Football Federation Australia, with help from Melbourne Victory & the Victorian Police are attempting yet again to destroy Active Support in the A-League.
I should be writing my A-League preview right now, but a far more important piece of news has come to light.
This article (Football clubs, police crack down on hooligans at Melbourne games) comes out of the Herald Sun of Victoria. The Herald Sun is one part of the all encompassing AFL Propaganda Bubble perpetuated by News Corp (They are an AFL Official Partner) & the AFL's own in-house media wing. The article lists a series of draconian fines, penalties, laws and measures that will be deployed against the Melbourne Victory active supporter group, as well as a confirmation that they will be extended to the rest of the country if successful in Melbourne.
These measures are nothing of an attempt to eradicate Active Support from the A-League.
Melbourne Victory is first, Heart might be next, but then it will be Western Sydney in the crosshairs of the FFA & Police.
The Victorian Police are ingrained into this bubble. They have collaborated with the AFL to ensure that alleged rapists who happen to be AFL players are investigated badly, with officers pressured by their fellow officers to drop their investigations. This behaviour was so poor that this incident is now under investigation by the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission. The AFL has agreements with the Victorian Police that have the potential to allow the AFL organisation to sweep under the rug illegal betting, drug trafficking, drug use, as well as match fixing. The AFL & the Victorian Police are inextricably linked.
The AFL's #1 threat in this country is football. They are running scared of Football. They trashed our World Cup bid. Every week we see articles written by the likes of Graham Cornes, where our sport is attacked by ignorant morons, ingrained from birth to support AFL and only AFL, who see our sport as an un-Australian foreign sport played by immigrants that is a threat to the good order of the nation. Football's big advantages over the AFL are atmosphere, and the youth demographic who are following football but not the AFL. Our sport represents the vast and varied cultural elements and ancestries that make up this nation far better than the anglo dominated AFL does. Supporters of Football are far younger on average than those who support AFL, and our participation levels are through the roof compared to the AFL, without having to resort to dirty tricks like counting school based auskick programs while football only records real club participation.
The AFL would gain a clear benefit should the Victorian Police succeed in destroying Active Support in the A-League. Doing so would go a long way to demolishing several of the biggest advantages the A-League has in attracting patrons. The youth demographic, and the atmosphere that draws people into the biggest clubs in the country. Across the A-League the clubs with the best atmosphere attract the most supporters. Last season the highest supported clubs in the league were Melbourne Victory (average crowds over 23,000), Sydney FC (over 18,600) and the Western Sydney Wanderers (over 14,500). While I would not go so far as to claim a causal link, it is without doubt that atmosphere attracts people to matches, and that it is Active support who provide that atmosphere. The FFA use active support constantly in promotions for the A-League.
That article outlines the measures that the Victorian Police are undertaking from the start of this A-League season. Instead of standing up for the supporters, the people who pay the bills, Melbourne Victory Football Club & Football Federation Australia have caved, ignorant of the role that active support plays in building these clubs, and allowing the Police and Media to yet again trash the reputation of Australia's active supporters in a manner that does not fit reality. The reality is that Cricket, AFL & NRL all suffer massive problems of their own with supporters being racist, or attacking each other in the street as well as large scale drunken unsocial behaviour.
Unlike the other sports however, Football does not have a sympathetic media who sweep most incidents under the rug and leave them unreported. Nor does it have police who say they are "generally happy" when for example, 19 people are arrested in Fremantle following the AFL Grand Final. When 78 people are evicted from the 2012 Melbourne Cup the police describe it the day as "generally well behaved". In 2007 after 192 people were evicted from a cricket match the police "praised overall crowd behaviour". Another cricket match in 2007 where there were 189 evictions and 16 arrests, yet again saw the words "generally happy" being used. In 2009 47 people were arrested in Geelong after the AFL Grand Final. The police described themselves as "obviously pleased" with behaviour.
