Tag Archives: Association Football

What is 777 Partners exactly?

Juan Arciniegas – Managing Director at 777 Partners, Josh Wander -Managing Partner/Co-Founder at 777 and Andres Blazquez who has become the 777 representative at Genoa FC with a ‘777’ Genoa shirt.

Doom and gloom among Melbourne Victory fans. And why not? When the World Cup finished we were all on top of the world. A great Socceroo campaign and ready to go. Then disaster happened. The APL announced the grand finals for Sydney thing, and thugs exploited the discontent to get their jollies by invading the pitch and assaulting a player, causing a series of penalties and bans. Then we find out that Melbourne Victory is in a very precarious financial position. Talk about when it rains it pours.

While members and fans were told that everything was hunky dory it is evident now that it wasn’t for some time. When 777 Partners got involved in Melbourne Victory there was hardly a murmur among the fan base. It was seen as a good thing especially after the sad passing of club director and major shareholder, Mario Biasin. The difference of what it was believed to have happened with the 777 involvement is reflected in the first paragraphs of two articles both co-written by Vince Rugari in the Channel 9 press. The first one written on 5/10/2022 stating “Melbourne Victory have secured their financial future after the death of former director Mario Biasin, with an American private investment firm adding the A-Leagues club to its growing network of teams across Europe and South America.” And the second written on 1/1/2023 stating “Melbourne Victory lost $6.7 million and was in deep financial trouble just months before it struck a deal that could hand control of the club to a US private equity investor within five years.”

What really alarmed fans was what that second article outlined: “The private equity investor was given the option to own up to 70 per cent of the club within five years through an investment of up to $30 million, the documents show. After four or five years, 777 Partners also had the right to walk away from Victory and be repaid the $30 million at a compounding interest rate of 10 per cent a year. The deal would also give it a preferential position over existing shareholders if Victory was liquidated.”

Basically, to be blunt, 777 Partners have Melbourne Victory by the short and curlies.

777 Partners on a soccer spending spree

As an Italian born the links between Melbourne Victory, 777 and Genoa pricked my interest.

One thing that is noticeable is that 777 went hard in getting involved with football clubs worldwide last year. In just a few months it either got partial or total control of very famous teams.

777 Partners has already been present in European football since 2018, when it took over 6% of Sevilla. However last year they went for the kill wanting to take over the club. Shareholders of the club blocked plans by 777 to oust its board and its Chairman Jose Castro and all board members but failed to line up the support needed at a public meeting of shareholders.

In March 2022, 777 Partners acquired full ownership of Belgian top-flight soccer club Standard Liège

In November 2022 it acquired a 64.7% controlling stake in Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin, a deal which could potentially be largest investment from a foreign company in a German soccer club.

In February 2022 it acquited a 70% stake in Brazilian soccer club Vasco de Gama 

The reason behind for this sudden acquisition spree is unknown. However, some business analysts say this is related to 777 Partners’ having the airline sector is at the center of their strategy. It is no coincidence that the headquarters are on the nineteenth floor of 66 Brickell, a skyscraper in Miami famous for being the home of the airlines. Recently, the fund purchased 24 Boeing 737-8 Max (with another 60 booked), with the strategy of leasing the aircraft to airlines, with particular attention to those aiming for low cost.

Andalusia and Seville are tourist destinations par excellence, while in Genoa the focus will be on developing the Cristoforo Colombo airport, with the ambition of making it the gateway for those comes from the Atlantic. And Melbourne Victory? The shirt sponsor of the team is Bonza airlines. A new low cost budget airline funded and backed by 777 Partners. The airline hoped to have planes in the sky, but the company’s take-off date is unclear as it is still navigating regulatory approvals with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to obtain its Air Operator’s Certificate.

Is 777 there for the money, not for the football?

One thing is certain. 777 Partners is not a charity. If the Melbourne Victory deal goes pear shape they’d be out of there as quickly as a plane out of Canberra on a Friday night before a long weekend. But they are not totally disinterested in football. In Genoa as their ‘football man’ they installed the Argentinian Gustavo Mascardi, who, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport discovered a few talents. The last was Paulo Dybala, but going back in time there are many other excellent names, from Montero to Crespo, Veron, Asprilla, Salas, Cordoba and Burdisso: the best of South America brought to Italy.

The future of Melbourne Victory

There is plenty of doom and gloom among Melbourne Victory supporters at the moment which is not surprising. How 777 will behave towards the Victory will determine its survival. If they are in for the quick buck and a liquidation under extremely generous terms then it is doomed. But if, how it seems to be overseas, they want a successful team to work in tandem with their aviation interests then perhaps 777 may be the unlikely saviour out of this mess.

Melbourne Victory is no North Queensland Fury or Gold Coast United. It is an A-League foundation club which has been very successful and has one of the biggest (and in certain years the biggest) membership and fans in the whole competition. Its demise would hit hard at the A-League’s image and reputation.

Looking the buying strategy of 777 Partners they don’t want to be just a minor shareholder but be the owner of the joint (hence the Seville dispute). The way Melbourne Victory is at the moment they can name the date of when the current club management is going to be ousted. In the scheme of things 777 bought Vasco de Gama for USD $138 million, Genoa for 150 million Euros I guess buying Hertha Berlin wouldn’t have been cheap. Up to 30 AUD millions for Victory is relatively a minor investment. Victory may survive. If it will remain the same team as it is now, or whether it may have a Melbourne Hearts – Melbourne City type of transformation is yet to be seen.

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16 November 2005

I don’t know why I got so involved in the Australian National football Team.

I was what I am totally the opposite now, an eurosnob didn’t follow the NSL (until Carlton SC came on the scene but that’s another story) and followed the VFL instead.

I came to Australia in 1974, right in the middle of Australia’s World Cup campaign. And I wasn’t that into football in Italy anyway. Of course I followed a team. Both my grandfather and my father were very keen AC Milan fans. Both of them were life members (AC Milan was created three years after my grandfather was born) and my father would tell me stories when in his youth he would be part of the group of fans travelling with the team across Italy and even digging snow off the pitch on occasions so a match could occur.

