On Tuesday, Major League Soccer announced some pretty significant changes to safety procedures at MLS stadiums and it is something that will impact every fan or supporter that comes to an MLS match. If you have not read the new protocol, here it is in it's entirety:
Major League Soccer today announced elevated security standards that will be applied across all MLS stadiums to help ensure a safe environment for soccer fans. Beginning this Saturday, April 23, a new minimum standard Bag Policy and guest screening measures will be instituted in all 20 MLS venues bringing MLS events in line with security measures taken by the other professional sports leagues in North America.
These security standards will apply to all MLS, SUM, and USL games played at MLS venues, including but not limited to MLS League and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games, friendly matches, and fan events.
Fans are encouraged to check venue-specific policies as the below are baseline security standards for MLS events. Individual venues may have additional restrictions on bags and other items entering the stadium.
"Public safety is a top priority and the enhanced security measures will help ensure that fans are able to continue to enjoy MLS and SUM events in a safe environment," said MLS president and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott.
"The safety of our fans, players and staff is paramount," said Ray Whitworth, Senior VP of Security and Operations. "The updated security measures bring us in line with professional sports leagues around the United States and Canada while maintaining the unique sports experience that is MLS."
Under the new security policy, all guests will be fully screened upon entry into MLS venues. The screenings will be conducted via a full pat down or with the use of a search wand or magnetometers. Each venue will decide which procedures and protocols will be used to provide this acceptable level of security while ensuring a quality experience for all guests.
Under the new league-wide Bag Policy, fans are prohibited from bring the following into a stadium**:
· Large purses
· Luggage of any kind
· Computer bags
· Camera bags
· Any bag larger than 14''x14''x6''
In addition, all bags will be subject to search upon entry. The bag restriction will not apply to credentialed media, who will continue to enter MLS stadiums through designated entrances and adhere to all posted media bag policies and screenings.
**Special considerations will be made for guests with special medical needs and parents caring for infants.
The increased security policy was unanimously supported by the MLS Board of Governors and involved input from all 20 MLS clubs.
So I read this policy and basically I say, fine. Whatever. If the price of letting me get into a match involves a little bit more security and a restriction on not bringing a bag in. Fine. Whatever the impetus is with this, I am fine with. (I am damn sure the attacks in France had something to do with this).
And I get where this is an inconvenience for some. But if it means an extra layer of safety, I am cool with it.
My big concern is whether MLS stadiums are ready for this. The queue to get into Dick's Sporting Goods Park can be quite long on a normal Colorado Rapids match day, but the idea of seeing how long it could be with enhanced security procedures could be a nightmare. This is something that DSGP HAS TO GET RIGHT. The Rapids are starting to build something here and if people have to wait in a queue that takes 10 minutes or longer to get in, they will get pissed. If that means hiring more people or having ushers move people to other gates, DSGP and the Rapids better be ready.
For those that are complaining about this change, it has been done in other sports for years. And it is also done at USL games (Sacramento Republic FC for one) so come on. Give MLS a break on this one. They get a lot of stuff wrong, but this is one they are getting right. (and for those who do not want to go through a pat down--me being one of them--SRFC used the wand to wand you down--not sure how Dick's will do it, but let's hope they go that way)
And as a parent of a child with special needs, who MUST carry a backpack full of things that enable my child to actually sit through a game, I am already working how we can make this work. And if I can get my autistic son to a match with this new policy, I am sure everyone else can deal with this change.
Cause what are we going to do? Stay home because we can't bring a cooler into DSGP?