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A fan's response to Melbourne Victory's letter (part 1)

The A-League occasionally has fan violence problems. (AAP Image/James Elsby)
Roar Guru
12th February, 2014
137
2300 Reads

I am an inaugural Melbourne Victory season ticket holder/member and have been a consistent presence while a variety of chairmen and chief executives have come and gone through the lifespan of the franchise.

Over those nine continuous years I have sat on both the wings but also participated in the club’s active areas – mostly the North Terrace area.

To say there has been a complex relationship between the administrators of the club and the active fans who make up the North Terrace is an understatement to say the least.

The latest episode in this often difficult relationship lies in a letter that Melbourne Victory administrators sent to members outlining its measures to try and clear up the mess it has found itself in.

At the end of the letter they propose the introduction of a “member sub-committee” which will apparently represent all aspects of the member base, will meet every two months and have a club director sitting on in meetings.

In theory this sounds all well and good.

Unfortunately the narrative which the club has detailed throughout the letter and the choice of its timing leads this fan to wonder if the measures are an act of politics on the club administrators’ part.

In the latest letter the club outline that in 2008/2009 season the FFA first mandated it change from a General Admission access model to a fully reserved designated area.

This is important in the present because the latest ‘trial measures’ announced by Damien De Bohun is, in effect, a re-affirming of these old measures.

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The club are now essentially hiding behind this to deflect pressure to re-instigate a General Admission oriented system, which will improve the quality of active support at Melbourne Victory matches.

If the current crop of administrators had been either around or paying proper attention, they would know the imposition of Home End Membership (HEM) for the 2009/2010 season onwards was the turning point in which the support for Melbourne Victory began to stagnate.

This held true both numerically and in terms of quality.

Attendances had started off at 14,000 in the inaugural 2005/2006 season when Victory finished second last. They then climbed in season two (2006/2007) to an average of 27,000, and remained steady to 26,000 in the 2007/2008 season.

This is in the seasons where all the bad media coverage and anti-social incidents were apparently so bad it prompted the FFA to act on the advice of security firm Hatamoto – a firm with qualifications in counter-terrorism and career backgrounds in port security but not in football – to arbitrarily impose the ‘Home End Membership’ system (HEM).

The club fail to mention in their letter they were fully complicit in this, even designating all of AAMI Park into an allocated seating stadium when it opened.

What happened next is perhaps most telling – average attendances at Victory games dropped to 24,000 in the 2008/2009 season – despite winning the grand final and Premiership Plate.

In the 2009/2010 season the average attendance dropped even further to 20,000, despite once again making the grand final and nearly winning the Premiership Plate.

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The 2010/2011 season was the low point, average attendances dropped even more to 15,000 that season and the security management of the area was so bad that even the Blue and White Brigade packed in and the North Terrace collapsed at the very end of the season.

The statistical evidence seems to suggest the FFA-led response and counter measures to anti-social incidents like arbitrarily imposing HEM without negotiation did much more harm than the anti-social incidents themselves.

The club’s measures in taking this even further and imposing stadium-wide allocated seating would have exacerbated problems even further.

The club then go on to mention the development of the supporter charter, a form of memorandum of understanding between the various parties based on mutual respect.

This of course led to the North Terrace returning for the 2011/2012 season. The atmosphere mildly improved – although it was still a shadow of the highs of the 2006/2007 season – and the average attendance began to recover and was once again in the region of 20,000.

This thankfully led to an expansion of the allowable North Terrace area for the 2012/2013 season and, combined with Ange Postecoglou as coach, the enthusiastic vibe returned to the club.

The atmosphere was the best it had been for in the region of five years and average attendances continued to rise to 23,000 for the year.

Of course with the rise of attendances, the active areas once again began to re-swell in numbers, which naturally meant there were more issues.

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The club neglected to mention that in the face of the pressure they supposedly faced, they made the decision to throw away six months of work and unilaterally threw the support charter out of the window and impose the strictest conditions yet.

Rather disappointing they weren’t willing to persevere with the promising charter and work through the teething problems, nor the signs they clearly hadn’t learnt from history.

This naturally raises the question as to why they are once again being complicit in a strategy that will undermine the potential of the club’s support and nurture only mediocrity?

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