But I was hopeless in sports. I was a fat kid who was always picked last in teams at school, or even worse not picked at all and the teachers had to force one team to take me to the protests of ‘Oh not him!” from other kids. And in any case Italy was (and is) obsessed with the sport and I sort of rebelled against it. It was only the connection with my father that created a link, even went to San Siro with him as a child.

So coming to Australia the fact that it wasn’t a ‘football country’ didn’t really bother me. My father dismissed the local football and inferior and didn’t want to get involved with the local community anyway, so no APIA or Marconi. He wanted to be a middle class Australian, so we went to live in the white fence blandness of the North Shore.

But while I also was a eurosnob of sorts, the National Team somehow took my interest. I wasn’t really aware of the campaign for 1978 World Cup in Argentina (those 4 years were a blur, settling in a new country, learning English and at the end of it moving to Melbourne and doing my HSC). But by 1982 I was really in a ‘I want to belong to Australia’ mode. I felt comfortable in my new home in Melbourne and while was following the VFL (as it was then) not local football, the sport still resonated in my as the sport of my culture. Later I recognised that the sport of football provides a link to my heritage, to my family, to my childhood, even if I was hopeless at it and never really played it. And while perhaps I could not find that link in local teams, the national team could link my past with my present. The National team was representing my new country with a sport of my heritage and the emotional connections that entailed. So it became much more than just a sport.

I remember the first feeling of utter disappointment when New Zealand beat Australia 0-2 to progress in their World Cup qualifications and eliminate Australia.

And then of course the other failures (culminating in 1997). But the thing that galled me was how these results were met with an overall indifference amongst the population, but even worse how many were actually gleeful about it “ha ha Australian is shit at soccer”. The fact that there were Australians who were actually chortling about one of their national team losing astounded me, and proved how in many people’s eyes the sport was not part of the country’s make up, was something foreign, and somehow this made me feel alienated and foreign too.

Football in Australia was stuck in a rut. Then Crawford report arrived and the game was in a state of reform. Lowy got involved and whatever people think of him he got Hiddink and many of us believed that this was our time.

Even if we lost again I wanted to be there. At least I would be in a stadium full of depressed people like me, rather than alone or in indifference. And I wanted my father to be with me. After all he was the real reason why I had a link to football and I am sure he would have enjoyed a match with players of a calibre he would have approved.

The fact that we didn’t lose by heaps in Montevideo meant that at least we had a chance. I went to the newsagency near work to get a ticket (before the days of buying them online) and somehow I looked for omens. There were none. There were a couple of people before me buying tickets too, that is all.

My wife, my young son left for Sydney. I think it was Tuesday, but not sure. It would be a weekend away for my wife who couldn’t care less about the match (and sport in general) and my son who was too young to be involved. My parents were to join us later. I remember that I got really nice cheap accommodation in Stanmore I remember that the night before the match my parents and us had Chinese takeway in our room which is a really nice memory. I remember that the day of the match, we took the ferry to Manly and the weather was promising rain and my father and I bought some $2 ponchos just in case it rained at the match. All I remember is the tension, how we had lunch at some touristy fish place in Manly and I didn’t feel like eating.

Finally we took the ferry back to Circular Quay and I started to see people in green and gold, and also in the Uruguayan Celeste. It was time to go. I donned my green and gold beanie, which was knitted by my mom decades earlier. I looked absolutely ridiculous and my wife said that I shouldn’t be seen in public with that. Then there was confusion about which train to take to Homebush and the whole tension erupted. I hardly get angry but I was on the edge. “We are in Circular Quay and Homebush is a major station and we can’t find the fucking train?” All of my contingent look at me startled. Years later my mother would tell me that she had to fight hard not to laugh. She thought the sight of a grown man of 44 year old man with a green and gold tea cosy on his head going off in a train station was hilarious. Anyway we got a train to Central I think and We finally got on the train to the stadium.

The train was packed and hot. No place to sit and I was worried about my 80 years old father, and the fact that no one offered him a seat. I thought whether to ask someone but I think that at the end he would have been too proud to accept.

We finally arrive. There is a festive atmosphere. We get to our seats which were near one of the corners. There was a really vibe, you could feel the wave of eagerness coming from the crowd. The Australian national anthem is played. I sing wholeheartedly with thousands of other people. The Uruguayan anthem gets played and gets booed and I say to my father that that is not right. Just because the Australian one was booed in Montevideo it doesn’t mean that we should do the same. But I can sense that we had enough. Being ‘nice guys’ had got us nowhere. If going to the World Cup meant being nasty as well so be it.

I can’t remember much of the match. Except that Bresciano’s goal was at the other end. Sometimes when I am so far from the action I am not really sure that the goal has gone into the net and I rely on the reaction of the players and the crowd. We are even … and we’re at home. But the experience of the previous decades has shown that being hopeful is dangerous. I can remember the endless Uruguayan attacks and corners where just a brief distraction of an Australian defence would have unravelled all the dreams. Extra time. I think that if we go to penalties what a cruel way to go out, but how typical.

My recollection of the penalties is again vague. Except that they were again on the other side of the ground. I was dazed and confused I don’t know who can win where except that I rejoiced at all Schwarzer’s saves and Australia’s goals.
My father that while he enjoyed the match didn’t have the same emotional response. Cool as a cucumber after Zalayeta misses and Aloisi walks to the penalty spot. “Se l’Australia segna vince la partita” “If Australia scores they win” he just says, like that. With the same tone of voice as ‘pass me the salt’.

The feeling of when something good happens suddenly after stress is often what you don’t expect. Relief is the first thing I think I felt. I jumped up. There was pandemonium all around me which I think was replicated all over the stadium. Men’s at Work ‘DownUnder’ starts playing and here I am a 44 year old man in a funny beanie jumping up and down singing along. The experience was sufficient for my father. He didn’t have the emotional baggage that I carried with me for the past 30 years, he said to me that he was going home but it was fine for me to stay. Of course I wanted to stay I wanted to soak up the atmosphere as much as possible. He left and amongst the euphoria I felt somewhat guilty to let a 80 year old man go back to the city from Homebush on his own. “Non preoccupati” “Don’t worry” he says, and he leaves the joyous group and my ‘Man at work’. I see a man in an Uruguayan shirt leaving too. Instinctively without thinking I reach him and shake his hand. He seems to appreciate the gesture. To this day I wonder why I did that. Perhaps because it must be tough being an Uruguayan supporter amongst all the joyous mayhem.

