The A-League is in crisis with some of football’s most passionate fans declaring they’ll boycott Saturday night’s match between the Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar at Pirtek Stadium.
The Red and Black Bloc (RBB) says it won’t attend the match as tensions continue to grow between the active supporter group and Football Federation Australia (FFA), the game’s governing body.
The dramatic move comes after FFA boss David Gallop held a press conference yesterday, addressing issues of recent weeks including the leaking of names and photographs of people who had been banned from football matches to the media.
“Let’s be clear – the fans make the A-League what it is today; a vibrant, exciting competition that is the powerhouse driving the game’s growth in Australia. The atmosphere still gives me goosebumps,” Mr Gallop said.
“Yes, there are those critics who don’t like our game’s ambition, our diversity or our unique fan culture. To compare football’s situation to the despicable acts happening in other places in the world is way outside the flags.
“But this week the game has spoken. I made comments at the outset that were lost in the mix, but I know that people across the game this week have rebuffed the attacks. That’s a sign of the game’s confidence and strength. It shows our unity of purpose.
“A part of my job is to make sure A-League matches are a joyous celebration of the game, where anti-social behaviour is not tolerated.
“To those fans who walked out of matches last weekend, your point has been made. Get behind your teams for 90+ minutes this weekend.”
But many of those fans don’t believe the point has been made. The RBB simply won’t turn up to Saturday’s match against Brisbane with the Wanderers chasing six wins in a row.
“The RBB will be boycotting the game this Saturday vs Brisbane at home in its entirety, and encourage the rest of the fans to do so,” the fan group said in a statement.
“This is the only way to continue sending a strong message to the FFA that we will not stand for their inept administration of our game. 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.”
It is understood that Sydney FC’s active supporter group, The Cove, may also boycott Friday night’s match against Newcastle at Allianz Stadium.
It is an extraordinary move that pits the game’s fans up against its administration in a battle that only continues to get uglier.
Mr Gallop said yesterday that the process of banning misbehaving fans would be reviewed.
“What I can say today about the banning system is that I will take proposals to the FFA Board to review and improve the system,” he said.
“We are contemplating having a panel of ex-players involved in the process. There’s an appetite for a volunteer community service element for those who have done the wrong thing but who eventually want to return to being a fan who is welcome at the A-League.
“We will formalise a process where a banned person can have a ban overturned, if there is clear proof they did not engage in anti-social behaviour. What we will not do is relax the zero tolerance policy.”
The situation is an awful look for the A-League, which is also experiencing a dip in crowds and television ratings this season.
The TV ratings are a particular concern given the code is hoping to secure a new free-to-air deal in the coming seasons.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor.