Soccer violence


Las Vegas visitors can’t have an enjoyable experience if they don’t feel safe. And they won’t come here at all if they believe violence could erupt around them.

The riot that marred the July 3 soccer exhibition between Mexican rivals Guadalajara Chivas and Club America was a black eye for Las Vegas tourism. Some 400 fans fought before the game at Sam Boyd Stadium, sending six people to valley hospitals. More than 120 police responded, resulting in road closures. Chivas’ 1-0 win was called early when some fans set off fireworks and flares they had snuck into the stadium and others stormed the field.

The incident means local officials will have to take more precautions in scheduling such matches in the future.

“It’s not worth putting our great city or great university’s name on the line,” said Mike Newcomb, director of Sam Boyd Stadium, which is operated by UNLV. “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 potential future matchups.

Last week’s melee was totally predictable, given the bitterness of the Chivas-Club America rivalry. Previous games have resulted in fan and player fights; four players were ejected from last week’s Las Vegas contest for scuffling.

Soccer is an increasingly important part of the city’s special-event calendar. Going forward, it would be best for tourism and university officials to schedule matches between teams that don’t hate each other. And if heated rivals agree to play here, event planners must be better prepared for trouble. Visitor safety and our tourist economy depend on it.

What happened last week can’t happen again.

 

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