Tahrir Square came to Melbourne on a warm, steamy Wednesday night. There was an expectant buzz in the venue as the two teams took the field and play commenced. Representing the football establishment, the panel – captained by A-League chairman, Lyall Gorman.
On the other side of the pitch, the fans of Melbourne – leaderless and in search of heroes.
The panel was given the ball and did their best to impress. The Age’s Michael Lynch, the panel’s Garrincha, entertained us with his cheek. His impersonation of an AFL crowd went down a treat.
The PFA’s Brendan Schwab, the steady centre back, impressed with his lucid and well constructed arguments.
He stated that the A-League model they designed included the provision for two teams in Sydney and Melbourne. The FFA ignored their recommendations and proceeded with a flawed one city/one team model. Six years down the track we don’t have a second Sydney team and a huge chunk of the city disconnected from the A-League.
Melbourne Heart CEO Scott Munn, the impish left back serving his football apprentice, also showed promise with crowd pleasing moves.
Less impressive were the Victory members of the panel.
Trent Jacobs copped an instant yellow card when he introduced himself, in the broadest AFL accent, as the General Operations Manager of the Melbourne Victory Footy Club. “It’s FOOTBALL, not FOOTY!” volleyed the indignant fans.
Was this guy at the right Footy Show?
Jacobs did make amends with a sensible suggestion for Victoria Police to send a trained team of officers to A-League games. The current ludicrous policy of rotating officers meant that fans had to deal with officers not used to the passionate nature of football crowds.
Jacobs was later spared a red card when he committed the same offence later in proceedings. “It’s FOOTBALL, not FOOTY!”
The Managing Director of MVFC, Richard Wilson, caused rumblings of dissent among the Victory fans when he did not divulge the length of their tenancy at Etihad Stadium. The deal was “Commercial in Confidence” and of an ambiguous “medium range” nature.
Incredible. The Victory fans were left in the dark, by their own club. They were left convinced they will be attending games at the despised venue until 2024. The AFL takes ownership of the stadium in 2025.
The fans were getting restless. The panel were getting too comfortable in possession of the ball. Referee, Francis Leach, blew the whistle and passed the ball over to see what the fans were made of.
For Lyall Gorman, the panel’s leader and goalkeeper, the moment had arrived. He comfortably dealt with question on Ben Buckley’s accountability. Two failed expansion teams in Queensland, a botched West Sydney team that never got off the ground and a failed World Cup bid did not mean that Bucks had failed his KPIs.
Francis then gave the ball to a young man called Con.
Little did Gorman know, Con had received expert advice from TWG’s Vitor Sobral on how to take a set piece. Con bent it around the wall and into the top corner past a hapless Lyall.
Con emoted: “I used to bring up to 20 of my friends to Victory games in Season 1 and 2, but I can’t any longer. How are we supposed to grow the game? Get rid of Home End Membership and bring back General Admission.”
The fans erupted in wild applause. They found their first hero of the night. Lyall, picked the ball out of the net and mumbled something about crowd control issues and the possible introduction of colour coding to denote active areas.
The fans sensed blood. Young Dermott, looking like someone who just stepped out of Malcolm Turnbull’s Finishing School for Merchant Bankers took possession of the ball.
He asked the fans to stand up if they were currently happy with the match day experience at A-League games. Apart, from a few of his friends who did not understand the question, not one person stood up.
Then, the dam broke. Why Dermott asked, was Hatamoto, a counter-terrrorism security consultancy group, being used to control fans at A-League matches. Wild applause erupts. The fans found their hero.
The Town Hall transformed into Tahrir Square and Lyall Gorman all of a sudden became Hosni Mubarak. And just like the millions in Egypt, the fans hushed and waited for the leader of the A-League to speak.
“Hatamoto contract has been extended,” came the answer from the leader.
What a moment. The goal Lyall was defending came down in a tangled heap. The anger in the room was palpable. I thought to myself, if only we were more like the Egyptians and waved hundreds of shoes in Lyall’s face, like the millions who did it to Mubarak.
Hatamoto’s Peter Shepherd, who was present in the venue, was singled out by Dermott. “What skills relevant to football have you got, Mr Shepherd?” Chaos ensued for a few minutes.
Finally, Francis Leach took matter into his own hands and laid down the rules: “The members of the panel are here to answer questions, not Mr. Shepherd.”
After a few more questions from the fans, proceedings finally came to a civil end.
What did we learn from the forum? As Dermott, the hero of the night said, “If the key stakeholders are refusing to inform the fans on issues affecting them, how is it possible to grow the game?”
The attitudes of FFA and A-League clubs have to change. The lack of transparency is alienating football fans around the country.
Lyall Gorman should have just come out and said Hatamoto are “weeding out people who are not fans” (according to a tweet from Seb Hassett).
Problem is, Hatamoto are still reading the ‘Dummies Guide To Being A Football Fan”.
PS: I would like to dedicate this piece to Ivo, the 100-year owner of the Charles Dickens Tavern in Melbourne. He said he’s as old as Hadjuk Split. Who am I to disagree.
Art Sapphire is the pseudonym for Athas Zafiris and he can be found on Twitter @ArtSapphire