealt with? They will be there from day one showing their unbridled support for the Big Apple’s own soccer club. The supporters will be a proud, lively contingent that can use every moment as a chance to show their fervent devotion in any possible way.

New York City fans can define themselves by not what has been taken away from them but through what is done with the given opportunity.

Update 2/2 9:09 a.m.-Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has revealed that a NYCFC press representative told him that the “list of fan rules (one drum allowed, etc) is fluid & not final.” Negotiations with the supporters group will continue.

Next: Is Javier Calle Going to Join New York City?

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