Refugees and Gold Coast Utd. How predictable.

There is a commercial at the moment for Windows 7 where a computer user say something like ‘Microsoft must have heard me because I thought of something and they put it in Windows 7’ or something like that.

Well, I feel somewhat the same about two pieces of news last week. One is the new policy about asylum seekers from the government and the other is the apparent withdrawal of magnate Clive Palmer in his ownership/support of the A-League team, Gold Coast United. That is that these outcomes were predictable as. So let’s start with the more serious topic.

Change in asylum seeker policy.

Over the past months we had plenty of bloggers outlining how Australia is not being swamped by boats, that we haven’t lost control of our borders. We even had respected members of the Press Gallery telling us that that wasn’t the case.

The real fact is that we can try to explain until we are blue in the face the real facts, but logic and facts won’t convince or reassure a reasonable proportion of Australians. Pollytics crunched the numbers of the most recent Morgan poll about migration, and when asked: “Should asylum seekers arriving by boat be allowed to apply for immigration as now, or should they all be returned and told to apply through normal refugee channels?” This was the result.

Results from Morgan poll

Talk about numbers and push factors and many voter’s eyes glase over. People trust their gut feeling and it doesn’t really natter what the real facts are. The fear of boats arriving on our shores is part and parcel of Australia’s genetic make up. It doesn’t matter if they come in a reconditioned eski. Maybe one way to show how minute is the numbers of people coming by boats is to relate to something many who may be wary of people coming by boat can relate to. Stadium attendances.

Burnside made a very pertinent point that at this rate of boat arrivals it would take 30 years to fill the MGC. I made a similar observation by comparing it to an A-League attendance. Now, since 2009, more or less than 5000 people arrived by boat. When I went to watch Melbourne Victory with Seongnam Ilhwa for the Asian Champions League, it was the lowest ever attendance of about 6,500 and Etihad Stadium looked empty. The trains were empty and when the match finished everyone dissipated so quickly I hardly noticed a crowd of any sort. Now this is in a stadium all at once, let alone in a big country like Australia over a period of many months. But unfortunately, as Thomas Keneally I think said that xenophobia in Australia is like malaria. Once you get it you can’t get rid of it. It may lie dormant for a while but prone to re-surface if the conditions are right. This has been proven over history.

No use to tell them that more people ask asylum by flying here. It is the boats that ignite the genetic fear. The illusion is that at least with planes people have to go through some sort of check, there is a filter. Why are those ‘border patrol’ programs on TV so popular? Watching those foreigners being caught with their drugs and illegal foods. A boat arrival signify no control. Signify someone jumping on a boat and landing on Australia’s coast. The concept of being isolated by the hoards to our north by the sea is challenged. It creates panic. Australia is not that separate any more the sea provides a link to those hoards of people waiting to invade us.

And here of course I have to give a big proportion of blame to the Liberal Party. Yes, the ALP of course is also to blame. It was their inaction towards the Tampa episode that made me lapse my ALP membership, but at least they haven’t exploited the boat arrival issue as a major point to score political advantage as the Liberals have. Back in 2001 with their ‘we decide who comes here’ big statement and now with the mantra that the government had lost control of our borders, with 5000 people, what a joke.

But in politics perception is everything and I am sure that the ALP would have seen some issue arising from their polling. Yes because we can be all outraged but the fact that boat arrivals has been so shamelessly used by the opposition and their friends in the media has unfortunately spooked the government.

In a perfect world the government would have stated that the principle of treating desperate human beings is more important than protecting votes from a section of Australians that suffer from xenophobia. In a perfect world an opposition would have recognised that increasing such xenophobia for political point scoring is detrimental to our spirit as a nation. But we don’t live in such world. I was shocked in 2001 when I realised that I wasn’t living in an Australia that I thought I was living in. An Australia that I thought embraced multiculturalism and accepted asylum seekers. An Australia that left the fear of the foreigner behind. Unfortunately it took an opportunistic white picket cricket loving Prime Minister to raise the worst fears of the nation. And since then I am not really surprised about what the Rudd government did. In fact I was surprised that haven’t done it sooner. Sad but I accept now I live in a xenophobic country. I avoid thinking about it too much because it does my head in. Better to think about other things, like football which brings me to my second point.

Gold Coast United demise?

I got a lot of time for the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) despite the fact that I think it is headed by people that are unaware of football particular culture. I do not think we would have been able to qualify for two world cups without them.

Having said that I think they have done some mistakes. One of this was to create a team in the Gold Coast in the first place and second to give the licence to Clive Palmer.

A team is not just a team. It needs to connect to their fans and the community to some extent. Now someone may correct me here, but is there really a connection between the Gold Coast and football? I know that sport administrators become amateur demographers and looks at where the population growth is, but that doesn’t mean that there is a need to rush and create a team. The other mistake is to give the ownership of teams to non-football people who seem to use the team for their plaything or because it looks good on their CV. For me Palmer looked like a really rich person wanting to own something that would make him look good in Asia, with all those deals to sign. Big checkbook, get players like Culina and boast that they will win every match in their first season.

This view is echoed in an article by Robert Craddock in the Courier Mail.

If the Gold Coast folds then it may be resurrected in 2011-12 with a broad-based ownership structure for there would be many lessons learnt from the United collapse.

The first is that for a club to capture the heart of a region it must be seen as something more than a rich man’s toy.

Fans need people feeling as comfortable as if they’re sharing a mate’s tinnie rather than simply having a ride on a millionaire’s yacht.

People need to believe it is their team as much as his team. But with the lowest average crowds in the league – 5392 which was partially the fault of a controversial crowd cap – the project just didn’t capture local hearts.

But it seems no one looked at the fans. Just because there is a team with good players it doesn’t mean people would automatically come and watch it, especially in Australia where Association Football is not the main game. You need to make a connection to the people, make the team meaningful to them. This is something that apparently Central Coast has done very well. I also believe that North Queensland has done this, and despite its financial troubles and poor performance their attendances haven’t been too bad. Also the fact that there is a North Queensland football tradition helps, and that is something that maybe Gold Coast doesn’t have. And that is also why watching the fortunes of the AFL Gold Coast team and the Western Sydney AFL team and A-League team will be interesting.

The Gold Coast has lots of ex-Victorians and I think the AFL team, unlike the A-League one will be a success. Western Sydney has a well established football culture and if the Sydney Rovers are able to tap into that they will be a great success. That is also why I think that the AFL team there will struggle, there is no culture if AFL in that area which is predominantly Association Football and Rugby League. Of course the cashed up AFL will through heaps of resources and maybe after a few years AFL will become part and parcel of sport in western Sydney, but we will have to wait and see.

Same with the Melbourne Hearts. I thought that Melbourne Victory caught most of the people that wanted to follow the A-League in Melbourne. Those who hate the A-League because it’s ‘plastic’ will continue to follow their teams in the State Premier League, and I don’t think they will be following Hearts for the same reason they won’t follow Melbourne Victory.

Sometimes I wonder whether the FFA follows a plant based on numbers and markets. But football is not like selling soap.

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