The team leaves the ground. Time to go some stadium staff hover around, they want to go home even if some people don’t want to There is a huge crush at Homebush stadium a lady from a balcony above who looks like a staff member try to start a ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!’ chant and was told quite unkindly that these were mot the Olympics. Train also packed but the mood is boyant but also tired. We are all exausted. People on the phone ringing friends “Mate..we are going to Germany, don’t know how we did it but we did…I am going there if it kills me…”

I arrive at Central and there is no direct train to Stanmore. It’s almost midnight now. I think I have to go to Wynyard then a train home. I get to the Lodge at 1am. It’s locked and I wasn’t expecting to be this late. I get to the back and call my wife’s names with those strange loud whispers thinking I may have to spend the night outside, fortunately she hears me and opens the door. I am sweaty and thirsty, but the shower is locked and only to be opened at 8. So have no choice to go to bed like that. But it doesn’t matter. Tonight at least, the sport of my childhood, is Australia’s sport.

This is what I wore at the match. Including THE beanie.

This is what I wore at the match. Including THE beanie.

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Possible SBS abandonment of soccer another sign of not being ‘Special’ anymore

Ad for SBS Aleague

An article in FourFourTwo Australia has spelled out that the A-League has been a rating disaster for SBS.

Kevin Perry, Co-Editor of the website DeciderTV and an expert on New Media & Sport, says the A-League has been a “disaster” for SBS and doubts the broadcaster will enter into any bidding war for the A-League and Socceroos broadcast rights.

“The A-League has not been a rating success,” Perry said.

“The A-League has been a disaster for SBS and they are very keen to dump the rights as quickly as they could. They tried to get rid of the rights of the A-League in these past 12 months and they couldn’t find anyone to buy it off them.”

As the article goes on to say SBS was once known as the spiritual home of football after a 35-year history of broadcasting football. In my opinion it was the advent of SBS who advanced the cause of the sport in Australia. Not only it broadcast the NSL, but I think it was the decision to broadcast the World Cup live that made many australians realise what a huge event it was. If my memory doesn’t fail me, Johnny Warren said that the broadcast of the Japan/Korea World Cup in 2002 (which for Australia was finallly at an accessible time zone) that allowed more to see it, including some influential people in governemt which asked why Australia wasn’t there (remember that this was the first world cup after the very sucessful Sydney Olympics). And apparently this was one element that started the rolling of the process to reform football in Australia that resulted in the Crawford Report.

In fact SBS was so much in the sport that it was dubbed ‘Soccer Bloody Soccer’ by some (the fact that Channel 7 wasn’t dubbed ‘Football Bloody Football’ escaped them). The person that perhaps was most instrumental in making sure that SBS was the ‘football channel’, Les Murray bemoans the state of affairs.

Les Murray who hosted SBS football for 34 years and retired last year said that he would be saddened if the multicultural broadcaster decided not to broadcast football.

“If SBS was to dump football after building its market from a few thousand to millions over 35 years that would be a great shame,” Murray said.

“I’d be very disappointed in that I hope that is not true, I hope that is not the case. I still believe SBS does a great job in covering the game. It treats the game with total respect, it treats the football audience with intellectual respect, and it’s analysis of football is of the highest quality, so I think it still does a good job.

“Bear in mind that when it comes to ratings its ratings are not governed by what channel something is on. It’s governed by the content. Football ratings are ultimately driven by the quality of the football not the quality of the presenters or the commentators. If the football quality is good then it will rate whether it’s on SBS or whether it’s not on SBS.”

The problem here is the term ‘multicultural broadcaster’. SBS hasn’t been so for some time. Look at most of the programs shown on SBS and they have really little ‘multicultural’ about them. I remember when SBS stated in the 1980’s most programs were not in English and subtitled and noe the reverse is the case. Look at any evening schedule. You have Insight, Who do you think you are, Underground Britain, 24 hours in Emergency, Fargo. Then you have the movie ‘Kill Bill 2’. I am not saying that I don’t love these programs, I do. But I think they target the English-Speaking inner suburban-tertiary educated viewer that anything multicultural. The elimination of football would continue this trend.

Perhaps we can’t blame SBS management too much. When SBS was instituted in the 80’s it was an echo from a different Australia. When governments were there to provide services, even to minorities. Now evertything has to be justified, and if something doesn’t rate it doesn’t bring the money in. As the article in FourFourTwo states:

After poor ratings on SBS One last year the live Friday night game was relegated back to SBS Two.

Perry said: “SBS has a funding crisis at the moment. The Government have cut their budget. They have a four-year deal but it’s just worked out horribly for them.

“The ratings have been terrible. The Friday night games, has been a problem because the FFA haven’t really scheduled the best matches for a Friday night.

“A lot of the best matches have been on a Saturday night. It hasn’t worked out for SBS at all and they just want to get away from football – they just don’t have the money.”

In the old days SBS would have seen the provision of football as a service to the communities, whether it rated ot not. This is no longer the case.

But perhaps what’s happening at SBS echoes what has happened in Australian football as well. As football was ‘de-ethicised’ with the advent of the A-League, SBS has been as well. You can sense watching SBS broacasting the NSL back in 1988 that it was seen also as a community service. A service to the communities that were running those clubs.

Whatever happens in the future the danger of the bad ratings is that once the next round of TV rights goes around there may not be takers for the A-League, or the money may not be sufficient to grow the League. And despite soccerphobes and those who still resent the advent of the A-League may rejoice it would be bad for the sport of football in Australia as a whole.

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Could a ‘welcome refugees’ banner happen at an Australian soccer match?

German football fans at Bundesliga matches

German football fans at Bundesliga matches

It has to be said that one of the most heartening things regarding the recent refugee crisis in Europe has been the expression of support by many people in the streets, but especially by football fans in the stands.


The question is. Could something similar happen in the A League or the FFA Cup?  Could we see a ‘Refugees Welcome’ banner at the match between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United on the 22nd of September?

Well the answer is probably no. For a variety of reasons.  Here I discuss what are in my opinion the main ones.

