The violence that marred Wednesday’s El Super Clasico exhibition matchup between rival Mexican soccer teams has cast doubt on whether high-profile games will return to Las Vegas.
“It’s not worth putting our great city or great university’s name on the line,” said Sam Boyd Stadium director Mike Newcomb. “We put that game together to give the soccer fans of this town the greatest game they’ve been asking for. But due to the behavior of a few individuals, we have to take a second look at” scheduling similar games in the future.
A pre-game brawl between up to 400 rival fans of the Guadalajara Chivas and Club America set the tone for the night, drawing more than 120 police officers from Las Vegas, Henderson, UNLV and park police to the scene. The fracas led law enforcement to close down Russell Road at Boulder Highway and reroute fans at the entrance.
During the game, four players were red-carded after a scuffle between the two bitter rivals.
Once Chivas secured a 1-0 victory, more violence ensued on the field with opposing fans fighting and throwing bottles at each other.
“I was the general manager of the LA Galaxy, I’ve been to games in Azteca Stadium, Puma and Cruz Azul stadiums in Mexico and Amsterdam Arena, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said game promoter Tim Luce, who has organized soccer games since 1989.
Despite the frenzy, no arrests were made, according to Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Bill Cassell. The chaos landed six individuals in area hospitals for fight-related injuries, with another person hospitalized for a heat-induced incident.
“With every event, whether it’s football or concerts, we’re expecting some activity,” Newcomb said. “By no means did we expect to get through that game without any incidents.”
Newcomb, who has worked at the stadium for 17 years, compared Wednesday’s tension to past UNLV-Nevada football games.
A 170-person, part-time security staff was hired for the game to thwart problems. Officials also attempted to drop off opposing fans in different areas of the parking lot.
“We had the staff in place,” Newcomb said. “At that point, it’s about reacting to the people’s behaviors. We will meet with police and see what they think and incorporate that into future events.”
On top of the fighting, fireworks and flares added to the bedlam. Early in the game, a fan tossed a flare onto the field near the goalkeeper. With the game winding down, a portion of the crowd set off a series of fireworks in the stands.
The game was called early, too, after a number of fans stormed the field, with injury time yet to be played.
“Maybe we’re dealing with a little more crafty crowd than we’re usually dealing with in football,” Newcomb said. “Maybe there were flares in places where we’re not searching. We recognize that and we’ll have to tighten down on that better.”
The exhibition drew an announced crowd of 14,600, with more watching on Univision. The number was almost half of the 29,152 fans that turned out for the game between Real Madrid and Santos Laguna here last August.
Wednesday’s mayhem raises questions about a future rematch between the rivals in Las Vegas.
“Its hard to say” if Club America and Chivas will play each other in Las Vegas again, Luce said. “Obviously, it’s not going to have a positive reflection... This is a very special game. I don’t know if this particular game will be returning. It’ll probably be a tough game to return.”
Contact Review-Journal reporter Eric Uribe at firstname.lastname@example.org.