So the NSW Police are going to let the Red and Black Bloc do their thing at Bankwest Stadium? That’s excellent news for everyone in the A-League.
Full credit to assistant commissioner Mark Jones for admitting to Tom Smithies of The Daily Telegraph that “it took us a while as police to adapt and understand” the nuances of policing A-League games.
“Football is very different to rugby league or union or AFL. The actual game is very different and the spectator involvement is very different,” he said.
And Jones, who’s a self-declared fan of the round-ball game, had some more positive things to say after meeting with the RBB ahead of the new campaign.
“They bring a spectacular atmosphere which is absolutely special,” Jones said of Western Sydney Wanderers’ passionate home end.
That should be music to the ears of not just Western Sydney fans but supporters of teams across the league.
Because if one has thing has noticeably diminished over the past couple of seasons, it’s the atmosphere inside A-League grounds.
A big part of the reason for that has been Football Federation Australia’s administration of the league.
Who knew that blowing raspberries at active supporters and turning a blind eye to fans unfairly handed stadium bans might lead many to simply stop coming?
And the dwindling atmosphere behind the goals has had a knock-on effect, with fewer casual fans buying tickets to sit elsewhere inside A-League stadiums.
But if the FFA and police have both played their roles in discouraging fans from attending, it should also be acknowledged that some fans seemed to jump at the first opportunity to turn their backs on the game.
Trawl through the not-so-hidden recesses of the world wide web and it sometimes feels like for every A-League fan you find, you come across about a hundred others bashing away at the keyboard about how much they dislike the competition.
One vocal variety are the supporters who used to attend A-League games, but for one reason or another simply made the choice to stop coming.
That’s entirely their right – at the end of the day, the A-League is essentially just another form of entertainment – but you’d think they’d eventually grow tired of bagging a competition they no longer attend in person or seem to watch on TV.
And if there’s one thing all of us arguably need to do this season, it’s re-evaluate our commitment to the cause and relationship with the A-League.
Because it’s not the police or the powers-that-be in charge of the game who can transform the atmosphere in the stands – it’s literally us fans.
So the Red and Black Bloc need to return en masse this season if they want the A-League to be more like the games from Europe we all seem to covet so dearly.
And the same goes for the Den and the Cove and every other supporter group out there.
With the first Sydney derby of the season taking place at Bankwest Stadium on a Saturday evening in Round 3, there’s no reason to think the full house sign won’t be going up at the new venue.
But all of that is contingent on fans turning over a new leaf and accepting that without them, there’s not much of a competition to support in the first place.
Or at least not one as vibrant and colourful as we all seem to think it should be.
Assistant commissioner Mark Jones’ comments this week were a step in the right direction.
More thoughtful policing can help build relationships with fans, and hopefully in turn improve the atmosphere inside A-League stadiums.
Because it’s passion in the stands – not the standard of football, or marquee players or anything else – that remains the A-League’s unique selling point.
Get that right this season and the league is back in business.