RBB stuck between prawn sandwiches and ultra-wannabes

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert


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    Is the RBB overreacting? (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    Yesterday the Red and Black Bloc announced their intention to boycott the remainder of the Wanderers’ season, turning their backs – and not as part of a Poznan – on a season that has rarely caught the eye anyway.

    The decision, according to their announcement, was based on a lack of communication between the supporters group, and the club management and the FFA. One wonders exactly why a group who brazenly wore T-shirts bearing ‘FCK FFA’ – a cute take on the RUN DMC logo – would expect the football’s governing body to be eager to engage with them.

    Suffice it to say, this isn’t the first time the RBB have railed against a punishment they appear to have wholly earned.

    Which is it: prawn sandwiches or flares? There seems to be very little middle ground when it comes to active support in the A-League. Naturally there is a very small section of football fans who have romanticised the ‘ultra’ mentality, who revel in wild fantasies of hooliganism and chaos and who see the vibrant, incendiary home support in Europe and South America as indivisible from that.

    Football is rough, harsh competition and football supporters are rougher and harsher, the sentiment reflected in each fan and intensified with every reflection, a distilled, condensed embodiment.

    Football at its core is supposed to be one of the few leisure activities of the working classes, where the downtrodden and undervalued can roar in catharsis. Fandom is tribal, and tribes war against each other. There is some sense to this, and there is value in preserving the spirit of these ideas. 

    Western Sydney Wanderers' fans

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    The word ‘bastard’ is hardly one that should cause a sharp intake of breath these days. It barely registers on the profanity scale. In fact if you were told someone had been arrested for offensive language after saying ‘bastard’ on the street, it’s likely that news would shock you more than the word itself, and it’s highly unlikely the arrest would lead to a conviction.

    But how much sympathy should we have for the RBB capos who led the Bloc over megaphone in a raucous ACAB – ‘all cops are bastards’ – chant in front of on-duty police officers and who were subsequently banned from the stadium for five years for offensive chanting? Does the punishment fit the crime? Probably not, but they could easily have avoided it in the first place.

    So the latest RBB boycott, for all we know, might stick for good. Regardless of how you view these supporter groups, it’s clear this brand of active support – the imagery of whom, we should remind ourselves, is continually used by the league and FFA in promotional material for every derby in the league – is incompatible with the current climate, a climate set in large part by the FFA.

    The Squadron, which is the Jets active support who also wrapped up their matchday presence last year, and the North Terrace, which is the Victory active support, both cited in so many words excessive restrictions on the matchday experience as one of the main reasons for their stepping back.

    “Widespread apathy and a loss of ‘mentality’…” the NOrth Terrace said in their Facebook statement. The Squadron spoke of the relationship with police and security forces as “consistently adversarial and aggressive”. 

    Western Sydney Wanderers active support fans

    (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

    I’ve never led a roaring maw of partisan troops, all chanting as one, all writhing in the ecstasy of victory or wallowing in the agony of defeat. How fragile is that mentality, as they say, and how susceptible to mortal bouts of apathy?

    Watch this footage, taken from inside the Manchester City bus as it rolled up to Anfield this week; it seems unpleasant, to be sure, and although City’s Kevin de Bruyne has refused to condemn the Liverpool fans for their behaviour, it surely must have felt that way on the inside of that bus. But it’s also invigorating, isn’t it? 

    “It was okay,” de Bruyne said. “I don’t mind supporters doing that. I’ve had it a couple of times for my team and it’s a nice feeling.

    “Breaking windows is probably not done, but who am I to say something? I am fine with it as long as no-one gets hurt.”

    Liverpool apologised to the Manchester City team in the strongest possible terms for this behaviour and vowed to assist the authorities in punishing those responsible. Will this lead to the leaders that rouse the Kop releasing bleating Facebook statements and boycotting the next home game? Probably not.

    If you want to wear a ‘FCK FFA’ T-shirt, you actually have to, well, not care what the FFA do or think, even – perhaps especially – if what they do tries to pour cold water on your defiance. Real ultras – if that’s what you’re purporting to be – probably don’t whinge and retreat because of an increased police presence or a few stadium bans. 

    The happy medium between illegal flares and violence, and a dead, airless stadium must exist. Personally I don’t think chants with swearing should be banned; in a stadium where active support has been driven out, you’d hear the players swearing at one another – or indeed at the referee – anyway.

    Nothing about football, historically or practically, is or should be made G-rated. But I also think that active support and the kind of European vibrancy they hope to emulate, can be divorced from the violence and thuggery we still see in the grimier footballing areas of Europe.

