Melbourne Victory Members Sub-Committee: Consultation or wedging?

Two of my main interests in life are football and politics, but I am not totally au fait with the tactics of either. I marvel at those who can roll off formations and place the type of player that could play in those positions. I also intrigued by the undercurrents and tactics of our politicians and enjoy reading some political analysis.

So it is quite something when these two, in a way come together.

This week Melbourne Victory members received an email inviting them to join a Members sub-committee. The idea of having a committee where members can regularly discuss issues with the club is a good one. Let’s face it. Melbourne Victory like all A-League clubs is really a commercial entity. The accusation from supporters of clubs who were in the NRL that they are franchises cannot be refuted. So any opening where members can have some input, rather than be totally passive consumers, is a good development.

It is also important to note that this sub-committee was partly a result of the protest from the Northern Terrace following issues within active members. When this idea was raised, many in the Northern Terrace dismissed it because they thought that it would supplant the communication between the Club and the NT active members. Personally, I reserved my judgment until we knew who would be represented, how the representatives were going to be chosen and what type of input was requested. I also agreed with the NT that this sub-committee could not replace any liaison between the NT and the Club as the issues with the NT are very different from other fans who sit down and just watch like me. On the other hand I thought that it would be good for all fans to somehow exchange ideas and opinions. There is a very ‘us and them’ attitude when it comes to active and non-active fans which I think should be changed.

When the details came out I wasn’t too impressed. An exercise in democracy it isn’t. Here the pertinent section of the information given to members:

 

Member Sub-Committee Objectives

  1. To enhance the relationship between Melbourne Victory Football Club and our members and deliver an integrated approach to providing the best membership experience for all.
  2. To establish a ‘medium’ for supporters to communicate directly with the club in a structured manner and receive timely and transparent responses.
  3. To help the club better understand the issues that most affect our members and to enable them to be involved in shaping the future of the Melbourne Victory Football Club.
  4. To develop member ambassadors through the Sub-Committee to assist in the receiving and dissemination of information to our members.

Role of the Member Sub-Committee 

Each elected member of the Melbourne Victory Member Sub-Committee will represent their member category and best serve ‘that group’s’ specific interests in meetings with the club.

Sub-Committee members will be expected to help shape each meeting agenda and actively manage relevant communications with members and the club, to facilitate the increase of information sharing from the club to our members.

The Sub-Committee will consist of eight members to represent a segment of membership most relevant to their profile.  The members that are chosen will create a cross-section profile of the club’s member base in respect to category, age and gender.

The membership segments that will be represented on the sub-committee

The specificity of the membership experience, which the Sub-Committee will be consulted on

  1. Premium A reserved seat member
  2. Premium B reserved seat member
  3. Active member (North)
  4. Active member (South)
  5. General Admission member
  6. Family member
  7. Country/Interstate or alternate member
  8. Non-ticketed member

  

  1. Communication (Member, Media and Social)
  2. Membership category, entitlements and privileges
  3. Match day ticketing and promotion
  4. Match day experience
  5. Merchandise and retail products
  6. Away and ACL fixtures
  7. Community engagement
  8. Equality and social responsibility

Member Sub-Committee Recruitment and Selection

The Club will conduct a recruitment and selection process that is fair and thorough.  An invitation will be sent to all members to detail the purpose, role and responsibility of being an elected member of the subcommittee.  Members can then apply for one of the eight positions.  A panel will meet to review the short-list of applications and select the members to make up the Sub-Committee.

The Club will short-list a maximum of four members per category and the following Selection Representatives will determine the successful candidates;

  1. Inaugural member that has been to over 95% of home games
  2. Melbourne Victory Ambassador
  3. Honorary Chairman
  4. Melbourne Victory Life member
  5. An administration staff member that has worked at the Club for at least 5 seasons
  6. A football journalist
  7. Research company representative

So if I get it right the way this sub-committee will be formed is by the Club short-listing a maximum of four members per category which then the successful candidates will be selected by seven people, which only 2 are ‘fan members’. As far as I can determine I can yet see how, apart for the honorary chairman, these people will be chosen (do we have one or many Ambassadors?)

