A long period of tension between supporters and club management comes to a head yesterday as chairman Joey Saputo displays total lack of care and respect in fans.
Montreal fans' relationship with chairman of the club Joey Saputo was damaged even further after recent meeting boils over. Before we get into it, let's discuss some of the recent events that lead up to this point.
On January 14th, 2021, the Montreal Impact rebranded to CF Montreal. A new logo and team name were brought in to the dismay of the fanbase. While there are certainly some fans who liked the change, most of them felt hurt by the name change as well as the manner of it. Fans were not consulted at all throughout the decision and design processes. The rebrand, and lack of respect shown to the fans, lead to a joint supporter group signed statement less than a month later denouncing the rebrand, a significant fact considering the 1642 and Ultras rarely see eye-to-eye.
About eight months after the rebrand, the club banned the Ultras and any affiliated supporter groups after multiple instances of violence, intimidation, unauthorized pyrotechnics, and smoke bombs. A move that, on the outside, seems warranted. The reason it is important to mention this is because that decision and how the supporter groups could return to the stands was the topic of the meeting earlier this week.
Earlier this week, the supporters groups and club management held a meeting to discuss a possible return to the stands. This followed the news earlier this month that CEO Kevin Gilmore was stepping down. Earlier today, I spoke with a long-time Montreal fan who asked to remain anonymous. Here is how he quickly summed up what happened at the meeting: "[The owner and the supporter groups] met this week to talk about a return of section 132 on Sunday, but the owner said all sorts of shitty things to them as soon as they asked if he would change the name back."
These "shitty things" include a snide comment about the small size of supporters voicing their concerns, saying they weren't significant enough, and a threat to sell the club to an American owner who would intend on moving the club. When pondering the comments, the anonymous supporter continued on, saying "This club is a shipwreck, and has been for years. But now it started sinking to the bottom," and "A lot of people have reached [their] breaking point."
Montreal fans across social media feel deeply hurt and disrespected by the leaked comments. Many are starting to give up after years of conflict with club management. After asking if they would consider ending their support for the club if the club didn't change the name back, the fan claimed "I'm not even sure if I'll keep going anyway. Like many others, this cup final might be the game to bid farewell to IMFC and move on to bigger and better things." This is a common theme I am seeing in the replies to tweets about the club's management.
The club tried to calm everything down with the statement below but, as is usual with statements like these, it only fanned the flames.
From the outside looking in, these quotes are extremely disrespectful to all fans. Threatening to sell the team to American owners with the interest of moving the team because fans voiced their discontent with the name change is far too over-reactionary. The impact on the local community and fans would be awful. Just look at how big the SavetheCrew Movement got. Fans from all over the league jumped in to agree that the Crew should not be moved. Loosely threatening something as serious as that was completely unnecessary and the fans have every right to be upset about it.
My other disappointment comes with the major voices of MLS media. None of Andrew Wiebe, Taylor Twellman, Paul Tenorio, Sam Stejskal, Tom Bogert, etc. have said ANYTHING on the situation. Are Montreal not a part of MLS? Are they not important? Everyone has mentioned Ricardo Pepi winning YPOTY and Bob Bradley not returning to LAFC, two things that were already expected to happen, yet nothing about hundreds of fans voicing their anger with their club. Unacceptable considering this news has been developing for over 24 hours. I'm very disappointed in the major media's lack of coverage on this situation. As I said earlier, if this were LAFC or Atlanta, everyone would have a take on this.