The social context is different

Australians in the main are wary of introducing politics where it is felt does not belong.  I remember when I first came here that one of the rules of going to a BBQ was ‘no religion and no politics’.  This extends to our sport.  You can see this in the continuing booing of Adam Goodes. The message here from the booers is that by introducing the issues of racism, aboriginal dispossession etc. does not belong in footy.  Same the feeling that political expression does not belong in the stands.  This is reflected in the way the clubs were created.  Some fans of the traditional clubs such as South Melbourne or Melbourne Knights that were prevented to join the A-League accuse the A-League teams to be ‘plastic franchises’ and while I don’t agree with that terminology, it is true that they were a creation by the Football Federation Australia (FFA) to provide a ‘clean slate’ free from any cultural ‘baggage’.

There was a discussion on a refugee banner on Facebook among some members of Melbourne Victory’s Northern Terrace. An active fan group. One member said:

I don’t think it would be good for the NT, no. Part of our unity comes from the fact we are not political. This is a fact of life for a team that was founded on the FFA’s initial ‘One club, one city’ model – it inherently encompasses and attracts all walks of life.

The kids who ended up making up the AU’s, Horda’s and Nomadi’s of the terrace didn’t have clubs to choose from based on their politics like you do if you grow up in Hamburg, Berlin, Verona or similar. There’s even a lot of cross-politics within those sub groups…… we (don’t) have to be left wing or right wing. We function as a political body, but with an apolitical stance on issues that don’t relate directly to us/football.

It is interesting that while active groups often refers to overseas practices for inspiration (chants, marching to the ground and -alas- flares) in this case unfurling a political banner doesn’t seem to resonate.

The FFA/clubs may not allow it

Since the advent of the A-League the FFA especially has been paranoid that the fans may express ‘sectarian’ views that could somehow remind people of the old NSL.  This mean that any banner that hasn’t been approved can be removed and the fans holding them up ejected.

This is not banners that say something nasty about some other ethnic group. It could be about anything. Apparently a Melbourne Victory fan was violently ejected for holding up a banner which stated “FOOTBALL IS FREEDOM” so you can see that anything more contentious such as supporting refugees would give the FFA/clubs kittens.  It would be quite a courageous fan to risk eviction, or even worse cancellation of membership and bans for future matches to hold up such a banner.

What would be great to happen would be a clubs encouraging this message themselves. Like St.Pauli and Borussia Dortmund did earlier this month.  But frankly, in the Australian context, I can’t seeing it happening.

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Making sense of the National Club Identity Policy – Whose side are you on?


Melbourne Croatia were prevented to have these shirts by the National Club Identity Policy

There was a flurry of commentary on the internet about whether a team from Perth. Gwelup Croatia could be allowed to keep their name when playing for the FFA Cup. For those who may not know, the FFA instituted a National Club Identity Policy for all clubs affiliated to FFA-approved competitions, which stipulates that clubs do not carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination. This policy has pushed the buttons of many in the community.  As I have written before in this blog, Association Football has tried to shake off the image of being a ‘sport for migrants’ therefore ‘not for Australians’ for a long time.  In the early 90’s the then Chairman of Soccer Australia dictated that all ‘ethnic’ names be removed from the teams.  Even prompting a politician  to question this as ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Parliament. Aldred This made many fans of the ‘traditional’ clubs wary of any attempt of wiping out references to their traditions. The introduction of new clubs in the NSL with no cultural links were seen with suspicion. As a Carlton Soccer Club fan I do remember some hostility from some fans of the more traditional teams towards Carlton SC and the schadenfreude when Carlton SC went bust.

When  Soccer Australia was disbanded and the A-League was formed, teams with connections to cultural groups became as popular as a turd in a lunchbox. .  The traditional teams such as South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights and Marconi were excluded and teams with no cultural backgrounds (such as Perth Glory) and brand new teams were included in the competition.  To add insult to injury, these traditional teams were seen as undesirables.  A bit like when Hindley humiliates Heathcliff by locking him in the attic in Wuthering Heights, these teams were shut out. “Old Soccer vs New Football’ was the motto. The fact that this initiative was being implemented by someone who did belong to ‘old soccer’, Frank Lowy who was involved in an ‘ethnic team’ added fuel to the fire.  The dislike (putting it mildly) amongst some football fans is palpable.

I still believe that the situation for Football in Australia was so dire that a clean break was necessary. The Crawford Report was the best thing to have happened for the code (the fact that all its recommendations haven’t been implemented is another story).  I could also see the reasoning why the FFA wanted to create a ‘new brand’.  Unfortunately we live in a market where perception is vital, and unfortunately traditional teams did portrayed Association Football as something as an import. I knew that this wasn’t necessarily right.  Whether your heritage is from Greece or Croatia you are as much Australian and in the spirit of multiculturalism the culture is as much part of the country as one coming from Britain and Ireland.  However in the cold fact of the sporting market this is not the case.

Many who supports the actions of the FFA refer to the dire situation the NSL found itself in the last years of its existence.  The attendances were paltry.  Even a derby between Sydney Olympic and Sydney United attracted 4,327 people.  But most attendances were around the 1K mark.  And of course no much of a media exposure. Some argue that this wasn’t necessarily the fault of the teams.  And that may be true.  Again it comes back to perception.

Since the formation of the FFA and the A-League, talking with people who followed the NSL, or are following their traditional teams I understand much more the emotional impact that the advent of the FFA and the A-League had on them.  These teams were part and parcel of their identity.  These were the teams created by their fathers and grandfathers.  These were the teams where they spent their childhood.  Being prevented to participate in the highest competition in the country and being told they were part of a ‘problem’ and ignored must hurt. So when the FFA Cup came along where these teams were able to go back to a national level, the NCIP was rubbing salt into the wound, re-traumatising again. Joe Gorman wrote a great article in the South of the Border blog about the NCIP.  In there he writes:

It’s a depressing irony – Australia’s first genuinely multicultural sport has internalised the logic of assimilation and unleashed its toxic influence on the few remaining clubs that wish to retain the most visible symbols of their identity. Ultimately, we need to move away from the idea that this is an issue simply for football. Someone  recently told me the NCIP is for the good of “the whole of the game in 2015”. My response was that I do not care for the good of the whole of the game in 2015. I care for the good of people and communities in 2015, and hope to see that expressed through soccer.