So the process is not openly democratic. Perhaps it would be too much to expect an election from all members, but this process allows quite a bit of filtering, which opens the process to the accusation that only candidates which fit the ‘Melbourne Victory Corporate Agenda’ will be chosen. Further to this when I tweeted the Club to why there was no Premium C reserved seat member representative (which is my level) on the committee; I was told that I could apply as an ‘active member’. Now I can say categorically that there is little in common in issues facing Category C members and active members, so this somehow has fuelled my suspicions on this exercise.

As you would expect some active members are unimpressed. As one post on the Melbourne Victory Fans Forum states:

Fuck Them.

Personally, its better we aren’t involved. As a mass range of people in a committee has no right to say what can and can’t occur with NT.

On other shit on match day around the ground, blow up crap, kids’ mini games.. Blah Blah.. They can go for their life.

But as for NT issues, that’s between US and club only.

And…

 

End of the day, playing stupid games with the fan base and trying to play them off each other isn’t going to lead to a vibrant active end full of committed people, it isn’t going to lead to people on the wing enjoying themselves and it isn’t going to lead to healthy season ticket numbers over a long period of time so they’d do well not to engage in it.

I don’t really get how they are so inept at dealing with the media every time they go hysterical yet at times they pull out all these manipulation strategies against their own constituents.

 

On the other hand some see some merit:

Honestly, I think you might be looking at this the wrong way. The NTC has a lot to gain and not much to lose from participating in this subcommittee.

There is already good communication within the North Terrace regarding issues, so if something stinks about the way the franchise claim legitimacy of control over the terrace due to the committee (or seeks to change operational aspects of active support etc.) then it is easy to correct the lies. And the Terrace will listen to its own – what have you lost? If the scarfers get the perception that the active support is being precious, how would that be much worse than the situation now?

On the other hand, if the North Terrace Rep (and there will be one, so why not make them someone close to the NTC leadership rather than a random?) uses the committee to clearly and diplomatically build goodwill with the other supporters through this you might just find that this is the best way to document the problems that you see, and thus communicate them to the entire membership base. Once the issues find their way into minutes etc., you have forced the club into transparency.

Seems like a no-brainer to me. Participation brings the chance to drive the agenda. Without it you risk some random NT supporter miscommunicating the terrace’s philosophy, objectives and grievances.

 

But there was one post that took my attentions more than others. This is from a member who I know and is very political astute:

 

I think some of you blokes are taking a myopic view on this.

It’s not about a group ‘dictating” to the NT, or saying anything about the NT.

It’s about supporters generally. At worst, the dynamic is about the club being able to say “we have a good relationship with supporters, blah blah, we have this committee etc., stakeholder involvement blah blah family friendly approach blah blah”.

First up, context says a lot about why something happens. You have to question why the club is doing this NOW, as opposed to any other time. The fact that the initiative is in a letter addressing a controversy with the North terrace makes clear a motive: the stand-off with the NT can at least in part be addressed by forging closer relations with other supporters. Sure, the NT has every right to get involved in this initiative, but in the current context why would they? This kind of move is referred to in many circles as ‘wedging”.

Wedging is different to playing the numbers game to get a uniform outcome: it’s not majority rules, it’s about isolation. At worst, they’re not trying to outvote you: they’re trying to rely on you staying out.

It’s not about you. It’s about not you.

 

So the best take is that somehow the Club is interested in hearing views from representatives of different members, the worse is that it’s a way to wedge the active members out. That the Club could present a public view that it’s consultative while asserting – because the majority of the Members’ committee would say so – that issues faced by active members are not as important in the scheme of things.

Interesting developments. We’ll have to wait and see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Winter Olympics are not real Olympics – they are ‘Northern Games’

I love the Winter Olympics. As someone who grew up in Lombardy in Italy, where going to the mountains in winter is as easy as going to the beach in Australia is great to see these kinds of sport. Sporting heroes of my childhood included the famous ‘Azzurri Avalanche‘ where Italians were one of the top nations in downhill skiing (which was then the most important event in winter sports, long before moguls and snowboards appeared on the scene). I can still remember the delayed telecasts of the Sapporo 1972 Olympics, as I arrived home from school and watched the fuzzy pictures of early satellite broadcasts.

