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If you were a follower of the more highfalutin media such as The Age or the ABC in Melbourne you might have missed it, but on Friday the tabloid media went on to an assault against Association Football fans, but in particular Melbourne Victory fans.
The Herald-Sun had a massive front page headlines describing Victory Fans as violent. That is because a senior policeman Rod Wilson described fans of the club as the most violent he has seen. I don’t but the Herald Sun, but when I heard about this on SEN radio I switched on the 3AW and Neil Mitchell and I wasn’t ‘disappointed’. Mitchell used his program to reheat all the stereotypes of ‘soccer’ and bemoaning the fact that these sort of things don’t happen in the AFL. I won’t rebut these claims because many people have done this already and better than I could do such as today’s articles by Age Football writer Micheal Lynch (His account that a policeman known to The Age, speaking on condition of anonymity suggested that the arrest figures from the AFL and cricket matches were usually far higher and that there was often more trouble at other codes than football but ‘never gets reported in the same way in the media” is certainly telling).and by Sebastian Hassett in the Sydney Morning Herald are a perfect example of this.
The strange thing about this story is that it appeared out of nothing and without warning. It is not like there was an incident at a match the week before that would have caused the story to get out. Although there have been some issues between police/security in the last month where for some reason the Northern Terrace where the active fans gather, were not allowed to bring their flags, banners etc. This resulted in a peaceful protest by the Northern Terrace (by not actively supporting the team). The club sought a meeting with police on the issue (which will be held on Monday I think) and I do wonder, considering Melbourne Victory has been siding with the supporters, whether this was somewhat a pre-emptive move by the police. But then I thought, why? Why would the police brand publicly Melbourne fans as ‘the most violent’? What would it gain? It’s not like wayward fans would immediately start to behave once they are described as violent thugs in the front page of the Herald Sun. Or that the Club would somehow ask for more police, because both of these things would probably increase problematic behaviour, not lessen it. It seems common sense to me. Interestingly Hassett writes:
Wilson’s claim was viewed by many as a pre-emptive strike on those fans who have been busily working out how best to voice their concerns about security and police behaviour. In good faith, fans had already organised a meeting with Victoria Police for next Monday.
But also I was asking myself, why would the Herald-Sun put such a story in the front page? It is not like it was a slow news day. We had the sad news of a nine year old boy who lost both his parents in a boating tragedy while trying to come to Australia. And we also had the immigration minister who talked about multiculturalism for the first time since the departure of John Howard. Then it struck me that perhaps the story of the fans and the minister raising multiculturalism again wasn’t that disconnected. As I was listening to the diatribe of Mitchell and the arguments put forward by the Police person Rod Wilson on 3AW, he mentioned that one thing that he felt that football fans did (as opposite to others) was they taunted opposition fans and he saw this as dangerous behaviour. Now I have stood plenty of times in the southern stand, where taunting opposition fans is the norm. Sometimes I find the taunts a bit juvenile, but sometimes are clever (ie. You’re a suburb of Sydney! to Central Coast fans) but I never though that they were done with violent intent and the opposition fans expected and give it back. That is the tradition, but this taunting doesn’t mean that a fan group will then be incited to violence.
Hassett again I think hit the nail on the head in his article today:
Many are the tales of fans claiming they are being targeted from the moment they raise their arms or voices in song. Many feel they are instantly viewed as would-be hooligans.
Unfortunately, security and police in Australia are not trained to deal with football supporters. One fan said this week at the fans’ forum held at Melbourne Town Hall: ”Just because fans sound aggressive doesn’t mean they are.”
And also Micheal Lynch in The Age:
Quite simply, those in the soccer fraternity do not believe that police and security used to AFL and other sports where the culture of fans is much more passive, understand how to conduct crowds at soccer games…
And that’s where the issue of multiculturalism comes in. A group like the Blue and White Brigade has initiated a style of support that draws its inspiration from Europe and South America. It’s co-ordinated, loud and passionate. But it is different from the type of support at the AFL or the cricket where individuals shout and barrack fo their team. So it is seen as ‘foreign’ outside the mainstream white Australian culture and as such potentially threatening.
So this can be seen as an example where the idea of multiculturalism fails. While the mainstream is happy with pretty dances, and exotic food, once different cultural expressions are shown then they are seen as alien and to be stamped out. The way to support a team has to conform with the parameters set up by the ‘Australian’ sports such as Australian Rules of Rugby. It’s the equivalent of a white picket fence style of support.