After four men were arrested at a Tampa Bay Rowdies match on Sunday, Orlando City Soccer Club's founder and president issued a statement announcing harsh penalties for the two Orlando fan groups involved.
"Orlando City is proud of the reputation it has built in the community and will not allow a small number of fans involved in unsavory behavior to tarnish our organization," Phil Rawlins said in a post on the club's website.
Four Orlando supporters were arrested Sunday on charges of disorderly intoxication and battery of a law enforcement officer. Police said the arrests came after Orlando fans tried to goad Rowdies supporters in the Ralph's Mob section by jumping barriers that officers had put up between the two sections to try to prevent fights.
Stephen Marva, 24, shoved an officer while trying to start a fight, police said. Charles Tolman, 30, hit an officer with a fan flag, police said.
Jimmy Galvez, 28, and Jared Ambrose, 24, were charged with disorderly intoxication after police asked them to move or leave the stadium, police said.
The four men were banned from Orlando City games pending the outcome of their court cases, Rawlins said.
In addition, Rawlins wrote that the club would suspend both its supporter clubs, the Iron Lion Firm and The Ruckus until those groups agree to a new fan code of conduct modeled after Major League Soccer guidelines.
Orlando supporter JR Alvarez said he thought Rawlins' statement was "just and long overdue."
"The ILF and Ruckus have had too much control and have caused problems with our own fans as well as rival fans' teams for a while now," Alvarez said.
The 2015 season will be Orlando's first as a Major League Soccer team, making it the 21st franchise in the league. The team spent three years as a United Soccer League team. The Rowdies play in the North American Soccer League.
The MLS code of conduct for fans discourages disorderly behavior, throwing objects and fighting. It encourages fans to "comply with requests from stadium staff regarding stadium policies" and advises that alcohol should be consumed responsibly.
"We know that the vast majority of our supporters already fully comply with the Fan Code of Conduct, love the game of soccer, and are passionate fans of Orlando City. We will not allow our good name to be sullied by the actions of a few," Rawlins wrote.
The club is revising its rules for how to become a recognized supporter group, the process by which those groups get approval to use drums, flags and large banners in the stands. They will also distribute a new code of conduct for fans during games, Rawlins wrote.
Contact Claire Wiseman at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: The Orlando City Soccer Club spent three years in the United Soccer League, while the Tampa Bay Rowdies play in the North American Soccer League. A story published July 11 was incorrect on these points.