When most fans of the beautiful game hear the term “vulgar chants,” they probably conjure images of English hooligans, racism across Europe or any game the United States Men’s team plays in Mexico. However, according to a recent report in the New York Times, vulgarity is becoming entrenched among fan groups at MLS games and teams are struggling to find ways to induce fans to stop. In this article, entitled “M.L.S. Tries to Mute Fans Vulgar Chants,” Andrew Keh details how similar chants involving dirty language have been popping up across the country. One chant in particular, the wording of which is “unprintable” but has the initials “YSA” (I’ll let you figure it out) originated in Europe.
According to Keh, teams including the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake have sent letters to fan groups asking them not to chant profane language. The Red Bulls offered each of its three official fan groups $500 for for every game in which they improved. Two of those groups accepted the offer, and have since received $4,000 each towards paraphernalia and travel. A spokesman, nicknamed Terror, for the third group, the Garden State Ultras, said that the Ultras do not support the chant but also are uncomfortable with the idea of incentives.
Understandably for a league that is slowly but surely establishing itself, many teams want to create a fun, exciting atmosphere, but one that parents feel comfortable taking their kids to. In some ways, this is a good problem to have. MLS teams used to be desperate for attendance, but now average attendance at an MLS game is higher than that of the NBA and NHL. Therefore, the problem many teams face is that of creating an atmosphere that is safe and fun but also intense. Hopefully, the Red Bulls and other teams are successful in their efforts. I doubt that the use of foul language is the beginning of European-style hooliganism, but Americans are accustomed to a pleasant atmosphere at professional sporting events. The future of soccer in the United States rests on its youth, and if parents are loathe to take their children to games because other fans are yelling profanities, the game’s future popularity may suffer.