Hooliganism has no place in any Australian sport and anyone condemning the events prior to the Victory-Wanderers match was totally justified in doing so.
However, the way in which many journalists dealt with the issue suggests the reaction of some in the media is not based on concern about the violence itself, but rather personal prejudices against the world game.
Particular offenders in this domain include News Limited journalists Rita Panahi and Rebecca Wilson, who regularly criticise football, not merely for questions of hooliganism.
A common theme in many reports on this issue has been the suggestion violence is somehow an inherent characteristic of football fan culture, distinguishing football fans from those of other sports.
Journalists point to examples of fan misbehaviour around the world, alleging fan violence is rife in football and is an intrinsic part of its supporter culture.
But this claim is entirely misguided.
Today, hooliganism in developed, well-regulated nations such as England, the United States or Japan (to name a few examples) is virtually non-existent.
Only in countries with significant wider social problems – often developing nations, such as those in Eastern Europe or South America – does football hooliganism occur often and on a wide scale.
Sport-related hooliganism in such countries is symptomatic of more general social issues, not the fact the sport in question is football.
If say rugby league, or AFL, were the only thriving sports in these countries (as football is currently), then hooliganism would likely be just as prevalent.
To claim fan violence is an inherent evil in world football entirely ignores the context of the situation.
In her article, Panahi rejected the claim football fans are unfairly treated by the media, commenting, “if any of those incidents [of hooliganism] occurred in the AFL, the coverage would be significantly greater.”
Maybe so, but the fact is when controversy erupts in the AFL or NRL, condemnation is typically directed at specific clubs or individuals.
Never do controversial incidents in these leagues illicit responses that attack the sport in general.
When an NRL player is involved in a rape or assault scandal, the media quickly condemns that individual rather than attacking the sport generally – and rightly so, because violent, alcohol-fuelled misogyny is not somehow ‘inherent’ in rugby league.
When AFL or NRL clubs are involved in drug scandals, the media does not start labelling rugby league or Australian Rules as sports for drug cheats, because that’s just not true.
But when some idiot supporters of a couple of A-League clubs start fighting with each other, the mainstream media – people like Panahi and Wilson – immediately decry football as a sport for thug fans, where hooliganism is apparently inherent and characteristic of supporter culture.
The double standard in reporting is obvious and unfair.
An NRL player does something stupid, and he is rightly criticised. An A-League fan does something stupid, and the entire sport is sensationally labelled as ‘violent’ or ‘thuggish’.
Finally, journalists – again Rita Panahi provides an excellent case study – are quick to defend their reporting by ridiculing the apparent ‘inferiority complex’ of many football fans.
If such a complex does exist among football supporters, then they have fair grounds for it, considering the utter disdain shown for the sport by many journalists – and Panahi in particular, as evidence in this video from 2010.
In it, Panahi triumphantly declares, “soccer is dead” and – in a remarkable feat of irrationality – somehow claims football fans are violent because their sport is “boring”.
When the very journalists who ridicule football and publicly express their disdain for the sport criticise football fans for their self-pity, and begin to generalise on the sport’s problems, it is very hard to claim football doesn’t suffer from at least some sort of mistreatment from the mainstream Australian media.
There is absolutely no doubt football in this country does have a problem with the behaviour of a small minority of its fans.
But the regularly odious media reaction leads to a question: do journalists such as Panahi and Wilson write articles decrying violence in football because they detest the violence- or because they detest the sport?