Popular sporting events can draw a big crowd to the host neighbourhood and as anyone who has spent time in Liberty Village on Toronto FC game days can attest, home games are busy in the neighbourhood. There seems to be some anecdotal evidence of a love-hate relationship brewing within the hood. There are those who love game day and the competitive sports atmosphere – and of course the local businesses benefitting from the large crowds. Then, there are others who absolutely ‘hate’ the rowdy fans who fill up Liberty Village’s streets post-game.
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Evidently, soccer/football has a longstanding association with passionate, rowdy and sometimes violent crowds. In European games, fights in the stands between fans, inappropriate language chants, and sentiments of violence can permeate the atmosphere. Though Canada’s soccer games so far at BMO Field have been pretty tame in comparison, there is still a large set of people who end up piling out of the game with similar mindsets. Think disorderly yellers clogging up Liberty Village’s streets and looking for another drink.
Needless to say, the traffic congestion alone is a nightmare. If you’re new to Liberty Village or have never been out and about on game day, the best advice we can give is to take public transit. Literally every roadway in the neighborhood ends up gridlocked post-game, as more people than the streets can handle have poured in to see their favourite Canadian soccer club. According to a recent City News report, the lack of road infrastructure to successfully get people in and out without gridlock is to blame. Thus, the whole post-game experience is made very frustrating for non-soccer fans in Liberty Village.
It’s always a difficult debate as it pertains to what should be done to achieve a positive change, ensuring that TFC fans can still enjoy their game but without getting so out of control that they upset the locals who may not share the same fandom. In some cases, the rowdiness and negativity has caused residents to either stay inside for the entirety of game day or to leave the neighborhood altogether. After all, post-game, TFC fans pretty much take over the neighborhood, filing into pubs and restaurants, taking up seating, and getting drunker and louder by the minute. Though most people who come to TFC games are respectful, it’s the ones who are not that make the most noise and who end up having perhaps a little too much fun than what the locals would prefer.
Browsing through accounts of Liberty Village residents describing the post-TFG game experience, speak like “nightmare”, “don’t go near Liberty Village with them around”, “I live in Liberty Village and I’m sorry”, and “ugly behavior” is common. There have also been accounts of fans stumbling out into traffic and/or blocking roadways, kicking and overturning garbage cans, spitting on people in the streets, inappropriate chants with profanity, and more.
The problem is a difficult one to solve as this is where the games are held, the roadways are what they are and that’s not going to change, there’s too much people and not enough space in general to accommodate them even on sidewalks, and there’s not enough restaurants and bars in the region to handle the busyness post-game.
The reality is that TFC games are fastly becoming a hatred for many Liberty Village residents, with many taking aim specifically at fan behaviour and congestion as major problems that need to be examined. No matter where one sits in the spectrum of the debate between pro-fan and anti-fan, surely, we can agree on the basics of good behaviour and bad behaviour post-game, and the expectation for fair behaviour in a post-sports setting is not necessarily something reserved for ‘stick-in-the-muds’, ‘NIMBYs’, or ‘fun-haters’.
Despite growing tensions in the neighborhood, the Toronto FC continue to call the Toronto west end home. That is simply not something that the City is planning on changes. The condo-heavy Liberty Village may have to adapt, for better or for worse, on game day. If Liberty Village residents are making the decision to live downtown, adjacent to Exhibition Place, the Metrolinx tracks, and with the Gardiner Expressway right way, a little bit of noise from time to time should be expected.
As the debate rages on, the battle between fans and non-fans is likely to continue for some time, with no resolution in sight.