September 11, 2006 CSL Serbian White Eagles vs Toronto Croatia (from CSL website)

Soccer fans damage Ivor Wynne

By Paul Morse
The Hamilton Spectator
(Sep 13, 2006)

Soccer fans wielding flares and fireworks damaged dozens of seats and singed the artificial turf at Ivor Wynne Stadium Monday night.

Hamilton is considering legal action against the Canadian Soccer League after the city and police plunged the stadium into darkness to clear fans of Serbian White Eagles of Toronto and Toronto Croatia.

Police helped clear the stands and separate "combative fans" outside Ivor Wynne, said Staff Sergeant Glenn Bullock. No charges were laid.

But the CSL says it doesn't understand the problem. Commissioner Cary Kaplan told The Spectator yesterday the league made the city aware flares could be used at the game.

Ivor Wynne officials stopped the game between the two international division CSL teams by turning off the lights after fans ignored public address warnings not to light flares and fireworks in the stands.

"We had no option, the fans were getting out of hand," said stadium manager Dan Adamson. "We decided with police that this had to stop."

Ivor Wynne's $1.5-million artificial turf was burned in three places and several dozen seats destroyed by unruly fans, he said. The damage estimate, so far, is about $2,000.

The flare flap comes two years after a licensed fireworks show following a Tiger-Cats game went awry and set the brand new artificial turf ablaze.

Bill Fenwick, director of Hamilton's culture and recreation department, said flares became a major safety concern Monday night for fans, the players and the stadium itself.

"Flares in the stands -- I don't care if it's accepted by (the CSL), it certainly isn't accepted by us."

Fenwick said he will now refer the issue to the city's legal department.

The Toronto-based Serbian and Croatian teams, using the better Ivor Wynne venue in a game played before 2,000 fans, are part of an international division started by the CSL this year to try to capture ethnic-based soccer passions. The division includes Italian, Portuguese and Caribbean-centred teams.

Games between Serbian and Croatian teams have degenerated into violence between fans in the past, but Kaplan said new security measures such as keeping respective fans on opposite sides of the field have kept things calm.

"Ivor Wynne officials were fully aware of the nature of the game between Serbia and Croatia and the risks of security, that people historically lit flares at those games," Kaplan said.

"We haven't been informed at Ivor Wynne or at the (Lamport) field in Toronto that there is a strict no-flare policy ... We didn't sense there was an overriding problem with the hand-held flares from the first game."

The CSL will beef up security at a third meeting between Serb and Croat teams in Toronto Friday.

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