A few weeks ago during a friendly between Orlando City and Tampa Bay Rowdies, several members of Orlando's Iron Lion Firm started a large fight in the stands which resulted in four members being arrested and fifteen people being banned through various points of the upcoming MLS season. But what exactly does that mean?
It's important to note that when an individual is banned, they are banned by a club, not by Major League Soccer. Each club is responsible for the terms of the ban, not the league. There is historical precedent for this - when members of 1906 Ultras were banned for an incident involving Portland Timbers fans in Portland, the bans were handed down by the San Jose Earthquakes. MLS can step in if they feel that the club isn't handling an issue properly, however that's usually done by applying pressure to a club's front office to apply the ban.
When the Colorado Rapids banned a fan for life in 2012, it was revealed that Kroeneke Sports Entertainment (the company that runs Dick's Sporting Goods Park where the Rapids play as well as the Pepsi Center where the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets play) was keeping files on fans that come to Rapids matches. It's unknown if they do the same for fans attending Avalanche or Nuggets games. I have personally seen security personnel with clipboards taking notes at Philadelphia Union matches, presumably about fan behavior. It's important to remember a few things about bans:
- Clubs levy the bans, not the league.
- When an individual is banned, they are banned from the stadium grounds of that club even when there's not a match. A banned user can be charged with criminal trespassing if they show up on the grounds.
- The individual's tickets are deactivated, so any physical tickets won't scan at the turnstiles.
- For most teams in the league, bans from away stadiums carry over to home stadiums.
- A banned individual can travel to away matches.
- Banned individuals are sent a letter by the club explaining their infraction, the length of the ban, and (if applicable) a date where they can appeal for reinstatement.
Once the terms are agreed upon, the person then serves their ban. When the times comes they can submit an appeal, there's another process that kicks off.
- Banned individuals must submit a letter via certified mail to formally request re-admittance to grounds.
- The club then looks at the nature of the offense and the person's history with the club. It will weigh the seriousness of the infraction with the offender's history with the club and supporter's groups.
- The club also notes if the individual had any other incidents during the duration of the ban - even being on a report at an away match could be considered an incident.
- The club notes if the individual followed the agreed terms of the ban.
- Some (if not all) clubs require an individual to take a class - a modified version of the NFL's Fan Code of Conduct Class - before they can gain reinstatement. The class is four hours and is timed so that the person can't skimp out on the punishment.
If these conditions have been met, it's at that point that the club will send the person another formal letter allowing the person back into matches. If their season tickets were deactivated, they'll be reactivated to allow admittance to matches. Most times when an individual is banned and gets reinstated, there are no more chances after that. If there are more incidents, the individual will be banned for life with no chance to appeal.
It's also noteworthy that there's really nothing preventing a person who has been banned from trying to gain re-entry while banned. Naturally if the individual is caught they're banned for life, but beyond security staff probably being shown a photograph of an individual and hoping they'd recognize them out of the people that show up to a match, there really isn't much done to ensure those who have been banned get back in.
All of that said, don't be an idiot. Follow the rules and Code of Conduct. Don't do things that will get you banned.