Gorman makes two very interesting points in this statement.  One is “Australia’s first genuinely multicultural sport has internalised the logic of assimilation” .  Football was not really ‘multicultural’.  It was infact monocultural as its most important teams associated themselves with one culture.  A Croatian culture, a Greek culture and so on.  And here lied the part of the problem in the perception of the sport in the late 90’s.  This monoculturalism presented a barrier for these teams to attract a broad spectrum of fans.  This is what the FFA tried to do with the A-League.  There was a lot of talk about ‘uniting the tribes’ whenit was formed.

The other is “not caring for the good of the whole of the game in 2015 but caring for the good of people and communities in 2015, and hope to see that expressed through soccer”. I think that in some cases, what communities believe is good for them may not necessarily be healthy for the game as a whole.  I remember discussing the advent of the A-League to a committed South Melbourne supporter.  I was espousing what I said above. That the A-League was necessary the appeal of football. That unfortunately, the perception amongst many was that the sport had become an enclave for certain groups.  He responded that he didn’t really care about how popular the sport was or if Australians of Anglo background came to watch.  He was happy with the 1,000 – 2,000 fans attending a match that was largely ignored by the mainstream media because that what he wanted and what the people who went to the matches wanted. Of course that may not be the general attitude.  But I do think we would make a mistake if we were to look as the Soccer Australia/NSL days as a time where the game was a more wholesome and community based game.  My perception wasn’t so. It was a game which was marginalised in the sport culture of Australia, and the idea that the game belongs solely for the benefits of certain communities would have condemned it to remain so.

The way forward

While I believe that the break from a broken NSL had to be made and the perception of soccer being a ‘game for migrants’ had to be made, the FFA was far too brutal in erasing the traditions of the past. The implementation of the NCIP shows that the FFA is still locked in a mindset that is now outdated.  The A-League despite all its problems has been a relative success.  We have now arrived at a point that any demonstration of ethnicity can be seen as an asset, rather than a burden.

The images of souvlakis being sold at Bentleigh’s Kingston Heath Soccer Complex may have irritated some.  But it proved that football can provide an identity which is totally different for any other sport.  So let’s drop the NCIP.  Teams can acknowledge their traditions, fans of traditional teams won’t feel like they have been entrapped in am Anglo white picket fence and it may even attract more fans because of the type of different community such teams and games can offer.


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The link between Goodes’ dance and soccer

Embed from Getty Images
As a long-suffering Carlton supporter here I was watching my team being demolished again.  As  I do when I watch a game at home I was on tweeter.  Goodes scores a goal and to be truthful I didn’t pay lots of attention to his celebrations or the commentary.  Was yet another goal against us.

But then twitter exploded about his post goal celebrations.  Some thought it provocative.  Some thought it as a great way to celebrate his heritage in a round which is supposed to celebrate aboriginal heritage and tradition in Australian Rules Football.

For the record I thought that it was great what he did.  And I would say as a Carlton supporter that it was great he involved us in an indigenous celebration (I mean, we were getting slaughtered anyway).

But as I was reading the reactions on twitter something immediately came to my mind.

Many have written about why Goodes was singled out.  One of the main issues is because Goodes refuses to play the game of being the good aboriginal who is part of the mainstream.  He refuses to be part of those outsiders (such as Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi) that desperately seek acceptance by verifying the most bigoted and right wing views in Australia.  He confronts the fact that he  comes from a culture which was invaded and almost wiped out by colonisation.  This in an environment (Aussie Rules) which has strong assimilation sentiment.

One of the things that attracted me to VFL in the 1970’s was that there was lots of Non English Speaking Background (NESB) players, and this sort of made me feel welcome.  But later I realised that underneath that there was a strong undercurrent of assimilationist thinking. “you are in Australia now. You follow our sport”.

This was not uncommon.  Even included the current National Team coach, Ange Postecoglou.

Postecoglou’s family arrived in Melbourne in 1970 as migrants from Greece when Postecoglou was five. “All I wanted to do was fit in,” he says as we settle in and prepare for our protein. “So I rejected all the Greek culture . . . and I didn’t want people to know I was Greek. I wanted to play Aussie Rules and I remember the hatred Dad had for it and I didn’t understand why.”

But the little boy didn’t want anything to do with football (soccer)  at first, grappling with the vexed issue of assimilation, as many migrants do….

I’ve discussed what I think is the relationship between Australian Rules Football and multiculturalism before, so I won’t reiterate those arguments.  But the Goodes incident has implications about Australia views real diversity.

The same way Aussie Rules culture demands assimilation in what is perceived to be mainstream Australian culture from migrants, it showed that it demands that from indigenous Australians as well.

However here is where the AFL narrative comes unstuck.  While assimilationist culture can pinpoint at migrants as outsiders, this cannot be done to indigenous Australians.  The roles are now reversed.  The white mainstream culture becomes the outsider in this context, and this creates all sorts of conflicting emotions.  Especially when the AFL uses indigenous culture to affirm its ‘Australian uniqueness‘ against other codes.  When you have Goodes, an AFL champion, who has not been backwards in telling Australia about its racist attitudes towards Aborigines, expressing his culture during a match – especially during a round who is supposed to celebrate the indigenous tradition in the game – then some assimilationist chickens come home to roost.

In past decades, both migrants and aboriginal Australians were outsiders and Association Football was an ‘outsider’ game.  One of the most known activists for Aboriginal rights, Charlie Perkins,  (Kumantjayi Perkins) one of the most influential activist for aboriginal rights, he’s quoted on why he was attracted to the game.

“soccer brought me into the migrant community where I found great satisfaction, no prejudice, no history of bad relations, no embarrassing comments or derogatory remarks, they welcomed me into the fold and I’ve been there ever since”.

It is not inconceivable that in the 1950’s attitudes towards Aborigines would not have been much different in Victoria.  What the statement above demonstrates is at that time, an Aboriginal Australian felt as an outsider, and as an outsider found a home in what was considered by most then as the ‘wog game’

But things have changed since then and the AFL is to be commended to celebrate its Aboriginal players and traditions.  However the reactions to Goodes dance do highlight how much of a real insider someone who does not fit the mould can be even now.

