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.


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