The Roar
The Roar

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Do legal pyrotechnics mean the FFA is now going to listen to fans?

Is the RBB overreacting? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Expert
11th March, 2018
104

What a coincidence that after a FIFA/AFC delegation pays Australia a visit, the FFA suddenly decides it might be an opportune time to listen to fans.

Does the stunning announcement that Football Federation Australia will work with active supporter groups to permit ‘safe smoke’ devices inside A-League grounds next season mean the game’s governing body has decided to no longer treat fans with contempt?

And is this the craziest idea we’ve heard all season?

Firstly, the thought of FFA somehow legislating the use of quasi-incendiary devices inside A-League grounds next season is so funny you can’t help but think it’s a joke.

Secondly – and more importantly – does this mean FFA is ready to call a truce in its long-standing war against fans in a furtive attempt to entice back the active supporters who deserted the terraces long ago?

And if FFA has suddenly decided to listen to stakeholders rather than steadfastly ignoring them, can I just say this?

Trying to make the A-League’s match-going experience the same as the NRL and AFL has done nothing but alienate football fans who know exactly what a passionate atmosphere is supposed to look and sound like.

It’s such a simple point to make – yet it’s taken the FFA some thirteen-and-a-half seasons to come to this exceedingly obvious conclusion.

And now that FFA has decided things aren’t going so swimmingly – according to Mediaweek, Saturday night’s clash between Western Sydney and Wellington Phoenix drew just 23,000 viewers to Fox Sports – does this mean they’ll be listening to other suggestions as well?

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Can we scrap the salary cap? Or at the very least, find a way to raise it so that clubs aren’t punished every time they happen to unearth a decent player deserving of a contract extension?

And can we do something about this stupid scheduling as well?

Split rounds might be a necessary evil – and it’s worth remembering our AFC Champions League representatives have lobbied hard for them in the past – but did both of this weekend’s fixtures really need to be played on Saturday night?

Know what TV viewers looking for a sport fix watched on Friday night and Sunday afternoon? The NRL.

Still, having at first tried exploiting, ignoring, banning and then ignoring fans again, it’s nice to see FFA be open-minded enough to at least try something new next season – even if it’s only because FIFA and the AFC are watching.

Because if all you do is demand that your fan-base pays more and more for a product they’re not happy with, what you end up with is a situation like West Ham United.

Is anyone surprised that a handful of Hammers supporters invaded the pitch in their dismal 3-0 defeat to Burnley on Saturday night?

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The move to London Stadium has been a disaster – even if co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold point to bigger crowds as the logic for leaving Upton Park – and the chaos that transpired in Stratford on Saturday was symptomatic of the disconnect between football clubs and fans around the world these days.

Despite disturbances at practically every single game they’ve played at the unloved venue, security personnel were bewildered by the sight of disgruntled West Ham fans streaming on to the pitch – leaving enraged Hammers skipper Mark Noble to take matters into his own hands.

Then, with hundreds of fans massed in front of their directors’ box aiming a cacophony of insults at Gold, Sullivan and Karren Brady, West Ham’s directors were eventually escorted by police out of the venue for their own safety.

The look on their faces said it all – having moved away from the Boleyn Ground against many fans’ wishes, displaced season ticket holders and banned protest marches, the hapless Hammers trio then seemed genuinely surprised that not everyone had bought into their dystopian vision of football.

It’s a nightmare FFA needs to avoid.

Supporters have gone missing this season. Perhaps we can smoke them out.