A reunion took place after a big fight broke out during a game between St. Pete and Lakewood.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A long-running rivalry raises concerns after a fight broke out during a game between St. Petersburg and Lakewood.
“When you have a whole bunch of people running, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Lakewood Jr. Spartans president Wesley Reed said.
He said the fight happened during a game two weekends ago when a group of teenagers were near the pitch, started fighting, rushed the barricades and ran made his way through the field.
“They took their fight from outside the gate to inside the gate. I fear for everyone. I took him as a leader and said this had to stop. We have to do better,” Reed said.
Now the city and community are looking for answers to prevent fights at youth soccer games.
“We don’t want to overload the games with security and police. The chief has almost 600 police officers and that’s not the answer. We need the community to help us solve this problem,” said the mayor of St. Pete, Ken Welch.
The league already has expectations for every president and bag checks and safety wand are mandatory. Additionally, St. Pete Police and Security Officers are required at all games after 5 p.m. Coaches and staff said the problem comes from both children and parents.
“We’re in a new generation where the vibe is actually set before you show up on Saturday,” a coach said at the community meeting on Wednesday night.
Everyone in the room said they agreed that parents who bet on games and social media make the situation worse.
“Kids don’t even talk today. Parents don’t even make their kids talk to them. We’re going to bury someone and everyone will look sad. Now is the time to change the culture,” said Pastor Louis Murphy. .
As they consider potential options like seating rivals on opposite sides of the field and more security from the police department, funding is at the forefront.
“Funding and just helping out from the community. Having conversations with parents and making sure they know that when you’re in these fields it’s all about the kids. Keep it at the kids level so we let’s all get home safely,” Reed said.
It was the first meeting of many. Welch said his office will review league funding and try to use its Community Redevelopment Area program to allocate more funds.