But when my childhood ended I came to Australia, and one of the advantages of migrating is that it allows a different perspective of the world. Australia had of course mountains and skiing (I went to Falls Creek and Perisher myself, and had a great time). But really it is not a cold alpine/Nordic country. It is mainly “a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains” and of course a country girt by sea.

I wasn’t here in 1972, but I do wonder how many Australians were interested, or even aware of those Olympics. I was here by the time the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck came around. I can’t recall any major mention of it. If my memory serves me correctly the first Winter Olympics to be televised in Australia was in 1980 at Lake Placid (the ‘Miracle on Ice’ ones, where the USA hockey team made up of amateur and collegiate players defeated the Soviet Union national team, who had won nearly every world championship and Olympic tournament since 1964.) And then in Sarajevo in 1984, where the ratings went through the roof thanks to the skating pair of Torvill and Dean.

When I did Geography at Uni I was told off Environmental Determinism but any superficial observation shows that the most successful countries in winter sports are those who have cold winters, with ice and snow. While countries such as Australia do quite well in sports that involve water and some sort of swimming.

But if the chances of doing well in a sport are so influenced by geography should they be included in an Olympics? If we look at the ‘Fundamental Principles of Olympism’ in the Olympic Charter, point 3 states:

The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings

 

Of course we have representatives from all continents. But by its nature the Winter Olympics cuts out most of the globe. Firstly all the countries roughly 30 degrees north and south of the equator are majorly disadvantaged. They are warm/hot/tropical and no much chance of snow. Many love the film ‘Cool Runnings‘ as a story of doing your best against adversity etc. etc. but that movie betray the sense that teams from tropical countries are a curious sideshow at the Winter Olympics with plenty of patronising attitudes. Adding to that is the fact that winter sports are expensive, and to participate you need lots of money. You need infrastructure (ie bobsleigh tracks, ski jumping ramps etc.) not many countries can afford that. And if athletes do want to participate in these sports and at least account for the expense of sending them to an Olympics they probably need to travel and train to a place where there is snow and where these facilities are available.

This of course is also an issue for the Summer Olympics. You don’t see many developing countries winning at the pool or equestrian events, as these also require plenty of money and infrastructure and are dominated by rich countries, but on the other hand we see the dominance of certain events in athletics, especially on the track and road running where just effort, talent and ability allows athletes to train even with minimal equipment. This sort of opportunity is not available to countries like Kenya, or Algeria when it comes to winter sports.

Also hosting the games. If we want to be fair in the spirit of the Olympics every country should have a chance to host them. But a Winter Olympics in the Southern Hemisphere is unimaginable. There would be plenty of places with snow and mountains (New Zealand, Chile) that could do it, but do you imagine traditional Northern Hemisphere countries having a Winter Olympics in August? I don’t think so. So it’s discriminatory there as well.

The founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin had the right idea. He also thought that the concept of a Winter Olympics was not applicable precisely for the reasons above. He suggested that if there was to be a festival of winter sports it should be called the ‘Northern Games’. That would be the most apt description. Let’s go with the original idea of the founder of the modern Olympics and describe them for what they really are. Great sports which are practiced mainly in the Northern Hemisphere affluent countries in their winter.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Melbourne Victory response to its active fans

Today all Melbourne Victory members got a letter from the club regarding issues which have occurred with the active fans.  For those who are not members and are interested

 

VictoryLetter1VictoryLetter2VictoryLetter3

Leave a comment

Filed under Football

Trouble in paradise. When football fans turn into each other.

Being a Melbourne Victory fan has been somewhat depressing in the last couple of days. Not regarding the performance on the park, but mainly due to the reaction to the restrictions that the FFA has imposed on active fans and Melbourne Victory’s response to them.