    Again we’ve come to a false impasse, and it’s very hard to see exactly who’s at fault. The suspicion is that both the RBB and the FFA are, but it’s the RBB who have withdrawn now, and we’ll see how long they stay away and how much damage, if any, their absence inflicts.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (77)

    • April 7th 2018 @ 7:53am
      bobbym said | April 7th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      so they are now in-active supporters – joining the club of about 18 million other Australians.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 7th 2018 @ 8:05am
        Waz said | April 7th 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        The one thing you can say about the RBB is they are never in-active, the only question is whether they’re in the stadium or not come game day. But they are never in-active.

      • April 7th 2018 @ 8:14am
        Nemesis said | April 7th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        So many Aussies without any interest in A-League football.

        Yet, so many of these same Aussies can’t stop talking about A-League football every waking day.

        “For there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”
        The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

        • April 7th 2018 @ 9:48pm
          Virgil Starkwell said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:48pm | ! Report

          Your first paragraph sums it up perfectly. So many.

          • April 8th 2018 @ 10:48am
            Post_hoc said | April 8th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

            Then why do you feel the need to come here to tell us

            • April 8th 2018 @ 10:53am
              quartz said | April 8th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

              some folk have a strong sense of civic duty

              • April 8th 2018 @ 6:46pm
                Post_hoc said | April 8th 2018 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

                How sad must your life be, to spend your time on a sport you don’t like, how sad

      • April 9th 2018 @ 12:30am
        Freddie said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:30am | ! Report

        But not you bobbym. You’re here, talking and contributing. Good on you.

    • April 7th 2018 @ 8:00am
      Kangajets said | April 7th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      You are almost glorifying the fools that damaged the Manchester City bus .

      Also , what has the kop at Liverpool got to do with the bus attack . Nothing at all .

      As for the one sidedness of the article regarding the rbb, why bother trying to reason with you , the authors attitude is just a rigid.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 7th 2018 @ 8:50am
        Waz said | April 7th 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        The author thinks The Kop is “active support” a concept invented by the ffa so they could apply restrictions and controls 😂

        Some people need to travel more lol

    • April 7th 2018 @ 8:12am
      marron said | April 7th 2018 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      The suggestion that emulation of Barra bravas or equivalent is the dream is often suggested, but it’s far from the truth.

      “The real ultras wouldn’t…..”

      This is a unique context. What “works ” elsewhere won’t here, although there are examples of boycotts, in Germany probably most recentl.

      The boycott is not about getting in trouble. It’s about the longstanding issues. Why would the FFA talk to the t-shirt wearers? This would maybe be a good point, if FFA hadn’t first promised numerous reasonable things and then seemingly forgotten all about it and refused to talk about it. Drawing attention to it becomes the only method of communication then.

      Meanwhile at club/stadium level, also no dialogue, and only promises of more heavy handedness despite the closest thing to trouble there being some songs and a half muttered swear word.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 7th 2018 @ 9:02am
        Waz said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Well said. There’s a lot of complexity in this situation which few articles are bringing to the fore.

        After the last fan boycotts two years ago the ffa have failed to deliver on any of the promisses they made, so there is no talking to be done with the ffa they are an organisation that can not be trusted. Fan boycotts and protests are the only method left, the only question now is do the RBB act in isolation or do other groups join in?

        The apologists wont like it, but they’ve never had to deal with the FFA, never had to turn up early on match day to get a simple banner through a designated gate, never wasted half an hour of their like arguing with stadium security that you do have ffa permission for the “Brisbane Roar FC” banner you’ve made in your spare time, they’ve never been hastled by stadium security just because of where they stand in a stadium, and they’ve never been subjected to routine and regular photographing of yourself and your kids by paramilitary style security forces paid for by an ffa that says its poor on cash and who are no doubt reading the posts on this article and adding names to their big, secret list of fans who have been naughty and those who have been nice.

        • April 7th 2018 @ 9:14am
          marron said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          Much better said Waz. Simple things people would like, so far removed from the Curva, but treated like it was just that.

          Something also missed by lots of commentary is that many members will still be going – supporting like anyone else. And hope remains that the off season will sort a few things out.

        • April 7th 2018 @ 1:35pm
          Vennegor of Tarsus said | April 7th 2018 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          You are exactly right, I sit at the opposite end of the RBB when at Olympic Stadium and the security measures are way over the top for a match against wellington Phoenix , Now do I Join the Boycott?

    • Roar Guru

      April 7th 2018 @ 8:24am
      Grobbelaar said | April 7th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      No public response from WSW management, but having lost their two major sponsors over the past 12 months, internally, they’d be thinking: thank goodness for that (at the prospect of the RBB walking away from supporting WSW).

      This now gives WSW a real chance of becoming the juggernaut of Australian sport they were destined to become.

