On Monday evening, one day after Rebecca Wilson’s Sunday Telegraph article – in which the majority of the 198 banned football fans had their photos published online – I shared some of my doubts via the @melbvictorynet Twitter account relating to some of the whispers I was hearing that supporter groups would be protesting in this weekends A-League fixtures by walking out of the ground.
Initially I was unsure as to what would be achieved by fans getting up and walking out of grounds across the country in response to an article by a known football-hater, whose ultimate goal appears to be scaring people into not wanting to attend A-League matches. Leaving seats empty seemed to me like it was playing into her hands.
I was also confused by the anger directed toward the FFA in regards to the leaked information. Whilst the documents are confidential in nature, they aren’t exactly protected in a sealed bulletproof box like the Mona Lisa. This data is distributed to all stakeholders, including police and stadiums. What would the FFA gain by essentially promoting the sense that they have a problem with troublemakers? Like any clued in football fan with access to Google and Wikipedia, I had my pen and my ‘connect the dots’ activity booklet, and I was connecting each and every dot to eventually reveal a picture of a stinky rat that is part of Sydney’s Moore Park Trust, and just so happens to be married to a certain journalist. I may have gone a bit far in my accusations on Twitter on Monday night, and was hit with claims from journalists that what I was saying was defamation. But goodness gracious, it seems more obvious than Fahid Ben Khallfallah cutting into the center of play when going on a run down the wing.
As I’ve had time to reflect and read the different opinions over the course of the week – of which there have been many – I can now see that a bigger issue has been raised. As it stands, the FFA does not have a review/appeal process in place for people that are banned from attending A-League matches. We can’t be naïve; we know there are issues with certain elements of football fans in Australia. But at the same time, there were names and photos published on Sunday of people who were innocent and did not do the things they have been hung and publically shamed for, and without a means to clear their name. Can you imagine if you opened the paper and saw your name and photo listed for something you didn’t do? On top of that, how does that look to your family, your friends, even prospective employers? Until such time in which there is an appeals process for fans, the onus is on the FFA to protect this information to the best of their ability, and if it is leaked to the mainstream press, the FFA must act to determine where the leak came from. Instead, Football Federation Australia sat on their hands for three days before releasing a statement that basically said, “We don’t know where the leak came from and we will probably never know”. That’s not good enough.
If you are one of those football fans that just want to “support the boys”, regardless of what is going on in the stands, you need to care about the action fans are taking because of this reason. You may not think it applies to you because you are a law abiding football supporter that has never done anything wrong. Well, you’re not the only one who has thought that, but some people that have had the same mentality in the past have also had run ins with the authorities at football matches.
The protest has not even occurred yet but has already received enough attention from the mainstream press to deem it a success and to finally get a conversation going. Yesterday, Wanderer’s CEO John Tsatsmis released a statement advising that the club would offer to challenge the bans of supporters who believed that they had been banned unjustly. We can only hope that our own club follows the lead of Western Sydney.
One little article has galvanised two sets of fans that hate each other on the pitch, but share a level of respect off it that will culminate in a coordinated response this weekend. This is Australian Football’s ‘line in the sand’ moment. You may not want to walk out of the ground this weekend – and you don’t have to – but you can show support for those who do by a round of applause when they begin to leave. If you are not someone who usually supports protests and thinks that the fans are simply sooking, please take some time to consider that already this week, Alan Jones has labeled YOU, a football fan, as a terrorist. Are you a terrorist? No. Are all football fans criminals? No. Are our names worth standing up for? Yes.
melbournevictory.net will have full coverage of this weekends protests on next week’s episode of the For Vuck’s Sake podcast.