Fans unfriendly over match

BRETT CLARKSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Toronto FC's diehard fans are threatening to turn against the team with this summer's much-anticipated visit to BMO Field by Real Madrid.

No sooner had TFC's front office finally made it official yesterday that the Spanish soccer powerhouse will play a friendly here Aug. 7, fans were crying foul over the fact the game won't be included in their season-ticket package.

There were comments on TFC's official website that the affair reeks of a "cash grab" by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

"Absolutuely disgusting. After shelling out my hard-earned dollars for season tickets which included international friendlies ... the bloodsuckers at MLSE want more ... ," a poster named Operator wrote on torontofc.ca.

TFC brass said the event will be a memorable one for Toronto's soccer fans.

"This game will be a great experience for all Toronto soccer fans -- watching Toronto FC go up against one of the world's great clubs in one of the most intimate soccer stadiums in North America," said Tom Anselmi, MLSE executive VP and COO.

The same fans who each game provide BMO with its boisterous singing and chanting are also annoyed the regular-season game against New York Red Bulls was moved to accommodate Madrid when the same policy wasn't applied to TFC's infamous match against Chivas USA last September.

In that game, TFC was missing nine starting players to World Cup qualifying matches, yet Major League Soccer refused to reschedule it despite the furious protests.

As a result of the juggling to accommodate Madrid, the North End Elite fan organization has decided to boycott the Madrid game.

"Putting the season in jeopardy to rake in the cash is not what we want," said a message posted on the fan club's site.

Jack DePoe, president of the Red Patch Boys, which represents about 500 loyal TFC fans, said he can understand -- begrudgingly -- why MLSE would charge a premium for the Real Madrid game, given the cost of entertaining the 31-time La Liga champions.

"I don't like it but I get it," DePoe said. "But I really don't get the lack of integrity, especially the fact they wouldn't (change the schedule) for competitive reasons but they're doing it for this friendly because it's Madrid."

To make matters worse, TFC will spend $250,000 to temporarily install real grass for the game, when fans -- not to mention players -- have sought to replace the artificial turf at BMO for years.

The grass issue also raises questions about how much MLSE and TFC values its players, DePoe said. "It goes hand-in-hand with the whole objection we have to the game in general," DePoe said. "It's okay to put down the grass for Madrid to play, but our players have to play on turf. So what are you trying to tell our players by doing that? That they're not important enough for grass but Madrid is?"

The club will release ticket information on Monday but says season-ticket-holders will get first crack at a "special loyalty price."


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