A-League players show solidarity with their disgruntled fans

Star players from the A-League have mobilised in a powerful show of support for angry fans, led by an Instagram post from Sydney FC's Sebastian Ryall in which he said Football Federation Australia should be made to pay for thinking they are above the law.


Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque savours an A-League win with Sky Blues fans Source: Getty Images

Sydney captain Alex Brosque, Perth Glory goalkeeper Ante Covic, Western Sydney Wanderers defender Scott Jamieson, Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Dutrante and Brisbane Roar's Socceroos midfielder Matt McKay are among those who have spoken out.

Clearly, the players are not concerned by any potential backlash from FFA over the strength of their comments backing fans who are at war with FFA over the lack of an adequate appeals process for banned fans and the general tone of FFA's recent attitude towards active supporters.

The bosses of the two biggest clubs in the A-League, Melbourne Victory (chairman Anthony Di Pietro) and Sydney FC (CEO Tony Pignata) have also declared their support for the fans and called on FFA to fix the problem.

Active supporters from Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners have announced plans to boycott the home games of their teams this weekend in protest at the FFA over the situation in which banned fans are basically regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

Ryall's comments on social media left no-one in any doubt as to how strongly he felt.

Brosque was interviewed on Sky Sports Radio on Thursday and didn't mince words either.

"It's disappointing it has got to this (fan boycotts)," he said.

"From day one (former FFA chairman) Frank Lowy came out pretty much begging fans to come out and support the A-League before it even kicked off, so it shows how important they are and they've come out in fantastic numbers throughout the entire A-League competition.

"They have a voice and it should be respected. They're obviously very upset with what's happened, they're upset that certain comments by, you know, journalists, in particular Rebecca Wilson, which managed to make front-page news, which, for football, is unheard of but again it's a negative and that's the thing, you know, a lot of comments from Rebecca in particular and other journalists have always been negative towards football, which is fine, not everyone enjoys football, but to come out and, you know, try and brand every single fan in the league with the same brush and say that they're thugs and things, I think it's a bit much.

"The thing the fans are disappointed in is the FFA reaction to it, they're pretty much wasn't one and that's where they needed to come out and show support for our fans, show support for the league and they didn't get that, so they have a right to be angry and a right to react however they want."

Brosque described the appeal process as "quite ridiculous".

"They're asking fans to provide their own evidence and they're not even being told what they've done in the first place, so, you know, one of our fans came out and said it was medieval the process that they've come forward with, and it's exactly that," he said.

Wellington Phoenix are battling to retain their A-League licence and their active fans will be turning up to the team's game against Melbourne Victory in Auckland on Saturday to help push the club's bid with crowd numbers.

But Wellington's active supporters have backed the moves made by fans from other clubs and Phoenix captain Andrew Durante told The World Game the FFA had got things all wrong.

"When players are coming out on social media and making such strong statements you know it's serious," Durante said.

"It's almost a game-defining moment in our sport that could go one way or the other and we as players at the Phoenix support the fans.

"Without the fans we'd be playing in front of empty stadiums. We know the fans are crucially important to the success of this league.

"I think there needs to be a proper appeals system and that's what has been spoken about mostly. Yes, there may be some people who have done wrong and should be banned and you have to support the FFA on that level, but there are also a lot of people who haven't been proven guilty and FFA is saying you have to come to us and show you're innocent.

"That just doesn't sit well with anyone, it goes against everything that most people believe in.

"David Gallop had a real good opportunity to back the league, back the fans and he kind of missed that, didn't he, and it's disappointing to see that, when the guy who's in charge of running the league didn't come out and back his own supporters. It shows something's going wrong."

Covic, the vice-president of Professional Footballers Australia, wrote a column for Fairfax Media on Thursday. In it, he said the fans were everything to the game.

"Fans make the A-League what it is today," Covic wrote. "Their relationship with the game must be much more than a transaction. The passion that has powered the A-League for the past 10 years can't be sustained unless the fans feel that their relationship is a genuine one.

"They must feel their voices are heard and valued otherwise the A-League's most important commodity is at risk and as the result the very future of the game becomes uncertain.  

"It is for these reasons and many more, that we, the players, stand with the fans and offer our full support in the actions they choose to pursue in protecting their rights and interests."

Jamieson said in a Fox Sports podcast that the fans make the game.

"Our (Wanderers) fans, along with all the fans in the A-League, are what make this league tick and without them it's nothing special," Jamieson said. "So I hope the FFA do take note of what's happening and start listening to the fans."

Gallop fronted a media conference on Tuesday and fans and commentators condemned him for what he had to say. The backlash led to him calling another media conference, this time with new FFA chairman Steven Lowy fronting as well, for Thursday afternoon.

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6 min read
Published 3 December 2015 at 1:41pm
By Greg Prichard
Source: SBS