This comes on top of a boycott of the designated active area that has been going on for some time.  This boycott was caused by restrictions imposed by the club that the active fans felt were unreasonable.  Now on top you got more from the FFA.  The feeling that these are targeting a whole group for the mis-behaviour of a few and the fact that fans feel the Club is not standing up for them has caused some fans to be mighty pissed off.  Add to this the insipid performance of the team it all adds up for the 2013/14 season to be the summer of our discontent.

I am not a member of the active group on the Northern Terrace, but I can also glimpse reading the Victory Fans forum there on top of that there is some social dynamic/politics that I am not aware off.  The Northern Terrace is formed by a number of groups.  Before the Blue and White Brigade  (BWB) was the main group.  Something happened and now it seems that the Northern End is organised mainly by another group called the Northern Terrace Collective (NTC).

If these machinations are difficult to discern for someone like me who is interested in what’s going on, these would be a total mystery to the fans who don’t belong to the active areas behinds the goals at both end.  All they can see is that the atmosphere that they enjoyed is now gone.  I would imagine many would be unaware of the social and cultural undercurrents in an active group, and probably wouldn’t care.  But as I stated in a previous post these are important,  because while an A League Club may be a ‘franchise’ the relationship amongst an active group is not, it is meaningful and real.

And there lies the danger for a club such as Melbourne Victory.  The level of attachment is not at the levels achieved in places like Europe or South America, where the relationship to a team is strongly identified with things such community, class and family.  When the club does things that fans don’t like fans react and resist or try to change.  In the case of a relatively new team such as Melbourne Victory, where these deep external relationship don’t exist the fan searches for meaning in other areas.  One is geographical (Melbourne) but the most significant would be the relationship in the fan group itself.  By restricting and limiting the actions of the group, the active member firstly does not receive the same amount of benefit it once did.  Adding to it there is a sense that the club does not really care about that fan and consequently there is no benefit in reciprocating loyalty.

Personally I will still be a member, and I will still support Melbourne Victory.

Because my membership for me is more than just giving money for a club, it’s a way for me to show my support for the code of Association Football.  Yes, at the moment Melbourne Victory is a poor vehicle to do that, but it’s what I got.   So while supporting a club with gormless pillocks like Robson at the helm is problematic, I rather do that than give any reason to the many enemies of our code to gloat about any reduction in membership. For them this would be seen as a ‘aleague in crisis’ thing. They would be totally unaware of all the real reasons behind it. Just see the glee around when the BBL outrated football this year.

However as I said before, I think that the active members have good reasons to feel aggrieved.

At this stage there is lots of anger towards the club.  This is actually a good sign.  Relationship councillors will say that when a marriage is in trouble,  anger means that there is still meaning in the relationship.  There is still passion.  The danger is when one of the partners stops arguing and becomes apathetic.  That is a sign that the marriage may be over, as one of the partners has lost any feeling towards the other. They have stop caring (and therefore have even anger) and there is no relationship anymore.  The next thing that can happen is that the non caring partner has booked a rent truck to put their valuables to move out.

The assertion by many on social media that they won’t renew their membership next year is basically like checking what truck companies to ring.  So let’s hope that the Club and the active members can at least arrive at some point where they can achieve some mutual agreement.  A active members divorce with Melbourne Victory would be not be tragic for the team. But for the A League as a whole.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Football

When in Melbourne, do like the Romans do. Victoria FC.

So our Melbourne rivals have been bought by the big blue Manchester team. I must say that despite everything, I am very pleased. I am a Melbourne Victory fan, but a supporter of Australian Association Football first and foremost. The way Melbourne Heart was going looked towards oblivion, and that would not have done the competition any good. In fact I could just imagine the Rita Pahavis and the Rebecca Wilsons of this world salivating with anticipation in slamming the validity of ‘soccer’ in Australia.

But for now (and I hope it’s a success) we have had instead a huge vote of confidence in our little domestic competition from a major team playing in what could be argued, is the most popular football league in the world. So much so that our soccerphobic friends in the Herald Sun had to ignore the ‘Manchester City’ side of things and concentrate on islamophobia. But that’s another story.

As a Melbourne Victory fan I would love for Melbourne Heart to become really competitive. The Melbourne Derby has the potential to become a major sporting event in this AFL obsessed town.