Is things like an indigenous round another exercise of absorbing a culture into the mainstream Anglo/Celtic one and it is ultimately a way to make non-Aboriginal Australians feel good about themselves, papering over the actions of the past.  The way some fans and commentators have reacted it seems that there is tension on this area.  In today’s Offsiders on the ABC Waleed Aly made a very pertinent point that  Australian is a tolerant society until minorities demonstrate that they don’t know their place.

This argument can be carried in the way many commentators (and I suspect some that applaud Goodes action) perceive Association Football.  As long as it behaves within the parameters accepted by Australian mainstream society it can be tolerated.  However if it expresses a way of supporting which is perceived to be foreign is condemned. Even worse if these minorities Aly mentions use soccer, which is a sport that is part of their culture, to express their traditions.

That is why when the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) was formed, it deliberately created an A League cleansed with any reference to the non-English speaking cultural influences that nurtured Association Football especially after the Second World War.  It felt necessary to rid itself of any perceptions of being ‘ethnic’ that of being an outsider.  Perhaps that was a price to pay for becoming mainstream.  But the fear of being a ‘foreign sport’ remains. A couple of years ago the FFA initiated the  FFA Cup a competition which included A-League teams as well as teams whose origins were from diverse cultural background. The FFA felt it necessary to enact a National Club Identity Policy to ensure clubs do not  “carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination.’

Goodes action on Friday did carry an ethnic, racial and religious connotations.  It proves that when it comes to sport in Australia you have to act within a certain set of parameters.  Parameters that seems to be set by a ‘white picket fence’ set of values.
As this set of values may approve the unique atmosphere a soccer crowd can produce without taking into account its cultural connections, they also like the image of Australian Rules being ‘our Australian game’ with its perceived aboriginal origins and having indigenous players.  However, when these values are challenged the criticism comes thick and fast.
Because sport is such a central part of Australia’s culture and as a vehicle to define its identity, reactions to what happens in a stadium can be very revealing.  And unfortunately not all of what it is revealed is encouraging.


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Australia’s football belongs in Asia.

Imagine this scenario.
The Kazakhstani football team becomes good. Really good. So good that it goes to the World Cup and Euro Cup regularly. Their clubs start to take places in the Champions League and the Europa League. This starts to get countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway really pissed off. Why should we have a country such that borders with China and is next door to Mongolia be part of UEFA? It should belong to the Asian Confederation.
In fact Kazakhstan situation is very similar to Australia, but in reverse. It was part of the Asian Confederation. But the Football Association of Kazakhstan, requested admission to UEFA after leaving the ACF in 2001, was eventually admitted as a UEFA member by the UEFA Congress upon the recommendation of the UEFA Executive Committee in April 2002. In the same way Australia left Oceania and the AFC Executive Committee admitted it in 2006. And it is on the edge of Europe. Only the far western part in the Urals can be considered in Europe, a bit like our own Christmas Island can be considered in Asia. But Kazakhstan national team and its Premier League do not seem to worry the powerhouses of Europe. If Kazakhstan won the European Cup and its teams European Club competitions who knows whether they would face the same rumblings of kicking them out of Europe and we have heard about Australia and Asia.
This issue has been raised recently in the wake of Australia winning the Asian Cup. Most tweeters congratulated the team, but we also had a few that questioned our right to be there in the first place.


But the idea of Australia in Asia was not only questioned by people who came from an Asian country, I’ve read plenty of Italian tweets being baffled why a country in Oceania was playing in an Asian competition. And even in a major UK newspaper they advocated the exclusion of Australia.

The bottom line? It shouldn’t have been allowed. (admitting Australia in the Asian Football Confederation) Had FIFA treated the Oceania confederation with more respect and guaranteed one place at the World Cup, Australia might not have felt the need to break away; and, when they did, FIFA should have stepped in and outlawed the move. Countries cannot choose their continent as if from a catalogue. Yet FIFA, and Asia, are already complicit in a convenient illusion, highlighted on the AFC’s website as their tournament progressed.

I personally find the concept of an ‘Asia’ ranging outdated and anachronistic. It is and Eurocentric concept, and it is surprising that it is used by some living in ‘Asian’ countries to exclude Australia. Do Lebanon and Japan have more things in common that Australia and Japan? Would a Korean see a Syrian as a ‘fellow Asian?’

Furthermore FIFA’s confederations do not strictly follow geographical imperatives. Guyana and Suriname are geographically located in the South American continent but because they are considered “culturally” Caribbean, they play with the other Caribbean nations in the CONCACAF. Not only Kazakhstan is an ‘Asian’ country in UEFA. Azerbaijan is in UEFA although it is primarily situated in Asian Transcaucasia. Pacific island territory of Guam should be in Oceania but is in the AFC. And of course we have Israel, which won the Asian Cup in 1964, expelled for political reasons in 1974, and it is now in UEFA.

It is also true that the Asian Confederation is huge, spanning half the globe. Many have supported the idea of creating a ‘West Asia’ confederation and a ‘Asian-Pacific’ confederation which would include East Asian and Oceania countries. That concept is much more in tune with the real geopolitical situation in the world, rather some antiquated Western idea of geography on the 19th century. However logic and FIFA haven’t really being together. I think many in Asia would not want to endanger any power they have in FIFA or risking having less World Cup spot.

But while the idea that Australia doesn’t belong to the Asian Confederation is ludicrous, we do have a responsibility to be an involved and valuable member.

Australia has to take its membership seriously

One of the reasons why Australia was admitted to the ACF it was because it was felt it would improve the level of football in the confederation. But apart for providing more competition and winning championships it has taken this responsibility as much as it should have? Janek Speight has mentioned about the lack of players from the ACF and reiterates an idea that has been discussed for some time, and that should be implemented in the A-League.

Most Asian countries employ the 3+1 rule, which states the club can have three visa spots from any nation in the world, with an extra spot open for a player from a neighbouring Asian nation. The same rule applies for participants in the Asian Champions League, which means Australian clubs can only use three of their five visa players when competing in the prestigious tournament.

Changing A-League visa rules to a 4+1, and slowly moving towards a 3+1 (if FFA is determined to reduce the total number to four) would be a smart move, and could open up a lot more doors for clubs wanting to cash in on the fastest-growing region in the world. With current foreign imports signed to multi-year contracts, it’s certainly not a short-term option, so planning needs to start now to give clubs a chance to prepare.

