Interview: ESC Board Member Corey Vezina on This Weekend’s South Ward Protest

The South Ward: ESC, GSS and The Viking Army

Those of you attending the Red Bulls game tomorrow will notice the stadium will be without the signature sounds of the South Ward for the first half. All three supporters groups (Empire Supporters Club, Garden State Supporters and The Viking Army) are planning a protest for Saturday’s game against FC Dallas. The fanatics in the South Ward, like many of the New York faithful, were disappointed with the Red Bulls disregard for the US Open Cup and decided to express their displeasure this Saturday.

Recently, the New England Revolution supporters section, known as The Fort, organized a walkout during a match to protest their treatment at the hands of stadium security. A number of media outlets mistakenly reported that the team’s poor results were the impetus for the protest.

I spoke with ESC board member Corey Vezina to get the full story on the upcoming South Ward Protest.

What is the reason for the protest?

The supporters clubs of the South Ward are unified in protesting the indifference this organization showed last week towards a competition we fans hold very dear. The Open Cup is the longest running soccer competition in the United States. If they did not enter the competition to win it, why enter?

We do not believe it is possible to be a legitimate sporting organization while at the same time picking and choosing the tournaments you take seriously. To us, this is exactly the same thing as fielding a squad of reserve players in the MLS Cup playoffs.

This protest is not a reactionary response to a one time event, but rather a thoughtful reply to a history of taking this competition less than seriously, and to having our complaints about it fall on deaf ears. Not voicing our frustration with the sentiment that the US Open Cup doesn’t matter enough for them to take seriously is to allow our support to be taken for granted.

What are you planning for the protest?

The protest will involve having the three sections of the south ward go quiet for the first half of the game vs. Dallas this Saturday. We have contacted the front office of our organization to let them know why we are withholding our support, and we will reach out to media outlets as well to make them aware. We are not doing this to disrespect the players, nor to get our names in the paper. We simply feel that we must show this organization in some tangible way that competitions matter to their most loyal, most passionate fans, and that refusing to try to win them is not an option.

Additionally, some fans are choosing – as each sees fit- to sign a letter of commitment to suspend purchasing season tickets in the future, until this organization shows its fans that it can take this competition as seriously as other clubs around the league do, year in and year out.

How did the three supporters clubs come to the decision to protest?

Each club came to the decision on their own, based on the structure of the respective clubs. For the ESC specifically, a vote was held by our members, which voted overwhelmingly in its support. The thing people sometimes forget is that no one wants to be in the position of protesting the very thing they spend their lives supporting, nobody wants to be dealing with the frustrations we all feel. However, to say nothing, to do nothing, is to consent to their desire to win only the competitions that matter to them.

What effect are you hoping the protest will have?

We feel that this organization literally fails to comprehend the value of the tournaments placed before it, and if anything can be achieved, we hope it is to change that understanding.

Our goal is that the management of this organization learns to understand the equal importance of MLS Cup, the Open Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League to its supporters, and that it can commit itself to participating in the tournaments with the sole intent of winning them. If it cannot commit to making an honest effort to win a competition, that competition should not be entered.

Do you think the players and coaches might be offended or even angered by the protest?

The absolute last thing we want to do is offend or anger the players we spend our lives supporting, or to offend the coaches who were in Chicago trying to do the best they could to win the game with the resources given to them. We do not question the effort of those players or coaches, but rather we question the importance of winning that tournament shown by the management of this organization.

We would sincerely hope that the players- both those involved in the game and those who were not- would understand that we are not upset at this one single loss, nor are we looking to take this out on them. Rather, we are expressing frustration at a history of sending less than our best efforts out onto the field to represent us, and then being asked to ignore that failure as if it was acceptable.

Overall, how would you describe the relationship between the front office and the supporters clubs?

The relationship between the front office and the supporters clubs is better now than it has been in the 10+ years I’ve been a season ticket holder. From working on ticketing programs to help bring new fans to the game, to improving the game day atmosphere of our home games, our front office has done more for our clubs this year than it ever has. Similarly, we feel that the combined clubs in the South Ward have collectively done more this year to improve the atmosphere of our home games than we ever have. We are not protesting about breakdowns in that relationship, in any manner, whatsoever.

It is simply a case of saying that this organization cannot continue to ignore the oldest soccer trophy in our country- or any other similar competition- just because it doesn’t feel like taking it seriously. No supporter worthy of the name would accept that position as valid.

Is there a possibility this could damage that relationship?

There is no reason why this should damage the relationship if managed properly, and if dealt with professionally by all sides, supporters included. There is no intent to damage the relationship, there is no desire to break that relationship off. We are not protesting to insult or embarrass the front office. We are protesting so that they can understand and take seriously the notion that this club must exist to win each of the trophies that are in its power to win.

That understanding was absent in this organizations behavior last week.

Do you think the protest will yield results? What would you consider a success?

Until this team takes the field in the Open Cup next year, it will frankly be hard to see any concrete results. All we are really asking for is for the club to take competitions like the US Open Cup as seriously as other MLS teams in the competition, notably Chicago and Seattle, have recently done. From the attention given to the games on their web site to the starting lineup on the field, regardless of the result of any one particular game, no supporter of those teams could question the commitment of those organizations to winning that trophy.

Success is for our team, next year and every year after that, to show that same commitment.

We ask for nothing more, and no supporter should ever accept anything less.


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  • Sebas

    I is back!!!!

    Corey all the luck to you and the supporters during this weekend’s protest. I fully support your effort and completely agree with everything you said.

    I sometimes get the impression that the rest of MLS thinks that NYRB(Metro)’s supporters are a bunch of mannequins constructed in Austria.

    PROVE THEM WRONG!!!

    Peace out,

    SEBAS

  • Shane

    Does anyone honestly care about the US Open Cup? It draws like 3,000 fans to the games. That should tell you something.

  • Pat

    I was in 101 for the first half of the Open Cup game against FCNY. ONLY 101 had anyone seated in it and maybe it was half full. How can the Supporters have such disdain for the FO’s disregard of the Open Cup, when only a small number show up for the home match. I disagree with the protest as a whole, but if anyone has a right to protest, it’s only the small percentage that saw fit to show up.

  • At this point, I will take any trophy (not counting that waste of an Atlantic Cup).


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