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Storm clouds on the A-League horizon

Melbourne Victory FC fans celebrate their team scoring a goal against Perth Glory FC during their A-League match at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (AAP Image/Martin Philbey)
Roar Guru
7th October, 2013
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3017 Reads

There is much excitement and anticipation of the ninth A-League season – it would seem this is particularly the case among fans from the greater Sydney area if elements of the Sydney press are anything to go by.

A good example is a recent article by Craig Foster extolling the virtues of a good system of engagement between the clubs and the fans.

In the article, Craig Foster regales us with the tale of the past three to four years of the Australian football scene in particular.

In Foster’s words the FFA realised it had an engagement problem with fans, and when fans set up Fan Forums the FFA listened and a “We are Football” marketing campaign came out.

Foster highlights the role of social media in the new paradigm, with the culmination of this new approach came through the “game-leading engagement model” in place at the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Amidst the afterglow of season eight, the Wanderers success and Alessandro Del Piero’s signature have ensured the A-League has acquired mainstream cut-through in Sydney for the first time, six seasons after Melbourne Victory and the 2006 World Cup captured the imagination of the Melbourne public.

Interestingly, it often sounds as though people think the football fraternity has left the tumultuous period culminating with a very public spat with several A-League club owners, most notably Clive Palmer of the now defunct Gold Coast United and Nathan Tinkler of the Newcastle Jets.

Needless to say, it is going to be interesting to see what Craig Foster and the rest of the Football media up in Sydney make of the latest events erupting to the surface in Melbourne.

Needless to say it certainly appears someone hasn’t got the memo.

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While details on whether the friction between Adelaide fans and management are being constructively resolved are hard to come by, just a week out from the season, it’s become undeniably apparent that in Melbourne at least the ‘engagement model’ has deteriorated into a spectacular failure.

A major falling out between Melbourne Victory administrators and a significant cross-section of the North Terrace core known broadly as the ‘North Terrace Collective’ or NTC over the governance arrangements for the North End active area which are considered utterly unacceptable.

Using the power of social media, the NTC outlined the reasons for their objections in a statement which can be read on their Facebook page.

During the week Melbourne Victory Chairman Anthony Di Petrio and new CEO Ian Robson also used social media to make their own statement on the matter which reveals the new arrangements relate to security matters.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the most recognisable crew of the Melbourne Victory North Terrace – The Blue and White Brigade – have broken ranks with the rest of the North Terrace core and have decided they are going to participate in the new regime for reasons outlined on their own Facebook page.

Needless to say, the details and politics of what exactly has been occurring throughout the off-season are murky to say the least and new facts, statements and counter-statements are emerging frequently and the comments sections of each parties social media page (or rather their deletion rates in some cases) makes for intriguing reading.

Regardless of the truth of the matter, this line from the original NTC statement – “The route the club has gone down to achieve this by not including NT stakeholders in negotiations before implementing these draconian measures is utterly shameful”.

This at the very least suggests that the spirit of the engagement model isn’t being implemented as ideally as the Craig Fosters of this world would prefer.

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All the more the shame, because while it remains to be seen how events in the forthcoming season will unfold, the North Terrace and by extension the atmosphere Melbourne Victory games is going to be a shadow of its former self at best and a soulless zombie of a Home End at worst.

Added to the mix is the latest news in an article by Peter Rolfe of how various administrators plan to approach security at A-League games.

This seems to involve “bigger fines, tougher penalties, a stronger push for court prosecutions for feral fans and a new level of intelligence sharing will be pursued”.

It includes things like a dedicated investigations team to investigate criminal activities occurring at games, restrictions on banners, heavier scanning regimes, improved CCTV monitoring and the Public Order Response team will regularly attend matches among other measures.

To those who have followed the A-League for some time, this will of course come across as eerily familiar to many of the measures that were put in place around 2008 in the earlier years of the A-League.

The measures didn’t come without their issues to say the least, and if the crackdown is administered proportionally to the problems it is setting out to resolve, then history could end up repeating itself (if it isn’t already).

Previously fans from Sydney were somewhat isolated from the troubles of fans elsewhere, but a line towards the end of the aforementioned article may make some of them sit up and take notice – especially as the Red and Black Bloc (RBB) are concerned.

“If successful, the Victorian model is expected to become a national action plan for controlling football crowds with the FFA to meet NSW Police, agencies, venues and teams next week”.

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Let the exciting ninth season of the A-League begin!