The idea has been floated around FFA before, and David Gallop has admitted the advantages of the move. He realises that our links with Asia need to strengthen.

The other issue that Australia needs to address to remain a good ‘AFC member’ is promotion and relegation. I’ve discussed the problems and merits of promotion and relegation in the A-League in a previous post. Michael Lynch also outlines the dangers. But the AFC apparently wants all domestic competitions in its confederations to have this system. There are problems in having relegation in a league where teams can be financially unstable and where being relegated may mean their demise. However if that’s what our confederation requires, we can’t put out fingers in our ears and sing lah lah lah. But we should be intelligent to be creative. We can’t be part of an organisation and ignore its requirements. We are not ‘special’. If there are difficulties I am sure we could come up with some creative solution.  As it happens politically we want to be part of the region but often we turn our patronising noses up by feeling somewhat ‘better’.  This is beautifully explained in a great article by Scott McIntyre.


There will be always members in the AFC that don’t want Australia, but we have every right to be there. However we have to be actively a participant and be an equal amongst many.

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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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When in Melbourne, do like the Romans do. Victoria FC.

So our Melbourne rivals have been bought by the big blue Manchester team. I must say that despite everything, I am very pleased. I am a Melbourne Victory fan, but a supporter of Australian Association Football first and foremost. The way Melbourne Heart was going looked towards oblivion, and that would not have done the competition any good. In fact I could just imagine the Rita Pahavis and the Rebecca Wilsons of this world salivating with anticipation in slamming the validity of ‘soccer’ in Australia.

But for now (and I hope it’s a success) we have had instead a huge vote of confidence in our little domestic competition from a major team playing in what could be argued, is the most popular football league in the world. So much so that our soccerphobic friends in the Herald Sun had to ignore the ‘Manchester City’ side of things and concentrate on islamophobia. But that’s another story.

As a Melbourne Victory fan I would love for Melbourne Heart to become really competitive. The Melbourne Derby has the potential to become a major sporting event in this AFL obsessed town.

But Manchester City buying the Heart has another advantage. Many have commented how Heart does not really have any differentiation from Victory. Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers have the geographical and socio-economic differences. But this is not the case with Heart. Many Victory fans have mentioned that Heart will become a ‘foreign’ team while Victory will remain local. We’ll see if this occurs. But it is mooted that new new ownership will change the name from Melbourne Heart to Melbourne City (current holders of that name permitting). That’s another positive, as I always thought that names such as Roar, Mariners, and of course Victory are daft and Americanized. And this made me think of another city with two great rivals. Rome.

Rome has two main teams. Roma and Lazio. One is named after the city, while the other is named after the region where Rome is located.


What about if we did the same for us here? Tony Ising, who had the original idea of a ‘Melbourne Victory’ thought of the name because Victory and Victoria sounded similar.

Let’s go the whole hog and let’s do what the Romans do. Let’s have Melbourne City, but let’s rename Melbourne Victory as Victoria FC. Maybe this could even encourage the club to really try to represent the whole of the state (playing an Asian Championship Qualifier in Geelong is already a start). Melbourne Victory’s jumpers with the big white V are designed on players from other sports such as Australian Rules and Hockey representing the State so you can see that Victoria FC is almost there. Sorry about the bad photoshopping, but you get the idea.

Fans can also use a Kinks song for a chant. I can see it already.

I was born, lucky me
In a land that I love
Though I am poor, I am free
When I grow I shall fight
For this team I shall die
Let the sun never set
Victoria, victoria, victoria, toria
Victoria, victoria, victoria, toria

Land of hope and gloria
Land of my victoria
Land of hope and gloria
Land of my victoria
Victoria, toria
Victoria, victoria, victoria, toria

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…Here with my mates on the Northern Terrace.

Despite the annoyance of my some of my inner suburban lefty friends, sport is very important aspect of Australian culture.  This is not a new discovery. Sociologists and political academics have known this for some time.  One example is Ian Turner and Leonie Sandercock who wrote about the role of Australian Rules Football in Australian culture back in the late 70’s . (Turner was apparently very dismissive of football, seeing it as a foreign game ,which for a Communist and its internationalist traditions, it was an interesting perspective).

But football in Australia has always raised plenty of issues which could fill a PhD in sociology. What is the role of football in an Australian context? It’s society? It’s history?  (One place that I would recommend if interested in this aspect is Ian Syson’s blog ).  When you go to an AFL match for instance, you can see that apart from the ‘Cheer Squad’ the support is sporadic, with fans barracking basically on their own.  Association Football has had the tradition of being a vehicle for people to gather and organise support in some way or another.  It can be chanting in England or drums and streamers in South America.  The support is unified, and in Europe and South America choreographed and organised.  So when Association Football is played in Australia it is understandable that this type of support should occur here as well.  But Australia has been very wary about different cultures.  Multiculturalism can go only so far – when it appears in things as sacred as sport then the unease can be quite substantial.  Because of its ‘foreigness’ this support tends to bring forward all the insecurities and anxieties of cultures which haven’t been assimilated and absorbed in an Australian mainstream.  I have already touched upon these themes in another post some time ago.

This conflict has been happening for some time now.  I don’t have to remind people of the soccerphobia amongst some in the media about this.  But this unease also exists within A-League clubs themselves, and what happened amongst the active fans during last Friday’s match between Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory is a case in point.

The ‘Split’ As Melbourne as Hipsters, changeable weather and good coffee.

Firstly a crush course in the differences amongst the active Melbourne Victory fans.  The Northern Terrace is inspired by an European type of support, organised and choreographed.  It has a number of groups (Blue and White Brigade, Horda etc.) that work together on match day.  This is different from the South End which is inspired by a UK type of support which is not as organised and more spontaneous.

