Western Sydney Wanderers supporters have found a unique way to support their team this weekend – they won’t watch them play.
The Wanderers’ major supporter group, the Red and Black Bloc (RBB), will stage a walk-out during Sunday’s game against the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
It follows growing tensions between the RBB and authorities, with the latest twist being the controversial release of a “top secret document” featuring photographs of 198 fans who have been banned from attending A-League matches.
The document was splashed across the front page of the Sunday Telegraph last weekend.
Fans were outraged that the confidential document was published in a major Sydney newspaper. There’s also claims that some of the details featured in the story are incorrect.
It is not clear who leaked the document.
“People’s lives and livelihoods have been jeopardised due to the existence of a list that has been created without due process. Many of these fans, some of which are under 18, have not been charged or convicted of offences,” the RBB said in a statement.
“Certainly, none have had the benefit of any kind of process let alone an appeals process capable of vindicating their ban or presence on a ‘list’. Yet despite that, they have just been branded as guilty of something, and that something in most cases is nothing more than being a passionate football fan. In fact, some of those who have appeared on the list were banned as a result of allegedly engaging in what the FFA calls “anti-social behaviour” at events that they did not attend. This has happened far too often.”
Football Federation Australia (FFA) remains in the firing line of the RBB.
“The FFA’s silence is deafening. At present they have not issued a statement into how this occurred or made any attempt to defend those affected,” the RBB said of the leak.
“They have treated fans with contempt once again, and active support around the country is standing up to a corporation that sees itself as above the law. A disgraceful organisation, from the top down.”
It is understood that the FFA was not behind the leak but it is bizarre that the organisation has not released a statement in response to an article that significantly tarnished the sport they manage.
The RBB will travel to Gosford for Western Sydney’s game against Central Coast on Sunday but will walk out of the stadium in protest.
“The RBB will be in attendance at the Mariners away game on Sunday. We are there to show support to the boys and let them know this is not about them,” the RBB statement said.
“There will then be a walk out at a specific moment of the game. We love the team and we love the sport but we cannot continue to tolerate being used as promotional material whilst our human and civil rights are not afforded us.”
Soccer fans are not only angry at the Telegraph and journalist Rebecca Wilson, but they’ve also got high rating Radio 2GB presenter Alan Jones in their sights.
On Monday, Jones bizarrely asked if the problems in soccer were like “terrorism in Paris” in regards to “the leaders having no guts”.
Respected Fox Sports football commentator Adam Peacock said there was “strong mail” suggesting that the SCG Trust, which runs Allianz Stadium, was behind the leak of the file to the Telegraph.
Peacock, like others, was bewildered by the story on Sunday.
Journalist Rebecca Wilson said she’s received death threats since the story was published.
“The predictable response has been from the core element of bad people who are A-League fans, who send you foul emails, death threats, vile responses,” said Wilson on SEN’s The Run Home.
“Having a look at some of the offences, it’s not just affray…there’s a lot of seriously violent offences on the list, that don’t just include the flare throwing, but assault, spectator violence.
“There’s something got to be done from within the culture of the FFA and the Western Sydney Wanderers to fix it.”
The Daily Telegraph featured a story on the RBB walkout in today’s paper. You’ll find it on the same page as the funeral notices.
COMMENT BY TROY DODDS
One thing is for sure – the relationship between some of the A-League’s most passionate fans and the sport’s governing body is fractured, perhaps even beyond repair by the current management.
The relationship between the RBB, the media and police also remains hostile.
There is a problem here and there’s no doubt about that.
The RBB is not totally blameless and I’m sure even the strongest of Wanderers fans would agree that there’s been elements of unacceptable crowd behaviour in recent years.
However, the leaking of the ‘shame file’ last Sunday was, in my view, a step too far. Splashing such detail across the front page of a major newspaper, with no right of reply to those featured, does not seem fair or ethical.
From my understanding, the information should never have been leaked under privacy laws, and somebody out there has a significant case to answer.
Soccer fans are experiencing what NRL fans have for some time – a media that purports to support the game but often brings it down at every opportunity.
Somehow, a solution needs to be found. If we continue to go on with the RBB, police and the FFA in some sort of war, with the Wanderers club stuck in the middle, there will be no winners. There needs to be legitimate mediation a resolution sorted sooner rather than later.
My plea to the RBB is this – stop with the flares. All it does is give the very public and visible impression that the supporter group is not willing to listen to the rules and regulations that have been implemented for the safety of others. You’ve been told a thousand times, why do you persist?
The RBB deserves to be listened to. They’re passionate, dedicated fans of a sport that so desperately needs them – prior to the arrival of the Wanderers, the A-League barely rated a mention outside of the core fan base.
An old fashion compromise needs to be found.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.