Pissing into the wind; FFA take 1 step forward, 2 back

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It’s the Tuesday before the Hyundai A-League kicks off for its ninth season and the focus should be firmly on the Newcastle Jets vs Sydney FC curtain raiser on Friday night.

The return of domestic football to free to air television thanks to SBS is fantastic news and yet another step in the right direction for the league.

However, as we move slightly forward, something pops up to take the fans and game back further than where it just came from.

The powers that be at Football Federation of Australia (FFA) have decided, in conjunction with Victoria Police, that enough is enough when it comes to violence and anti-social behaviour at games.

According to yesterday’s story on the FFA website, “Members from the specialised Public Order Response Team (PORT) will be regulars at matches, supporting operational patrols and targeting public order and alcohol-related violence.”

Sniffer dogs, improved CCTV and an SMS reporting system, the oh so cleverly titled ‘Dob-a-yobbo’, are also part of the crackdown. Reading that you would be forgiven for thinking that AAMI Park resembles something out of Mad Max.

“Police have had enough, players have had enough and fans have had enough,” says Victoria Police Commander Rick Nugent.

Have they? I’ve not participated in or seen the results of any questionnaire on the matter. No one I have spoken to has either. Are the police now speaking for the fans?

For the past few weeks the official A-League Twitter account and their other forms of social media have been peddling the “Power The Game” mantra, asking fans to show their level of support. The wonderful irony is that these new police measures will suppress the most active of supporters who provide the majority of the energy from the stands.

To make matters even worse, the below was tweeted yesterday smack bang in the middle of all the uproar. Great choice of words.

I’ve been to games in Perth (every second week), Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Gold Coast at this stage and all bar the latter had crowds of 10,000 or more. Not once have I witnessed an unsavoury incident or felt for my safety

Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that there is never trouble at games and the incident involving a fan being king hit at AAMI Park last year is a firm case for the prosecution, but these measures make it sound like fans should attend their local stadium decked out in body armour and hold a strong life insurance policy.

“Not once have I witnessed an unsavoury incident or felt for my safety.” 

You may notice that I have not referred to incidents or figures from other sports. At this stage we all know about the bias against football in the mainstream media in various states so nothing good can come by petty point scoring. Unfortunately we still live in a society where passionate support is seen as undesirable and problematic.

As a seasoned contributor to this website, it is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch the A-League shoot itself in the foot. With the best of intentions, The Football Sack looks to engage with fans, new and old, and promote the game at no cost to the governing body. We aren’t the only ones either.

Yet which do you think holds more weight with prospective fans – an article on The Football Sack about a young prospect looking to take the league by storm or a scaremongering media release stating that there is a hooligan problem in the stands?

The same applies for the fans who try to bring colour and an atmosphere week in, week out.

For want of a better term we appear to be pissing into the wind and it takes a lot of the excitement out of the whole thing.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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