Fans want a club, not a name, that fills them with Pride
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Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley. AAP Image/Paul Miller
While the word “pride” featured prominently in the discourse about the desired culture of the new Western Sydney franchise, for a while yesterday it seemed the FFA had the word “culture” confused with the word “name”.
That was the only conclusion to draw after The World Game yesterday reported that Pride was among the FFA’s preferred name.
With the announcement of the club’s name and head coach reportedly scheduled for this week, Twitter yesterday became a frenzy of anti-Pride sentiment, with the hashtag #NoToPride featuring prominently and many jumping to condemn the thought of such an Americanisation.
Soon enough word echoed that it wasn’t likely. No doubt the backlash had an effect.
Earlier in the day I had tweeted how Sportsbet had framed a book which had “Strikers” as the favourite, ahead of “Wolves”, followed by “Wanderers” and “Athletic”.
I followed it up with a note that the option of Strikers hadn’t even popped up at the two fan forums I attended, in Rooty Hill and Castle Hill.
What became patently clear at these two forums is that the fans, almost unanimously, wanted a traditional football name, such as Wanderers, Athletic, Sporting, United, or, simply, FC.
They expressed, as passionately and eloquently as you are likely to see, how tired they were of the gimmicky, American-style sporting names.
There was the odd call for something akin to Stars or Mars, with legendary Socceroo Ray Richards even putting out Pride, but the majority of the sentiment was for a traditional name, with the Wanderers seemingly the most popular.
They also expressed a near unanimous desire to have the name West or Western featured.
What came across strongly is just how proud those from the western suburbs are of being from the region, and wanting the culture of the club to be based on the culture they exude on a daily basis.
It was a theme echoed consistently at both Rooty and Castle Hill, and no doubt the other forums at Mount Pritchard, Parramatta, Penrith, Campbelltown and Bankstown.
No doubt, when the FFA canvassed feedback via an online survey, this pride in the region resonated strongly in the responses, just as it had done at the forums.
Not only do they love where they are from, but they want their team to have a western flavour run through the ranks, from the manager to the playing staff, and even those in the head office.
While this pride in the region and team is undoubtedly strong, it is in no way a green light to name the team The Pride.
After all, fans had voiced their thoughts precisely against such a scenario.
If the FFA did go against these wishes, it would demonstrate the forums were nothing but a PR exercise. Perhaps this message finally sank through late yesterday.
Even now they have much convincing still to do.
If they are looking to embed some of the culture of the west into the name, the FFA could do a lot worse than focus on the youth in the region.
This was one of the themes that also resonated strongly in the talk about the culture of the organisation.
Primarily, the fans want a team featuring the best young talent in the region, giving the youngsters below them something to aspire to. They want the club to be a pathway for kids from the west, with much of the support base made up of young families and the youth of the region.
Given how sport and particularly football is such a big part of the lives of families in the west, with weekends often consumed driving from one game to another, the FFA could do a lot worse than add a reference to youth in the name.
My suggestion would be either West Sydney AJFC (Athletic Juniors FC) or West Sydney SJFC (Sporting Juniors FC).
Something like that would represent everything about the western suburbs and not lose any of the football tradition that fans crave.
After all, what the fans out west want, above all else, is a club and team that fills them with pride.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA
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