Response To Important Information.
Firstly things first. While Shaun has posted that message on this forum it may not be his job or his role to have created the message, only to deliver it. Please do not directly attack Shaun personally for this, he is doing his job and has done that job very well in my view. We have seen in the past that it is Hatamoto and other groups who do not interact with the supporters group that seek to threaten us, and fail to understand our mentality and what we desire from our active support. Please do not take out frustrations with the FFA, Hatamoto, the Police and with higher up members of the Wanderers staff on him. Thank you.
This afternoon the club sent Western Sydney Wanderers members an email. On the day before our match against Newcastle, it 'requested' among other things, a change in our march route, and demands and/or threats against potential future endeavours by the RBB if we do not accept the demands of the Club and those who work for Hatamoto, like Peter Shepard, who sit in the shadows and invent problems to justify their lucrative security contracts.
It can be found in this thread.
This is my response. While I am a part of the RBB, I do not suggest I speak for everyone in the RBB. I believe that many will agree with most of my position on this issue however. In any case, you will see in the comments section exactly what people can say for themselves. The quotes in this thread are from the email itself. There are quotes from other parties further down, they are in italic font.
Thanks to all of you for your fantastic passion that is helping us create a great game day experience for all following the launch of our new club. While we want to continue to encourage this passion, particularly our active support, we need to be mindful of doing so in a family friendly manner. Some things to consider include:
It is not just passion. And it is not just about the game day experience.
It is time.
It is energy.
It is creation of a collective will and desire to support the new club.
The core group of supporters have been together for longer than this club has existed.
The Sydney Rovers bid attracted the support of many of us. Some of them showed themselves in a match at Parramatta Stadium, against Perth Glory. They came out to support a club in Western Sydney. This was on the 7th of February 2010. Almost three years ago. We have people who have been waiting 5 or more years for a Western Sydney team. We have people who had been waiting since the A-League began for a Western Sydney team. Do not believe that this group of people have only been around as long as the current staff of this club have. We have been here far longer than you have. We will be here after you move on to other jobs for other teams or other companies. It is us who will remain. Keep that in mind.
It is just not all about the game day experience either. It is also about experiences outside game day. That could be this forum, or meetings that are social events unconnected with the club, Tifo and banner making days. Our support does not just happen on game-day and then cease. We are always planning, thinking forward and trying to improve our support.
So while this may be the 'launch of a new club', this is not the launch of a new supporters group. The group might have a recent name, the RBB, but it has been around as a collective far longer than the club itself has.
Now as for your demands.
NSW Police are concerned for the safety of supporters and diners during the march to the stadium.
From our four previous marches for the matches against Parramatta FC, Central Coast, Sydney FC and Melbourne Heart not a single complaint or safety issue as a result of the march has ever been raised by RBB members or made known to RBB members by members of the public.
To the best of my knowledge not a single person, no matter if that was a supporter of the Wanderers, a neutral supporter of football, an opposing team supporter, or a general member of the public has been injured or otherwise made to feel 'unsafe' as a result of any of our marches.
We have had requests from the media, asking permission to film or take pictures of our march and talk about it with our members. We see dozens if not hundreds of people with their phones or cameras out, taking pictures and video of the RBB and the Wanderers supporters as we march down Church Street. We wee families of Wanderers supporters with very young kids smiling and telling their children that it might be them marching one day, and we see the kids wanting to join in of their own accord.
To dismiss the positivity, free advertisement and beneficial atmosphere we bring to Parramatta and to the club and it's 'brand' based on ludicrous and unjustified by reality 'safety concerns' merely makes me wonder where the club, the police and Hatamoto are getting their intelligence from.
In short, the concerns of Police and Hatamoto are completely unwarranted and the club should take no action against the RBB because of them. The Police and Hatamoto are trying to justify their input in a situation that requires no input at all from Hatamoto and nothing more from the Police than stationing a Police Car or Officer at each set of lights to prevent any possible issues with civilian cars during the march.
Or, like we've asked all along, for Church Street to be blocked off to cars for the 10 minutes the march takes.
I would categorically reject the assertion that the supporter march should be something to be 'concerned' about, in regards to the safety of anyone.
The footpath is not wide enough to support the carriage of the number of persons on the march.
Incorrect. The footpath is very wide, and in most places it contains enough room for 4 or 5 people to march side by side. In some places this narrows to 2 or 3 people, but as we discussed earlier, not a single complaint or problem has arisen because of any of our 4 marches.
Requires the negotiation of multiple sets of traffic lights.
It requires the negotiation of two sets of traffic lights in Church Street, one short zebra crossing with no lights on Market Street, and two crossings on Victoria Road that are the 'final leg' of the march which is usually even slower and less crowded than the sections in Church Street.
On Church Street, to my recollection, all traffic stops which enables people waiting at every set of lights to cross the road in all directions as well as diagonally across the road. There should be no traffic movement at all when the march is happening. Additionally the directions that the people move is parallel to the main flow of traffic, not against it. Having been in all four marches, the amount of traffic I have seen crossing the direction of the march have been very minimal.