Compare that to the 2013 Melbourne Victory vs Perth Glory final where only 6 evictions were recorded, and Victorian Police Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent described the night as being filled with "hooliganism". Or when the Police made only three arrests (at least one of which I believe was quashed when it eventually went to court) at the Sydney FC hosted Sydney Derby last season, only for Police to follow that up the next day by calling it a "very serious issue". The FFA & the clubs involved should be correcting the record, releasing the truth, instead of bowing down to vested interests that want nothing more than to tear down our league and our sport and use the demonisation of the supporters who pay the wages of the FFA & A-League clubs to do it. The idea that A-League Active Support is filled with hooligans is a media lie, invented by those in the back pocket of the AFL. Hatamoto agrees and tells the FFA they need to crackdown so they can gain more lucrative contracts, while the Police look for as much taxpayer funded operational money as they can get their hands on.
The following measures are listed in bold, with my reaction after. Remember, if we do not fight these changes it will be us soon enough.
A dedicated police investigations team headed by a high-ranking detective formed to probe all criminal incidents at A-League matches. Does an A-League active supporter group warrant the kind of investigation force that usually goes after bikie gangs and organised crime? The two most public examples of crowd violence in the A-League last season, the Melbourne Heart vs WSW attack, and the Sydney Derby 'glass throwing', didn't result in any police action at all. Despite the man in Melbourne being shown on HD television with his full face exposed, the police were unable to bring charges against the person. Neither did the police in NSW to my knowledge find the person involved in the glass throwing incident. I'd expect that kind of incompetence from Chief Wiggum, not highly paid 'detectives' who should be out attacking crime gangs, mafia, drug rings, actual criminals, and not people at a football match.
Rival teams Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart ban flags and banners of splinter supporter groups in the stands, clamping down on the association of rogue fans. Who decides who is a 'rouge' or a 'splinter'? What exactly does a 'splinter' mean? Does it mean for example the group of mates in the RBB that I stand with in Bay 55, people who I have travelled to Adelaide, Newcastle, Melbourne and Gosford with, who as a collective decided to move out of the over-crowded Bay 56 in order to help create a better atmosphere in Bay 55? Are we a 'rogue' or 'splinter' group? Am I a 'rogue' because I run a website critical of the police, Hatamoto & the FFA? What about the Corner Post Crew? Are they a 'splinter'? Can I and the rest of Bay 55 expected to get banned without reason? What MVFC & the FFA don't seem to understand is that these so called splinter groups are nothing more than groups of mates or people who happen to come from the same geographic area, who attend matches together. I'm sure that is much the case in Melbourne as it is here at the Wanderers. Do I deserve to be targeted because I identify with a group of mates in addition to being part of the overall RBB?
Dob-a-yobbo text messaging hotlines for matches at AAMI Park as well as Etihad Stadium for the first time to encourage fans to alert police and security about troublemakers. What a total waste of time and money. There is next to no trouble at A-League matches, and trouble quickly spotted by the hundreds of police or security guards, not to mention that trouble is far less than at NRL, AFL or Cricket matches because of crowd segregation. Last season the only time I ever felt like there was any kind of "trouble" was when the idiots at the Sydney Football Stadium decided they wanted to force what seemed like half the stadium to get crushed in a lineup outside a single gate entrance so they could attempt invasive and pointless searches on everyone who entered.
Stronger ticket entry regulations with members forced to scan their pass on entry and again when they reach certain parts of the ground. We already get forced to scan our entry tickets and passes on entry to the ground and people are already sent into specific gate entrances for specific sections of the ground, there is little point whatsoever in tracking people to a level that would not be out of place in the book 1984. Melbourne Victory, instead of allowing their active support to grow like the Wanderers have done, cut the number of memberships from 700 to 500, and will erect barricades that prevent anyone from joining the North Terrace. They will also install scanners to totally ensure that no-one who has a general admission ticket can even think about becoming part of the NT. Is that going to happen to the Wanderers? Will next season see Bay 54 and Bay 58 covered by tarpaulins, with people banned from active support outside bays 55, 56 & 57 under threat of having their memberships torn up? What if the FFA don't think tarpaulins work, or work well enough? Will they introduce cages and metal fencing? Does no-one at the FFA care to learn lessons from history, where people have gone to watch a football match and not come home, because of negligent crowd controls that limited people's freedom of movement.
