I am addicted? Maybe I am. When I scroll down my twitter byline I always pick the posts dealing with #aleague or #FFA first.
The life and times of Association Football in Australia have interested me ever since I decided to turn away from my eurosnobbishness and embrace the complicated beast that is ‘soccer’ in this country.
Twitter is fantastic to delve in this stuff. That because there are so many people, passionate people who participate. But it is not the place for the fainthearted.
For Modern Football (@ForModernFootbl) made a famous video about the perils of the unwary.
Are you a non-football journalist who has just written about football? You need the Outsider’s Survival Guide. pic.twitter.com/q5LDTN63np
— For Modern Football (@ForModernFootbl) December 18, 2016
Twitter is awful for subtleties in debating something.
One main issue about twitter is that it is one of the worse platform to discuss issues. But worse that that, and that is often my case for me, is that validating an opinion, even asking whether it is correct or not is sometimes pounced upon. It may be a feature of how twitter interaction occur, but it seems to me that some tweeters takes things very personally (and this is not only something that happens on #sokkahtwitter, but throughout twitter as a whole) making me hesitant to interact on certain issues.
Promotion and Relegation for Australia. Too hot to handle.
While the whole of #sokkahtwitter can be fraught with danger there are some topics which for me have almost become a no go area. First and foremost is the promotion and relegation issue.
For me this has been an interesting topic and #Sokkahtwitter has been quite pivotal. I started as totally against it, to maybe but years down the track to we should look at a model to introduce it.
And this shows why in certain cases twitter can be useful in changing ideas and perception. It does offer easy access to a variety of opinion.
But in the case of #sokkahtwitter, promotion and relegation goes to the heart of a major issue that has been present in Association Football in Australia since the post war migration from Europe, when Non English Speaking (NES) migrants established their own clubs. In Joe Gorman’s fabulous book, Death and Life of Australian Soccer, it mentions how back in 1950, ‘new Australians’ forming new clubs should be investigated , and since then this issue seems to have been a major rift permeating through Australia’s Association Football history.
The aged old question of soccer and ethnicity
The A-League was devised as a brand new start purposefully eliminating the traditional clubs such as South Melbourne, or Sydney United which were created by NES groups. My first memory of this clash was with the Bradley Report in the 1990’s that blamed the game’s “ethnic image” for the National Soccer League’s lack of penetration.
“In the long term”, Bradley concluded, “the ASF needs to create the image that soccer is not ethnic.” Indeed, according the the report, one of the five major problems facing football was that “it is seen as a game for ethnics.” .
The Bradley Report was used by the then Soccer Australia administrators David Hill and George Negus, that not only told clubs to eliminate any ‘ethnicity’ from their names but also created franchised clubs like Perth Glory, Northern Spirit and Carlton as a way to offset ‘ethnic’ clubs. I remember as a Carlton Soccer Club supporter that the acrimony towards my club by some South Melbourne supporters were very similar to what is given to the A-League now as a whole. They were seen as a way to ‘de-ethnicise’ the game, the same way as the A-League is seen to do that now. (and the ridiculous National Club Identity Policy by the FFA has fueled even more resentment)
Some A-League supporters have labelled supporters of traditional clubs who have been excluded from the A-League as ‘bitters’. As term that I dislike and I disagree with. These clubs for better or worse have been the lifeblood of Association Football in Australia for 60 years or so. I can understand the anger they would feel to be excluded because they don’t fit a ‘mainstream ideal’ of what marketers believe is Australia. But this is a different argument (and one that others have written about before much better than I could).
Promotion and Relegation the new battleground.
Promotion and relegation has become the latest battleground on this issue. The argument is that any inclusion or exclusion should be based purely on merit, not on the cultural background of a club. Many proponents of the #ProRelforAUS argue that a club like South Melbourne could bring more interests to the A-League than a Central Coast Mariners or a Wellington Phoenix, and they may be right.
The issue I have is that despite being a promotion and relegation supporter, I still have some questions on how it would work. What type of model we should adopt that would make the competition sustainable? Does the fact that we may end up with the top tier being dominated by Sydney and Melbourne teams a problem? Do we think that some club owners would not be interested in investing into a team if risked to be dropped into a lower division?
Unfortunately when I tried to ask these questions the responses I got were not constructive, but angry and that (as a supporter of an A-League team, which makes me suspect in the first place) I was against NES teams joining the A-League which was racist, bigoted etc.
I may not like the responses I get, but I can understand why some tweeters respond the way they do. The rift and tension between making Association Football ‘mainstream’ according to the Graeme Bradleys of this world and the fact hat inevitably Association Football is a game which is followed and nurtured by many NES background Australians raises many questions.
…Not only did they refer to him as a ‘wog’ but there were regular derogatory remarks made about my teams ‘ethnicity’ from the crowd.
— Arielle Cassar (@arielle_meow) February 23, 2018
These issues of identity and exclusion are deeply personal and can cause deeply hurtful events. That Association Football is not seen as part and parcel of the Australian sport culture by many, and that it seems the FFA is more interested in chasing these people than dyed in the wool Association Football supporters, amplify this fact.
Perhaps I will just have to let this issue go on twitter, or perhaps find other venues to discuss it. But mostly it shows how fragmented and divided the world of Association Football is in Australia, from the disputes with Lowy and the FFA to the average fan.
Until there is reconciliation, agreed outcomes and even some compromise, Association Football may be condemned to recycle aged old disputes, and surely twitter won’t do it.
 Gorman, J. (2012, December 26). Australian football decides: it’s hip to be ethnic. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/12/27/australian-football-decides-its-hip-to-be-ethnic/