      • April 7th 2018 @ 9:01am
        Kangajets said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Insurance agent Nrma still manage to sponsor the Brisbane broncos, so maybe they see Mathew lodge as a better role model

        • Roar Guru

          April 7th 2018 @ 12:57pm
          Grobbelaar said | April 7th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          it’s a fair point, but regardless of where these two major sponsors are going, WSW has lost two of them in the space of 12 months.

      • April 7th 2018 @ 1:39pm
        Vennegor of Tarsus said | April 7th 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        You must be Joking , the RBB are the best product were ever had. Don’t listen to the Sydney Fc supporters that claim the RBB are responsible for the failings of the A League. Sponsorship is being dropped because media exposure is so low as well as attendances.

        • Roar Guru

          April 7th 2018 @ 1:43pm
          Grobbelaar said | April 7th 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

          It’s the WSW management themselves who have publicly given the reason for the sponsorship being dropped.

          • April 7th 2018 @ 2:00pm
            Vennegor of Tarsus said | April 7th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            Yes but do you think NRMA are going to say publicly that the Western Sydney Wanderers don’t offer enough exposure to continue sponsorship . Poor TV rating’s, Poor Attendances, Lack of media coverage are all good reasons to pull sponsorship.

            Besides let’s consider how ridiculous this is……………… They are pulling sponsorship over a flare?

            • Roar Guru

              April 7th 2018 @ 3:34pm
              Grobbelaar said | April 7th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

              Well, two major sponsorships have been lost in the space of 12 months. Quite clearly, that didn’t occur because of one flare.

              • April 8th 2018 @ 10:52am
                Post_hoc said | April 8th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

                Bull, not true, if you watched football you know the UWS is still a sponsor, so stop lying

      • April 7th 2018 @ 2:32pm
        WSWMember said | April 7th 2018 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

        Totally agree with you Grobbelaar.

        • April 8th 2018 @ 10:53am
          Post_hoc said | April 8th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          Why? Never seen you here before which multi are you?

      • April 7th 2018 @ 11:11pm
        Buddy said | April 7th 2018 @ 11:11pm | ! Report

        That just won’t happen for many reasons that are quite difficult to put into a cohesive piece against an article like this. In short, for the club to be a juggernaut and to attract sponsors etc and to become big it requires a mix of sponsors and fans. After all, the sponsors are always pushing products to the fans. At WSW you are bombarded with promotions from NRMA, Pepper Money and the like. You need a strong groundswell of support to takr up the offers etc. Right now the support is really split. There are many non active that support the RBB and plenty that don’t or only on certain terms. However, one of the main comments ever made by anyone going to WSW is the noise of the active support – it is relentless irrespective of how well or badly the team is doing and that has set it apart from many other groups – there is even a club endorsed mini-RBB and plenty of young kids are attracted to the singing and the noise. Without it, the place is morgue like as was the case tonight and there were many people in the bay where I was suggesting that if it is going to be like this, it just isn’t worth coming. Even with a small crowd tonight and no RBB the policing and stewarding was over the top. The stadium holds 85000 or thereabouts and I witnessed a few people trying to sit together after the game had started and they obviously had tickets for different areas and were prevented by security even though there were rows of empty seats. The police arrived on the scene and immediately marched someone out of the place although he did reappear later. Divide and conquer is not a sound policy.

      • April 8th 2018 @ 10:50am
        Post_hoc said | April 8th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        That’s a lie they haven’t lost two I have explained this, you are such a fraud

    • April 7th 2018 @ 9:14am
      Kangajets said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Ffa are the KGB from the Cold War

    • April 7th 2018 @ 9:47am
      Timmuh said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Looking at it from outside, this only reinforces my view that the RBB – or at least its leaders – see themselves as the main event and the sport as the backdrop. They appear to be almost more “gang” than “active support”.

      • April 7th 2018 @ 9:55am
        Nemesis said | April 7th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        How many times have you experienced the RBB – either at their home games, or at an away match?

        I’ve been at some matches that featured some of the most controversial RBB incidents in Melbourne. They helped to create the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at any A-League match, better than Melbourne Derbies & Grand Finals.

        • April 7th 2018 @ 2:39pm
          WSWMember said | April 7th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

          Yes that’s true Nemesis – the RBB do create great atmosphere but some of their foul-mouthed chants, disgusting banners/tifo’s & the illegal lighting of flares has just been over the top & the fans, members & club are fed up with it. The RBB have had numerous warnings.No wonder sponsors are pulling out & the media are having a field day at Football’s expense. The RBB needs responsible leadership not wannabe gang members.

        • April 7th 2018 @ 4:50pm
          marco said | April 7th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

          @ Nem
          Are you seriously defending RBB? The simulator strikes again!

      • April 7th 2018 @ 10:04am
        Fadida said | April 7th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Agree, they definitely believe they are the main event. Totally over estimating their importance.

