Western Sydney and Adelaide fans, I think I’ve seen this before

Anyone who has read this blog would know that whilst I know very little about the tactics and strategies of Association Football, one of the main areas of interest has been the way football in many ways reflects the inner feelings of Australian society.

I’ve written about how the way the mainstream media, as far as it reflects the fears and prejudices of the ‘average battler’ is concerned, views the game of Association Football, and its crowds, and it is interesting how there seems to have been some changes in some quarters.

The advent to the Western Sydney Wanderers is, I think, one of the most interesting things to have happened to the A-League on many levels. When the A-League started, the Western Suburbs of Sydney were some sort of Holy Grail (a bit like the ALP sees it) where ‘you had to do it right’ because if a team failed in what was supposedly the ‘heartland of Australian soccer’ then in may jeopardise the whole competition. In the usual catastrophic thinking that us football supporters tend to do some thought that it was too rushed and we were doomed. The AFL with the Giants would establish a foothold and we were too late etc. etc. I also hoped that the team would work, and to the credit of the FFA, where this time they took the trouble to ask the fans about location, colours etc. it seems that so far everything is exceeding expectations.

I am happy that the Wanderers have been successful so early. I did believe that they were essential for the A-League and Association Football as a whole. So much so that I only did my second ever away trip when Melbourne Victory met them for the first time at Parramatta Stadium. I thought that their support was great but nothing better that I have seen at Melbourne Victory.

So it is with some bemusement (which is outright irritation amongst the Melbourne Victory active supporters) when I read Sydney journalists that Western Sydney fans are ‘the best ever’ in the A-League. Although admittedly some have probably been to a match which had any atmosphere as they come from another code, and if they have seen SydneyFC they probably never experienced any real Association Football support at all.

But it is interesting that with all this there is also a discussion about the type of support that the Western Wanderers active fans bring. Western Sydney fans have complained about some media trying to find the negative story. Why does this sounds familiar to Melbourne Victory fans? As reported in Crikey, back in December 2006 Sean Sowerby, a sports producer at 3AW who was interviewed on Channel Nine News about the purported crowd violence at the Melbourne-Sydney game, but without identifying himself as a 3AW producer. He offered “proof” of the violence with footage on his mobile phone, a move that angered Melbourne Victory fans who, with a bit of creative googling, uncovered his identity.

The reaction was this call-to-arms on the Melbourne Victory forums:

Fellow supporter,

Over the course of the past week, our club, our supporters, and our game, have been under attack from sections of the mainstream media.

The Herald Sun, Channel Nine and 3AW have all embarked on a campaign of slander against us, following a minor incident at last week’s monumental match against Sydney FC. Reportage of this incident has been grossly exaggerated (much of it entirely based on lies, bias and ignorance) but has still been damaging to the Melbourne Victory Football Club and its supporters. The club itself has spoken out several times in ridicule of this reportage, yet it still continues.

Unfortunately, our game’s very own governing body, the FFA, has also been affected by this falsified paranoia about football violence, and are likely to act on it in ways that may affect our freedoms and identity as active supporters.

We, supporters, cannot and should not tolerate this any longer. Sunday is our opportunity to hit back! …

This resulted in banners that have now entrenched in Melbourne Victory fans’ history.

Same seems to have happened with the problems that Adelaide FC fans are experiencing with their security, and the club hierarchy not backing them up.

Again I’ve never been part of the active supporter groups, but I’ve read the forum and for quite some time there were issues with security similar to what’s happening in Adelaide.

Heavy handed security guards, not being able to bring big banners or a megaphone, and general harassment for little reason. This statement by AdelaideFC to the fans brought some bad memories to many Melbourne Victory fans:

Adelaide United FC applauds passionate support of the team, however passion should never be confused with anti social behaviour at Hindmarsh.

The Club will support stadium management and security in ensuring all patrons enjoy the spectacle of the game. So the message is clear to all – cheer, sing and wave your banners, the players love to hear you. But any form of offensive behaviour will lead to the removal of offending patrons (eg. swearing/abusive language, destruction of chairs, throwing missiles etc).

The club, stadium management or security is not out to end Active Support, nor is it targeting individuals or individual groups, but trouble makers are being targeted and will continue to be targeted. Whether you support the team in the Northern, Southern, Eastern or Western grandstands, the club asks you to respect other patrons and adhere to the FFA spectator code of behaviour. The game will continue to grow and without bad behaviour it will flourish.

Tickets for Friday night’s home game against Perth Glory are available through Ticketek.

To which an active fan stated on the Melbourne Victory forum:

Everything is wrong with that statement. Not only the way it treats the most loyal supporters but also how many people that haven’t gone to the football often will read that statement and buy tickets? They should never admit to problems that do not really exist, there is less anti-social behaviour at the football than at the cricket and cricket Australia never ever admits anything. As for the club against the supporters, we had that here in S2 and onwards, at the end of the day the club and the FFA were wrong about everything (they effectively ended up admitting that all the things active supporters were demanding are part of football except from flares). So now we can stand have flags, banners, instruments, pull overs, streamers etc. but how much damage did the club caused by siding with FFA and security? Lots, the North Terrace only started to recover, its growing now and it will once again be a point of difference and something that attracts people to matches but it took years.

It did take years, as now Melbourne Victory active fans, the Club, Security and Police have been able to talk to each other and reach an agreement. I believe that the way policing is being done at Melbourne Victory matches is less intrusive and dictatorial which has meant less trouble and evictions.

Maybe there is something that Western Sydney and Adelaide should think about.

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