No fans at Enosburg-Winooski soccer game

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 11:34 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 6:44 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After a much anticipated rematch between the Enosburg and Winooski boys soccer teams Tuesday, Enosburg is headed to the state final. The game took place without spectators after lingering tension over alleged racial insults and violence at a game between the teams earlier this fall.

The players from both teams ran onto the field as they were introduced for the D3 semifinal match, but it was not in front of a crowd. Fans were denied access by the schools and the Vermont Principals’ Association over concerns the vitriol stemming from the earlier game between the two teams might boil over in the stands and mar the game.

“Quite frankly, there is enough acrimony on both sides from people that aren’t educators -- that are parents or community members complaining about the other side and saying this whole thing is the other side’s fault -- that we just thought it was putting the kids in a bad spot,” said the VPA’s Jay Nichols.

Back in September, the Winooski superintendent alleged that three members of the Enosburg team had made racial comments directed at the Winooski players. Enosburg did an investigation which did not find any wrongdoing on behalf of their players. The Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union did request a third-party investigation through the VPA, but Nichols says the schools have not agreed to have one as of now.

Enosburg also accused Winooski of extremely aggressive play, and a video of a head butt by a member of the Winooski team prompted a police investigation, a case that has since been dismissed by the Chittenden County State’s Attorney.

The two schools canceled their second regular-season game, but the 2nd seeded Spartans and 3rd seeded Hornets were on a collision course for Tuesday’s semifinal which ended with a 3-2 score.

Nichols says that there were too many comments on social media from people from both places along with other communities around the state that it didn’t make sense to have them all in one place. “For us, the whole public persona out there was just so divisive and such a potential powder keg that we decided -- this is school sports, people don’t like the fact they can’t come, that’s too bad, but we are going to put the kids first,” he said.

The game was live streamed so parents and fans could still watch.

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