But Manchester City buying the Heart has another advantage. Many have commented how Heart does not really have any differentiation from Victory. Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers have the geographical and socio-economic differences. But this is not the case with Heart. Many Victory fans have mentioned that Heart will become a ‘foreign’ team while Victory will remain local. We’ll see if this occurs. But it is mooted that new new ownership will change the name from Melbourne Heart to Melbourne City (current holders of that name permitting). That’s another positive, as I always thought that names such as Roar, Mariners, and of course Victory are daft and Americanized. And this made me think of another city with two great rivals. Rome.

Rome has two main teams. Roma and Lazio. One is named after the city, while the other is named after the region where Rome is located.


LazioRoma

What about if we did the same for us here? Tony Ising, who had the original idea of a ‘Melbourne Victory’ thought of the name because Victory and Victoria sounded similar.

Let’s go the whole hog and let’s do what the Romans do. Let’s have Melbourne City, but let’s rename Melbourne Victory as Victoria FC. Maybe this could even encourage the club to really try to represent the whole of the state (playing an Asian Championship Qualifier in Geelong is already a start). Melbourne Victory’s jumpers with the big white V are designed on players from other sports such as Australian Rules and Hockey representing the State so you can see that Victoria FC is almost there. Sorry about the bad photoshopping, but you get the idea.


Fans can also use a Kinks song for a chant. I can see it already.


I was born, lucky me
In a land that I love
Though I am poor, I am free
When I grow I shall fight
For this team I shall die
Let the sun never set
Victoria, victoria, victoria, toria
Victoria, victoria, victoria, toria

Land of hope and gloria
Land of my victoria
Land of hope and gloria
Land of my victoria
Victoria, toria
Victoria, victoria, victoria, toria


Leave a comment

Filed under Football

Off-Side Set – An attempt at family friendly Ultras

One of the FFA’s mantra about the A-League is being ‘Family Friendly’. This is has been strenuously asserted to break away from the perception that Association Football is a dangerous game to go and watch. And it is waived about when the media goes in its regular outrage about ‘soccer hooligans’.

To be fair if you want to sell a product like the A-League, families are incredibly important. A product aimed at mums and dads is essential to attract sponsors, and give the image that Association Football is akin other codes in Australia.

This of course is a red rag to some active fans that find a ‘family friendly’ atmosphere bland and corporatised. Contro il calcio moderno.

In the early days of the A-League with Melbourne Victory there was an attempt to combine the two. Could active fans stand and chant with their children? As anyone has been to a Melbourne Victory match would know, being in the active areas is not exactly child friendly. The energy the beer spills the language etc. is no place for children. Beside the fact that some active fans in those areas view the presence of children and families with hostility.

So in the early season of Melbourne Victory some of us with kids (and some who didn’t but liked the idea of a ‘different’ active group) created the “Off-Side Set’. The spiel to describe ourselves was thus:

We are a motley group. Our group includes men and women, girls and boys, young and old, We welcome parents with kids in tow. We’re about having fun on the terraces in support of Melbourne Victory, in an environment where anyone can come and join in.

Our small group remained…well small…but in its early days we had our moments. At the outset we decided on our brand of tifo. We decided that had to be fun. Streamers were used (until they were deemed as ‘projectiles’) we had Rocket Balloons, and kazoos (we would create a stirring rendition of Aida with them). I even bought an old fashioned rattle, fancying myself like a 1950′s English football fan. We also had a banner with our logo, designed by one of our group, which is now, alas, lost.

We tried to create a fun group where everyone felt welcome, and where we were not taking ourselves too seriously. Where we would be located was the difficulty. As a small group who wanted to buy general admission tickets it was hard to ‘own’ a space like the real larger groups. At Olympic Park we finally were successful to claim a bit of the Eastern Stand, only for lots of matches to go to the great spaces of Etihad. The difficulty of finding our own space, and the relatively small number of OSS took its toll.  Maybe was 20 odd people doing half-hearted chants with rocket balloons and kazoos amongst silent fans who looked us askance was too much awkwardness for us to take.

The OSS Christmas BBQ 2009.

