United we stand: Supporter groups will come together in Sydney to discuss their plan of action. Photo: Getty Images Fans stay away as Wanderers beat Roar to go top Craig Foster: Some A-League fans should stay bannedFFA debacle shows that fans are no longer passive participants
One of the most remarkable meetings in the history of Australian football is set to take place next week when representatives of all 10 A-League active supporter groups join forces to combat Football Federation of Australia’s fan management policies.
Sets of fans that previously had to be separated by lines of security guards, mounted officers and seated at opposite ends of the stadium will sit down at the same table in Sydney on Wednesday.
Despite some supporter groups being involved in clashes in the past, some violent, they have put aside all differences to unite in seeking a proper appeals process to banning notices and improved crowd management systems.
The union of supporters is the latest development in the bitter fan war with the FFA, led by Western Sydney Wanderers’ Red and Black Bloc, Sydney FC’s The Cove and North Terrace of Melbourne Victory. The three largest supporter groups will be joined by supporters of the seven other A-League clubs who are travelling from as far as New Zealand and Perth to attend the meeting. Fairfax Media understands the meeting was arranged by, and some travel costs covered by, a third party – in conjunction with some clubs.
Representatives of all 10 groups were in regular dialogue last week and drafted a Memorandum of Understanding that will be presented to the FFA. The consortium is understood to be in agreement with most clauses of the MOU, which will be finalised at the extraordinary meeting in Sydney.
The overriding issue for fans is the absence of an appeals process for innocent fans who have received bans and the lack of transparency provided by the FFA to banned supporters. A-League fans claim there is no presumption of innocence provided to spectators by police, the FFA and security firms and are critical of the FFA’s reluctance to publicly defend the reputation of members despite praising the atmosphere they create at games.
Over the past fortnight, News Corp columnists labelled them “suburban terrorists”, NSW Police called fans “grubs” and radio commentator Alan Jones likened the situation to the Paris terrorist attacks.
Another concern remains the enforcement of the FFA-employed security firm Hatamoto. Fan groups criticised Hatamoto for alleged intimidation tactics, spying on supporters and a heavy-handed approach.
Fairfax Media sought comment from the leadership groups of The Cove, RBB and North Terrace. All three declined but earlier in the week released statements listing their demands and frustrations.
“The FFA cannot use the fans as a marketing tool but then continually mistreat them, while asking them to help grow the game. It is counter-intuitive and hypocritical,” the RBB statement read.
The Cove echoed the sentiments. “We have heard the FFA’s words, but talk is cheap, and we’ve heard many different versions of what will be done in the last week. There is a need for immediate change with the FFA’s procedures and how it manages its relationship with fans,” the group said.
Supporters across the competition held up their promise to boycott games on the weekend. The Cove left the northern end of Allianz Stadium empty for the first time in the 11 years of the club’s history. The Wanderers’ loyal supporters, the RBB, abandoned their post at Pirtek Stadium, leaving the venue silent for Saturday night’s clash against Brisbane.
The protest was in response to the FFA’s handling of banned spectators in the fallout from News Corp’s naming and shaming of 198 fans. Fans were further incensed by comments by FFA chief executive David Gallop on Tuesday. The groups said they were encouraged by a clarification from chairman Steven Lowy, which was a step in the right direction but not sufficient to placate them.
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