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Opinion

The death of active support will be the death of the A-League

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Expert
1st December, 2019
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2836 Reads

Nikola Mileusnic scored one of the best goals seen anywhere in world football this weekend, but whether that was a good thing or not probably depends on your personality type.

Mileusnic’s dipping, swerving strike at Coopers Stadium on Sunday afternoon was one of the goals of this or any other A-League season.

It was a textbook left-foot volley scored from a perfectly executed throw-in by one of the most exciting young talents in the league.

Did many people see it? Depends who you ask.

For some A-League observers, the seemingly limitless potential of online streaming – with its cheaper price point and as yet unpublished viewer numbers – outweighs what we actually know.

But one thing we do know is that for all the talk of A-League fans having to sit through games in sweltering summer heat, they certainly don’t turn up in any great numbers when it’s cold.

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Just 4,187 fans turned out at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong to witness Sydney FC’s 2-0 win over Western United on Sunday, while only 6,207 fans filed through the gates at Coopers Stadium.

Mention these numbers to a certain type of A-League fan and they’ll insist that they’re irrelevant, with the actual football on display supposedly the only topic worth discussing.

But the problem for every A-League club is that these numbers are down across the board and show no signs of trending upwards anytime soon.

Nikola Mileusnic

(AAP Image/James Elsby)

Who’s to blame for this? That’s probably a broad philosophical question that could be answered any number of ways.

But it’s quicker just to point out it was Football Federation Australia who waged war on active supporter groups a few seasons ago, and not much has been done to entice new fans through the gates ever since.

No surprise, then, to see Sydney FC fans complain of heavy-handed security tactics on their trip to Geelong, with several fans allegedly removed from the bay for standing to watch the game.

There were photos of stadium security surrounding the away bay, the usual tut-tutting on Twitter with A-League boss Greg O’Rourke tagged in for good measure, and a promise from the FFA to look into the security arrangements.

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And what will happen as a result of this investigation?

Nothing.

If the A-League has perfected one thing, it’s doing the grand sum of zero anytime some action is required.

So Western Sydney Wanderers fans will terrify stadium staff at Eden Park in Auckland next weekend. And Melbourne Victory fans can expect a hot reception from security in Geelong.

Because the only way that wouldn’t be the case is if the FFA stepped in and defended supporters, and history suggests that’s unlikely to happen.

Saying as much isn’t being negative, it’s simply acknowledging reality.

Yet as unhelpful as the FFA have historically been, they’re not solely to blame for the dwindling attendances and shrinking TV audiences.

At the end of the day, the responsibility for filling A-League venues has to fall on fans.

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With that in mind, it’s nice to see fans of a club like Brisbane Roar trying to rebuild their active supporter base, after The Den effectively ceased to exist at the end of last season.

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Anyone who wants to get involved with Brisbane Roar’s active support can get along to the XXXX Alehouse on Thursday night to have their say on the future of the club’s home end.

And the Roar need it, given that clubs like Victory and the Wanderers blow them out of the water in terms of atmosphere.

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So was Mileusnic’s volley one of the goals of the season? Depends on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person.

If an exciting young player scores a screamer and hardly anyone was there to see it, did he really score a screamer at all?

Of course he did! But perhaps the more relevant question is: what are we going to do to rebuild active support?