Ultimately OSS members decided to go to the larger groups. Some liked the relaxed banter of the Southern End, while others like choreography of the Northern Terrace.

Then some of the children, who were at the edge of adolescence, left to go with their mates away from the parents and that was it. By the time the Bubbledome came into being the ‘OSS’ was no more. We are now scattered around the stadiums. I still meet some ex-members, one lives north of me and we regularly meet on the train on the way to games, others I meet when I go for a wonder at half time.

We still have a Facebook Page that I’m not sure whether I should delete. Maybe I’ll leave it there. A reminder of a small and forgotten bit of Melbourne Victory fandom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football

Cory Bernardi – the soccerphobe.

We have heard quite a lot about Cory Bernardi recently after his book railing against ‘non-traditional families’ surrogacy and euthanasia, abortion and workers’ rights.  Bernardi of course is also against multiculturalism, his anti-Muslim views are well known. He has advocated that migrants should ‘assimilate’ into what he sees is a 1950′s white Australia ideal.

So it is not surprising that he also perceives Association Football as a ‘foreign’ sport.  He published his views in his blog in 2011, which he has since deleted. Fortunately I cut and pasted his post in the Melbourne Victory forum and I was able to retrieve it.  So we can add soccerphobia to his homophobia, islamophobia ……..

15 February 2011

Segregating Soccer Supporters

Last week I joined more than 20,000 other spectators at Adelaide Oval watching Adelaide United play the Melbourne Victory in the A-League soccer. By all accounts it was an excellent game with the local team prevailing in a 2-1 victory. I say ‘by all accounts’ because I missed much of the on field action. Unfortunately, my attention was continually drawn to the action off the field.

My first sense that something wasn’t right was when I noticed that the visiting Victory supporters were isolated in a fenced off area with a narrow corridor and two chain wire fences between them and the locals. Within the corridor were a collection of a dozen police officers wearing florescent yellow jackets keenly observing the crowd.

Being a regular AFL supporter, I have never seen a physical barrier between rival backers at a regular football match before. In fact, I have sat supporting my team amongst a sea of opposing fans (in Melbourne and Adelaide) suffering nothing more than good natured jeers and some well timed humorous barbs – many of them from my oldest son who doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the Carlton Football Club.

Things were clearly different at the soccer. There were the obligatory chants that added a great deal of atmosphere to the stadium. Some of them were quite clever and many were hard to understand for the unfamiliar but they seemed to hit home with the regular crowd. They also seemed to get the desired response from the opposite numbers who retorted in kind.

What appeared to be good natured barracking descended into farce when flares were launched from one supporter group into the other. Though clearly dangerous, the exchange of these illuminating markers continued through much of the match.

Other, indeterminate objects were thrown as the police struggled to contain the more excitable elements within the crowd. Their response was to increase the ‘corridor’ between the rivals by moving the wire fences apart. This was done on multiple occasions until there was nearly 20 metres of ‘no man’s land’ separating the rival clans.

I witnessed a number of people forcibly removed by officers for undetermined offences, which unfortunately seemed to agitate the warring parties even more.

The difficult job of our boys (and girls) in blue was compounded when the Victory levelled the score. Their supporter group rushed toward the containment line in a surge of bodies that flattened some officers and threatened to bring down the security barrier.

This prompted a similar response from United fans and I was spellbound by the potentially violent confrontation that looked likely to occur.

Fortunately it didn’t. The police contained the situation and the match continued without any significant incidents. 

While this unruly behavior was confined to a tiny section of the enthusiastic crowd, my sense of disappointment that we have such problems at Australian sporting events was palpable.

In attending hundreds of similar events over the years, I have suffered the good-natured slings and arrows of rival teams without ever feeling uncomfortable or threatened. Having stood shoulder to shoulder with the Barmy Army when Australia have won and lost the Ashes and cheered for the Blues in a sea of Pies, sport in Australia has always been a way of bringing people together – regardless of our individual teams.

If soccer aspires to grow its support amongst the broader community it needs to put a stop to the anti-social behavior that requires isolation and segregation of some supporters from others.

Leave a comment

Filed under Football, Uncategorized