It is up to the Police to protect people from motor traffic. If this means that Church Street should be blocked off that is what decision should be made by the Police.
This results in some fans walking on the street or crossing the street when unsafe to do so.
If that is the case then the Police should be shutting down traffic to enable the free movement of the procession to make it safe.
The march also has the potential to interrupt the quiet enjoyment that restaurant patrons are seeking while dining on Church Street.
As stated above, we have walked past these patrons on multiple occasions and not had a single complaint.
Here is a quote from the Parramatta Advertiser, a local Parramatta newspaper, written by Caryn Metcalfe. It is dated 24 October 2012, and includes a picture taken of the march and links to a gallery of the march itself. The headline is Western Sydney Wanderers fans host street party of the year at Parramatta. Link Here
I quote the article:
WESTERN Sydney Wanderers fans took to the streets in the lead-up to the first Sydney Derby on Saturday.
Members of the Red and Black Bloc gathered at the Woolpack Hotel in Parramatta before the game, quenching their thirsts and lubricating their throats, knowing they would not stop chanting for the entire game.
The RBB then marched through the streets to Parramatta Stadium making sure the entire city, including the brave Sydney FC fans who had ventured out early, knew they were there.
The headline saying Parramatta hosted the "street part of the year" stands in stark contrast to the 'concern for safety' and 'potential to interrupt quiet enjoyment' that the Club statement contains. To compare that article with the disingenuous assertions being made by the Police and club saddens me, and makes me question if the people running this club actually go into the community like they claim to do so, and ask what people saw and felt during these marches.
It is for these reasons that a number of requests have been made to vary the march route. The preferred route from the Woolpack Hotel to Parramatta Stadium is via Marsden Street. We hope that fans will see the sense in this request and use the preferred route.
As shown above, there is nothing wrong with the Church Street route, only invented lies and assertions which do not stand up to scrutiny and weight of evidence. There is especially nothing wrong if the Police should choose to take the simple, safest option of closing Church street for the 10 minutes that the march spends there.
Additionally, there is a major problem with the so called 'preferred' route.
It is a massive safety hazard.
I mentioned a match earlier in this piece, at Parramatta Stadium. I did not mention what happened after the match.
While I was walking back with the friend who I had gone to the match with, a car lost control while leaving the Parramatta Pool Car park on O'Connell Street. It attempted to turn right. The car, out of control and going fast hit the median and skidded onto it's side. The car then smashed into the left lane railings and nearly toppled into the river. This was in full few of 100's of patrons leaving the ground, with dozens walking directly behind and in front. It was a miracle that no pedestrians were killed or hurt by the car as there would have been no escape had the car gone onto the footpath where someone was walking. I believe the people in the car were not hurt seriously.
Since then the O'Connell street bridge has been upgraded with a second set of interior railings that should prevent or mitigate the chances of another accident like this happening.
The Bernie Banton Bridge has no second set of railings to my knowledge. If a car going 50km/h in the event a car has an accident like the one I witnessed, in losing control at similar speeds, it has the potential to injure or kill dozens of people, crushing people against the bridge railing, or careening into groups of people waiting to cross or in the process of crossing the bridge.
The Police may claim they will provide protection, I say the march will be so strung out they cannot protect everyone from an accident. Especially if a car that loses control is heading from the opposite direction and crosses lanes like the accident I witnessed. If they can close down Marsden Street I then ask why can't they close down Church Street?
If walking along a narrow, unsafe bridge that is open to traffic heading at speeds upward of 50km/h is considered safety by the Police then I personally will be walking up Church Street regardless of what they or the club demand or threaten to do to the RBB.
Now we head to the threat part of the message.
So far our Club with the support of Parramatta Stadium has been able to help the RBB to create a fantastic atmosphere at the stadium.
Yet we continue to be harassed, ignored, lied to, dismissed and threatened, even though we get used in club advertising and promotions. We have our members being 'profiled' and threatened by Hatamoto.
Many of these privileges were made possible by variations in the normal conditions of entry.
Many of the conditions of entry that marginalise active support are ignorant and stupid to begin with. It is no great gesture to ignore idiotic guidelines that preclude for example, a flag that is slightly bigger than 2 meters wide or high, or that would ban the musical instruments that provide atmosphere across the league. This league would do just fine without overly restrictive conditions of entry.
The Club understands that the use of megaphones and TIFOs, the oversizes flags and banners, and over-sized drums and drums sticks are important to the RBB.
What is important is supporting the team on the field and staying true to the active supporter mentality that has been established at the club from the first pre-season match. What we use to do this pales in significance when compared to the overall goal.
Threats to take away our 'important' items are a hollow threat to us. All you will accomplish is reducing the atmosphere back to our voices alone. If you continued to persist with threats all you would end up with after that is an empty home end.
Go ask the players if they would want people who have been supporting them from the first pre-season match kicked out and ostracised.
These initiatives bring so much colour and movement to the match day experience.