Not sure if other teams have these sort of splits, but ideological splits are very Melbourne.  The ALP Split of the 50’s for instance I think that only happened in Victoria. Maybe its the weather.  Suffice to say that fans protesting is quite common overseas. (For a wider political discourse about the tradition of fans’ protests you can’t go past ‘Shoot Farken‘ )

Since the start of the season the Northern Terrace fans have been in dispute with the administration of Melbourne Victory because of restrictions placed upon them.  According to the NT fans statement the objections were as follows:

  • Tarps set up surrounding the North Terrace from both sides at both Swan St and Docklands stadiums (also from above, at Swan St).  The Northern Terrace believes that along with the obvious restriction this places a limit to the organic growth of the North Terrace and also presents a serious health and safety risk, particularly when taken in conjunction with the requirement of scanners.  Which is the next point.
  • Scanners at the entrances to the North Terrace main bay at both Swan St and Docklands stadiums. All North Terrace Home End Category members will be expected to scan their membership barcode when entering and exiting the main NT bay. The objection is that people arriving late to the game will be forced to wait in long queues to enter the bay, and this issue will only be exacerbated at half time as hundreds of people attempt to use the two available exits to either go to purchase food and drinks or go to the bathroom. The NT feels that this plus the introduction of banners has the potential of creating unnecessary crowding and dangers.
  • Banning of group banners from the front fence area of the terrace. The NT believes this is a totally unacceptable infringement on their independence as a terrace.  According to the NT, they have been assured by the club that it has nothing to do with intrusion on sponsorship space, but rather is an attempt to display a sense of unity amongst the terrace. The NT believes that this imposition shows a total lack of understanding of North Terrace, and global football supporter, culture.

What happened next is very much like an industrial dispute response. The NT effectively went on ‘strike’ boycotting the area designated to them and relocating to Level 3 at Etihad Stadium and Level 2 at AAMI Park.

So what’s going on?  I think that the dispute goes beyond just petulance.  I think it goes to the heart of the relationships between fans, a Club that was created from a business model, and what I mentioned before, the way different people see how ‘support’ should be in an Australian context.

It’s just not supporting the club. The formation of a Social Identity

Now, I am not member of the NT. I what I would call belonging in the ‘salad sandwich’ section (not as expensive as the prawn sandwich one). My impression come from reading the fans forum and talking to a some members of the NT and what comes loud and clear is the process of identification not only with Melbourne Victory, but within the Northern Terrace (and its subgroups themselves).

Psychology and Management studies have identified and examined Social Identity Theory (SIT) for at least the last 40 years.  This theory mainly arose from psychological studies in organisational structures in the 60’s.  Basically, according to SIT, people tend to classify themselves and others into various social categories, such as organisational membership, religious affiliation, gender and age cohort (Tajfel and Turner, 1985).  Social identification therefore, is the perception of oneness with belongingness to some human aggregate.  So in the case of the Northern Terrace, they may define themselves in terms of the groups they belong to.  They perceive themselves as an actual member of the group and as a consequence perceive the fate of the group as their own. (Ashforth and Mael, 1989)

Many A-League fans from other teams and Melbourne Victory fans themselves who are not part of the NT are sometimes are dismissive of the NT because they seem to be protesting a lot.  (For a great account of how non NT fans see the protest, read The White Line blog post)  The criticism stems that we have been provided with a team to follow, and the role of the fan is to support the players on the pitch, not to believe that somehow the needs of the NT are above the needs of the players to feel supported as they play.

I think this criticism fails to understand the issue of how Social, or Group Identity works in the NT.  I believe that NT members for the most part do want to support the team and give it all to make them win. But I also think that to do that they need to own their support, not to be dictated by some authority above.  In general Melbourne Victory support is different from most other clubs because it hasn’t been sanctioned by the club itself.  Unlike The Cove for example, it didn’t start with the option of becoming a member when you got the membership form from the club.

Melbourne Victory didn’t involve itself at all in that aspect. The fans organised themselves and this, I believe, has developed a very different dynamic between the active supporters and the Club where the supporters  feel that they owe the Club management very little.  So when the Club makes decisions that the NT feel impact on their support they probably see it as an imposition. A restriction on something that the Club haven’t had any part of, but in the same time is used by the Club for their publicity and to look good on TV.

Many old NSL supporters have been dismissive of the A-League as being ‘plastic’ and teams ‘franchises’.  For some supporters this was offset by the creation of spontaneous fans groups have ensured that the experience of following Melbourne Victory is authentic.  The trips interstate, the meeting before in the pub, the chanting and choreography at the match are very powerful mechanisms for bonding an group identification.  While the creation of a team like Melbourne Victory is a business, the NT may feel that their support is not. And that while the loyalty is towards the Club and the players, it is also amongst themselves and how they support the team.

The way forward

My observation from my seat on the wing, is that the more the NT is allowed to do their thing, such as having a megaphone, having banners, and even use things like streamers and perhaps even a overhead display in important matches the less unwanted behaviour such as flares etc. tends to happen.  From my own observations there is still some way to go in educating security in how active fans want to support the team.  For instance the decision of security to remove an innocuous banner saying ‘Football is Freedom’ is an overreaction if I ever saw one.

Football is Freedom

Security guards try to take ‘Football is Freedom’ banner away from fans.
(from @Gibbe84)

I think that there is still unease and suspicion on the part of the Club management about the active fans.  They love the atmosphere, but are probably very uncomfortable that they are unable to control these groups.  One reason is very legitimate.  Amongst the NT it can’t be denied that there is some elements that are wannabees Ultras from Europe, and dismiss any support without flares, and a whiff of violence as ‘AFL crap’.  Again here we have an issue about identity and how football plays out their anger and unease in being in Australia from a different background. Behaving as they perceive is a ‘true football supporter’ which is against the Australian mainstream is a way to act against a culture they may not feel part of.  But this would take a whole new post.  But suffice to say that the Club is entitled to ensure that dangerous behaviour does not occur and it is stamped out.  How it does this is the question.  The Club seems to label the NT like a ‘problem’ that has to be managed and controlled.  As others have said the NT has to recognise that there have been problems with the behavior of some of the active fans, and the Club is perfectly entitled to ensure that these do not occur.

On the other hand the Club should be sophisticated enough to recognise that the football culture the NT has introduced in the Australian sporting landscape is unique, and that an independent active group is that, independent.  And as long as the law is respected they should be able to grow, and support the team as they see fit.  They are not, and cannot be an arm of the structure of the Club.

Ashforth, Blake E., and Fred Mael. “Social identity theory and the organization.” Academy of management review 14, no. 1 (1989): 20-39.

Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. 1985. The social identity theory of integroup behaviour.. In: Worchel, S. and Austin, W. eds. 1985. Psychology of intergroup relations. 2nd ed. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, pp. 7-24.


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