Damien de Bohun is the current head of the A-League for Football Federation Australia, and under his leadership the relationship with Active Supporters between the FFA & several A-League clubs has been destroyed. No-one involved with active support that I know trusts a word that comes out of his mouth. Not when those seeking discussion and constructive dialogue are stonewalled at every turn, then dismissed by him, and the rest of Football Federation Australia. It is my belief that out of everyone at the FFA there is only one person who truly understands active support, and his efforts go to waste when the higher ups at the FFA refuse to engage with active support on any meaningful level. As one example, when those involved with Terrace Australis recently attempted to include the A-League in the discussions about active support, the people at the FFA refused outright to discuss the A-League active support situation. It wasn't their concern.
The FFA wasn't interested in A-League active support, they cared only about the Asian Cup. That was their sole focus. They do not want to be embarrassed by travelling Korean, Japanese and other active Asian supporters in our own backyard. What the FFA don't seem to realise is that people involved with TA are involved with active support in the A-League. Some are leaders of their own clubs active support, others perform minor roles, while others are simply part of the overall collective of an club active support group without actually leading them. But no matter what role they play, they still aren't going to roll over for the FFA and play along. They aren't going to sell out the supporters of their own clubs and help the FFA when the FFA won't help the active support in the A-League. With these changes it looks like the FFA are going to try and destroy A-League active support this season, even though the people involved with A-League active support are the same people that will have to run the National Team active support for the Asian Cup.
Instead of supporting their customers and active supporters, the FFA & the clubs have helped to demonise them. They have allowed the media and police to blow up minor incidents into cataclysmic portents of doom that to be prevented, require hundreds of police, including members of elite paramilitary special forces units, horse patrols, highway patrol, dog squad, helicopters, hundreds of security guards and the continual waste of money that is paying the anti-terrorist organisation Hatamoto to consult with the FFA. The article reports Kevin Muscat as saying that matches have to become "more family friendly". With all due respect to Muscat, attendance records at Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory & the Wanderers, not to mention the simple act of seeing who turns up to A-League matches, proves that the A-League is perfectly family friendly right now. Additionally, the last line of the article states that up to 50,000 people are expected to watch the Melbourne Derby. I highly doubt that a crowd of 50,000 could be in sight without families feeling safe enough to watch the match.
I am sick to death of being treated like a criminal when I go to an A-League match. I am sick to death of idiots at the FFA who want to turn the RBB into an AFL cheer squad. I am sick to death of football and it's supporters being demonised by the media, only to watch the sycophants at the FFA crawl up to the media on all fours and kiss arse, sucking up to media organisations who are officially linked with the AFL & NRL, instead of telling the truth, which is that these minor problems in the A-League pale in comparison to the problems the AFL, NRL & Cricket have with violence and anti-social behaviour and that the FFA will not allow the media and police to hold active support hostage. I do not like having to stand next to a jittery officer with his hand on his gun at a football match, like what happened at Penrith. I am tired of seeing the FFA & the clubs try to destroy active support in the mistaken impression that it is somehow 'holding the sport back' or in the belief there is a major problem with 'hooliganism' in active support.
As a person who has attended all matches involving the Wanderers in New South Wales since inception, including all pre-season matches, as well as several interstate matches, I should have witnessed this immense hooliganism, and crowd violence first hand? Yet I have not. I have not seen a single example of violence. Except for one. It was at Campbelltown Stadium last season, where the police threw an old man face first onto the asphalt for a crime that was not apparent to anyone waiting in line. He sat there bleeding from his face while his wife cried by his side.
Last season the RBB was recognised as playing a huge part in the growth of the Western Sydney Wanderers, so why do those running the FFA refuse to accept that our sport can only grow bigger the more they allow active support to grow. Why is it that places like Germany can generate
The FFA's latest marking gimmick is to say that supporters "Power The Game".
It's up to the FFA to ensure that this power isn't suffocated, or switched off at the source by those who seek to destroy football. If Damien de Bohun or David Gallop can't do that, they should step down and allow people who aren't willing to let our sport remain demonised and attacked by the police and media to take over.
Make no mistake fellow Wanderers, we are next.
If the FFA attempt to introduce these ridiculous conditions onto the RBB they can have my membership back until they realise what a mistake they have made.
Football without fans is nothing.