That you use to advertise the league. That the commentators repeatedly discuss. What newspapers write articles about.
But to us it is not about the 'match day experience', to use the marketing spiel. It is simply about supporting the team.
Additional benefits, such as a potential capo stand to assist the co-ordinations of chants, are being contemplated. By supporting these initiatives, the Club is placing its trust in the RBB and delivering on the promise of building a traditional football club. The Wanderers are no different. Therefore, Clubâ€™s support for these privileges is built on the understanding that fans both inside and outside the stadium will continue to behave in a socially responsible way that reflects well on the Club. Any incident that occurs in and around Parramatta Stadium is liable to damage the image and reputation of the Club and therefore the RBB.
In pretty much any other country in the world, a traditional football club wouldn't need to 'contemplate' anything. The supporters would already have done it, because traditional football clubs support traditional football supporters.
However, every club in the world expects that their fans are careful to protect the image and reputation of the club. The Wanderers are no different.
It is the supporters of a club, and the men and women who pull on the team shirt that build the image and reputation of the club. Not the brand marketers, not the accountants. Not the CEO's and Chairmen. They may enable an image or reputation to be built, but they do not make that reputation. The great clubs in the world are not great because of controlled, market researched and focus grouped brand image. It is the players, the supporters, the managers that create a great club, and it is from those people that the clubs image is derived from.
Western Sydney Wanderers will become a great club because of the people of the West making it great in the stands and on the pitch.
The well regarded American sports manager Peter Wilt wrote a great article on his philosophy as a sports executive. His first line is that the "Fans are in charge." I will quote some of that here.
"Professional sports teams are a community asset that represents the community in a fashion unlike any traditional business."
"The investors are (usually temporary) caretakers of this asset for the fans."
"Fans ... ultimately cheer for the badge, the team it represents. They donâ€™t cheer for the organization or the owners."
The Wanderers are a community asset that represents Western Sydney in a way unlike any other company can.
The FFA are the temporary caretakers of the Western Sydney Wanderers.
We cheer for the badge, the shirt, the players and the area. We aren't chanting for the FFA or Nike or NRMA or for the CEO or Chairmen of the Wanderers.
The people who wrote this message are not protecting the reputation and image from us by threatening to remove any privileges we have.
We are protecting the image and reputation of the club from them.
You can expect that incidents of foul language, scuffles, smoking within the stadium, public urination, drunkenness and general disorderly behaviour will cause immediate damage. The authorities responsible for the safety of the public are duty bound to respond to such incidents.
As they should. But they should not actively look for opportunities to make mountains out of molehills and to punish spectators and supporters of the people who are paying the wages of the players, staff of the club, members of the stadium staff and security and who are only seeking to have an enjoyable night at the football and to support the team via the active support group.
You know the Club will not tolerate individuals who display anti-social behaviour. Nor should the RBB. The Wanderers image and reputation is too important to all of us.
The RBB does not tolerate individuals who display anti-social behaviour already. We do not need to be reminded of that.
Western Sydney Wanderers will be working directly with the leaders of the RBB to ensure that these issues are managed with the view to creating the best match day experience in Australia. We look forward to your continuing support.
Is that why you only told Benched 10 minutes before posting this email to everyone that you wanted the march route changed?
We have worked with the Police, Club and Hatamoto constantly. The effort is exhausting, and we're the only people who don't get paid for it. We have lodged "Schedule 1 - Notice of Intention to Hold a Public Assembly" forms with the Police only to have them outright and instantly rejected. This is despite the law showing that the Police would have to apply to the Supreme Court to contest this form should they want to refuse or reject the Assembly form that would give the march protection from overzealous policing.
This would have provided the supporters on the march with protection from offences of obstruction and unlawful assembly. While this is not by any means a case of unlawful assembly, the protection from the offence of obstruction would make it much easier for the police and supporters to have the march without worrying about being arrested.
It would also make marching down Church Street itself perfectly legal from my admittedly layman's perspective on the law.
The only trouble that has happened at Wanderers matches has occurred when a group of people not related to the RBB, who aren't known to the RBB and to my understanding don't even participate in the march, twice caused fights against opposition supporter groups. The first time was the opening game against the Mariners, the second was against Melbourne Heart. What good is paying Hatamoto so much money, and threatening our supporter group with sanctions when the club and security don't have the intelligence to stop that group from causing problems in two matches? When they can't control a half-dozen people, I shudder at how incompetent they must be if they ever tried to control or help the safety or our much larger supporter group.
This email is offensive to our supporters. Instead of trying to make criminals of your supporters and succumbing to Police threats, you should perhaps be reaching out to the Members of Parliament that helped create and announce this club to get them involved with seeing reason. Get them involved with asking why the Police are refusing lawful assembly requests. Ask why the Police want the supporters group to use a narrow bridge that is clearly unsafe for the group to use and why they have to threaten supporters with arrest for the crime of walking down a street for 5 minutes on the way to a football match. You want to be a traditional football club. Start acting like one and start supporting your own supporters.
I will be marching down Church Street.