The Ray Price statue fiasco is another PR disaster
185 Have your say
Former Parramatta Eels' player Ray Price. AAP Image/Paul Miller
Fans of our code can be pretty belligerent about calling it football. We say it is about the history, but perhaps it also has something to do with our uncanny ability to shoot ourselves in the foot.
Often slow news days are the best for unveiling quirky stories. Yesterday was one such day.
There wasn’t a whole lot doing in the A-League world until Fairfax journalist Sebastian Hassett revealed Western Sydney Wanderers are considering covering a statue of Parramatta Eels legend Ray Price on game days.
As a tenant of a council-owned stadium, that’s their right.
But why the Wanderers would want to get to rugby league supporters offside before a ball has been kicked is beyond me.
The bloke the terrace up the other end of the ground is named for, Peter Sterling, is a well-known respecter of the round-ball game.
Down the road on Church Street you can buy football jerseys at Peter Wynn’s Score – the famous sports store opened by an ex-Eels front rower.
Heck, even the Parramatta Leagues Club got in on the act, bankrolling NSL club Parramatta Power for five years despite losing money hand over fist.
Yet the powers that be want to make out rugby league is some sort of mortal enemy, hinting the co-tenancy of an NRL club must be denied lest its very existence detracts from the A-League game football fans have just forked out to see.
Heaven forbid the Wanderers actually focused on some important matters, like signing players, attracting sponsors or engaging the local community.
Yesterday that engagement involved alienating roughly nine-tenths of the sports-loving fans of Parramatta.
If football fans in the city want to watch games in an empty stadium, they can do that at Parramatta Melita.
I have no problem with the Wanderers re-naming stands after locally-born players.
Call the Peter Sterling Terrace the Paul Okon Stand – I think it’s a fantastic idea. Probably best not to inform Paul though, since he’s a Parramatta Eels fan.
In fact, he’s one of countless football personalities who follow an NRL club in one form or another.
And therein lay the problem. The A-League doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
If we want it to make a mark on Australia’s unique sporting landscape, we must accept the existence of other codes.
Because the us-versus-them mentality will fail. The NRL and AFL are too well resourced to ever disappear.
So instead of antagonising Parramatta Eels fans, wouldn’t the Wanderers be better off simply embracing them?
I suggested as much a few months ago when – shock, horror – I revealed the fact I’m a member of the aforementioned Eels.
Failing that, the Wanderers could always just ignore Parramatta.
I’m a member of Sydney FC too and have never once noticed any of the non-football statues outside the Sydney Football Stadium.
Nor have I ever been tempted to spontaneously leap the fence, rip the ball from Ivan Necevski’s hands and start ducking and weaving through a gap, throwing dummies at bemused defenders before diving over in the corner – all because the ground is co-tenanted by NRL clubs.
And before a frothing cadre of football fans comes bashing at my door, threatening to burn me at the stake for heresy and imploring me to think of the children, let me say I’ve heard just as many slights about the game as you.
I can’t recall the number of times I’ve heard “football is boring, the players are cheats, Cristiano Ronaldo stole my girlfriend,” etcetera etcetera.
You know what I call people who say such things? Boofheads. (Or when I’m in Melbourne, ‘AFL fans’).
But covering a statue of Ray Price is a dumb idea. We are not an ex-Soviet state.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” is a chant heard at football and rugby league grounds alike.
It’s usually aimed at referees (or Stephen Kearney) but in this case it should be reserved for whoever conjured the A-League’s latest public relations disaster.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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