It’s time for A-League supporter groups to stand up and take responsibility for the actions of their members.
Too often, crowd issues have been met by deflecting blame to anyone around them, including the media, the FFA, grounds, police and security.
It’s time they took responsibility for the image of football in Australia being tarnished.
The opening paragraph alone is enough to rile the die-hard members of the larger supporter groups such as the Red and Black Bloc, the Cove or the Blue and White Brigade and will be met with the argument these active groups keep the game alive.
And there are no arguments here. The energy and atmosphere that has been installed into the A-League from these fans has been fantastic, and exactly the kind of supporters we need to continue to grow the game in Australia.
However, it makes me cringe that I need to refer to the infamous Spiderman phrase of, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’. And unfortunately, I do not believe the supporter groups are taking sufficient responsibility for their members’ actions.
Earlier in the season, the powerful fan movement headed by the catchphrase of ‘passion is not a crime’ came to fruition, with fans from numerous A-League clubs unifying over its message.
The movement came after some sensationalised media coverage of the first Sydney match. Who would have thought, mainstream media conducting themselves in poorly accurate and sensationalised journalism practises? Let’s face it, it’s nothing new.
From here, reported crowd issues across the A-League have seemingly become more frequent and intense, closely associated with the larger supporter groups in the A-League.
Yet still, the likes of the RBB have subjected themselves to silent protests, and even boycotting the purchase of stadium food and drinks.
This has seemingly come to a head in the last couple weeks, with A-League incidents not only heading the football or sports news, but in fact entire news broadcasts.
The first being the supposed Melbourne Heart fan king-hitting a Wanderers supporter, followed up by some appalling behaviour from RBB individuals at the Sydney derby.
Enough is enough. The bad press these incidents are now generating makes the likes of Channel Nine’s derby coverage last December, that riled so many A-League supporters last year, look like a million dollar promotion of the game.
The FFA is quickly slandered by supporter groups for involving themselves in such incidents, whereas I feel the FFA needs to be imposing themselves strongly as the supporter hierarchies are not standing up and taking responsibility.
First thing first. Get rid of the flares.
Yes, they add to atmosphere and create a great visual spectacle but no matter how much you try and justify them, they are not legal in Australian stadiums.
While they continue to be encouraged and used amongst the supporter groups, flares are the very symbol that the media use to portray what they consider ‘football hooligism’.
Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph page six article, titled as ‘Hooligan Horror’, is a perfect example, with a half page image of a flare being lit plastered across the page.
Yet one just needs to visit the likes of the ‘passion is not a crime’ Facebook page, which is branded with images of flares throughout the timeline, almost as badges of honour.
The page describes itself as being ‘dedicated to the community of passionate and active football fans across Australia’. However, I fail to understand how encouraging acts, which simply fuels the very medium they are trying to fight (the media), helps the game they profess to love?
It simply provides the media more resources to generalise football fans as ‘hooligans’.
Nothing will be achieved for the game with sheer ignorance of the media and its ways.
Some of the recent protests have been centred around the ‘heavy-handed’ actions of police towards supporter groups. These protests seem almost farcical now, given the weekend’s events prior to and during the Sydney derby.
Instead of protesting against the security and law enforcement, the supporter groups should be working more closely with them, the respective clubs and the FFA to ensure these minority individuals, who are causing the trouble, are stamped out.
Once again, I fail to understand why defending the very individuals who are tarnishing not only the individual supporter groups but football as a whole helps the game they profess to love in any way.
I’ve been a passionate football supporter my entire life. With a particular passion for the Serie A, it has been severely disappointing to see how the negative stories of crowd violence, racism and match fixing have tarnished the league internationally, with the quality of football often a distant oversight.
This type of extremist fanatical behaviour which exists across Europe, South America and other leagues is not welcome in Australia and will never be accepted by the media or the general public.
Passion is not a crime. But violence, verbal abuse, flares and anti-social behaviour are indeed crimes.
It’s time to stop deflecting blame and take internal action.