        • April 7th 2018 @ 10:20am
          Kangajets said | April 7th 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          Then the Ffa needs to come out and say, we just want a sterile tennis environment, if the crowds couldn’t get any worse .

          Having seen the English fans riot in Belgium, having been chased by notts forest fans , having walked through 20000 Germany fans , I see absolutely nothing about the Rbb that is like the bad days of Europe.

          • Roar Guru

            April 7th 2018 @ 12:58pm
            Grobbelaar said | April 7th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

            Why does the FFA need to make a reference to another sport?

        • April 7th 2018 @ 10:31am
          Kangajets said | April 7th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report


          Not sure I agree with you , re overestimating their importantance . The A league advertises itself as having great crowd atmosphere, in the early A league days the squadron was massive and such a great enhancement to being at the game .
          I’ve seen how the heavy security has destroyed fans hanging out and chanting and having a good time .

          I’m not sure the A league will come back from this until they get rid of gallop and co .
          They are like the kgb

          • April 7th 2018 @ 1:44pm
            Vennegor of Tarsus said | April 7th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            There needs to be a supporter group set up that represents all the clubs supporters so we can protest the FFA together. Maybe we should throw tennis balls onto the field.

            • Roar Rookie

              April 7th 2018 @ 1:56pm
              Waz said | April 7th 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

              The ffa ban all forms of balls from their stadiums. You can take a football in (or a tennis ball) but it must be deflated.

              • April 7th 2018 @ 2:03pm
                Vennegor of Tarsus said | April 7th 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

                In other words , No more testosterone

              • Roar Rookie

                April 7th 2018 @ 2:22pm
                Waz said | April 7th 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

                Not if it involves inflated balls, sorry sir, ffa instructions and all that ..

        • April 7th 2018 @ 11:45am
          marron said | April 7th 2018 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          The media being obsessed with it doesn’t help the perception I think.

          The statements they release aren’t PR. They are for their members and sometimes to the club. But people latch on to it like it’s a hubris filled letter to everyone. If say the old squadron released a similar statement to their members, theres less interest. And no offence meant to those guys – they just don’t suit the narrative.

          If you ask RBB members, while many would argue that the noise and colour is important to the club , pretty sure you’d find that all anyone wants to do is go to the football and have some fun without hassle – and that what anyone else thinks about it is immaterial.

        • April 7th 2018 @ 11:43pm
          Buddy said | April 7th 2018 @ 11:43pm | ! Report

          When the RBB are present and a goal is scored, players run over and celebrate with that section of supporters – never anywhere else. At the end of the game they stand in front, sing and chant “who do we sing for” and they hug and shake hands and take selfies etc. From that I suggest that the club/players love the whole adulation/support but perhaps it is just that the hiearchy wants the relationship purely on its own terms.
          “Wanted, several thousand persons to purchase season tickets and as many away game tickets as possible. Persons must be willing to sing and chant for the full 90 minutes. Also, in their own time make banners, tifos, create new songs and ensure they know all the words. Banners and Tifos must be G rated and must not use any profanities, neither shall they depict any person associated with the game in a negative fashion. Drawings must not contain any nudity nor be suggestive. Tifos will not be approved if they make an adult or child feel threatened, nor shall they make any claim that the club is powerful or that another club is less powerful or not masculine.
          Persons attending must actively support the mangement of the club and its representaives and shall at all times respect the governing body FFA and its representatives and must not depict anything negative in relation to anyone holding a position within the governing body.
          Persons deciding to join up should be prepared to read the full terms and conditions and are reminded that whilst it is acceptable for players to utter profanities in frustration or to show dissent, the penalty for a supporter making a similar uttering shall be that they are removed from the stadium, have membership revoked and will receive a ban from entering all stadiums for several seasons at least.”

      • April 7th 2018 @ 12:25pm
        Angry Kossie said | April 7th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        Spot on. I’ve been to plenty of games with/without the RBB and like the majority of fans I enjoy the atmosphere that they create, however, I enjoy the game regardless.

        You would think that following the leadership woes of the cricket team being played out in the media that organisations (social or otherwise) would have a think about their own leadership and culture. RBB have let themselves down in the last few weeks and maybe they need the time away from the game to find representatives who can have a mature discussion with their Club. Otherwise, “play on” as players and real fans continue to support the club and enjoy the game. I’m hoping that the departure of Brosque and Arnold will give Sydney FC a chance to think about how they are perceived next season as a club and also how they behave on the field!

        Oh, I can also report that the continuous, loud music played at the Jets game last night was on par with the chicken buckets, attention deficit sports which many posters like to criticise!

        • April 7th 2018 @ 2:18pm
          Fadida said | April 7th 2018 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

          Highlight of the BBL type atmosphere at the Jets last night was a pi$$ed Lawrie McKinna singing”what about me” next to Shannon knolls (sic).