Australia's football fans have won the PR war

Congratulations to the football fans of Australia, you are now a force.


Source: Getty Images

You have finally realised your power when advocating for something meaningful, in this case your reputation and that of the game.

In future, you can apply your strength to many worthy causes, always ensuring you protect the game above all else.

It has been beautiful to watch.

It wasn’t long ago when forums were organised to try to get the fans to find their collective voice, whether within clubs or more broadly, and today you have learnt that in numbers, and collective passion, is immense power and influence.

There will always be football haters. They’re challenged in their personal world view, in what sport means to them, and your growth and maturity is a massive challenge to them.

Don’t threaten them, please, you don’t need to, you have already won. The very fact that a powerful media organisation has to publish details of a tiny minority of transgressors in a shoddy and ill fated attempt at sabotage, speaks volumes.

Rather, we should feel sorry for them in their ignorance of what you feel. Let us invite them to matches and show them the beauty of the game. Many football lovers today were once haters, because that’s all they knew.

More beautiful was the announcement, in the same week the atrocity against publishing was committed, that more girls now play football than netball, the timing of which could not have been more apt.

The game for all.

These hundreds of thousands, millions of kids will inherit your positions in the stands so now you have a legacy to protect, and continue to build on behalf of the game.

Finally, you have understood your power in numbers, through your shared passion.

There are millions of you, and when you realised you could get beyond shouting and raging, to organise, strategise, plan, influence and build, you are unstoppable, and you make the game so.

All of us must take responsibility for the very small minority that misbehave at games, that mistake your passion as a license to overstep the mark of decency or legality, all of us. But, equally, when the game is unfairly portrayed today, the difference is the game strikes back.

But with reason, not directionless rage, and not as a victim any longer but an important member of society, and a powerful commercial contributor to stadia, sponsors, newspapers.

You are a seething mass no longer, but a participant in the national debate through your influence in the political sphere, a voice in the modern sports landscape, a movement not just a moving mass.

Football is smart now. Very smart. A generation of social media savvy activists seeking to change the world, having lived the change through football. I’d be willing to bet there is a very high percentage of social progressives involved in the game, wanting to see environmental, human rights, political change for the good of all.

Football does that to us. It is a collective, and gives us a social conscience that makes the game weep for Paris, and Africa, and all the atrocities around the world as much as for our kids that can’t pay to play, who face challenges in life that we can identify and help with.

That is why football has more social causes and charities than all other games put together, tens of thousands in Australia alone, a charity everywhere you look with a passion to change inequity, because that is football.

This is a moment of great significance, because our fan groups have now learnt how to speak with focus and reason, to question with understanding, to challenge with passion and also emotional control.

To not only play the public relations game, but to win it.

Our clubs are now working with the fans to agitate together for better treatment, for a new understanding with authorities, and the effect is profound.

Yes, a media organisation overstepped the mark. Don’t rage, act. You have commercial power. You have political influence. You have more brainpower than most multinational corporations within your numbers. There are lawyers and politicians, councillors and public relations experts, financiers and everything you need already within. You can mount campaigns, hold demonstrations, wage social media war, but always with brainpower and reason, that is your greatest weapon.
When you jump up and down at games, the unbelievers see a heaving mass, and they associate a lack of reason and thought.

So apply reason and thought. Think through your arguments, test them, research, find the strong points and the weak, find your best spokespeople who can articulate well in different forums, and be active.

Be heard. This is where the statements from various fan groups are so powerful, as long as they’re compiled with thought, they show a side the public otherwise never sees.

Our fans are educated, smart and passionate. Ensure this always comes across in your communications.

Yes, FFA must always stand for the fans, whilst we all understand they must play the villain at times by applying community standards to protect the game. This is one area you can agitate.

Yes, there remain media outlets intent on causing damage to football. They cannot, in my view, nevertheless my question is, what are you going to do about it other than attack back? You’re smarter than that. What’s the strategy?

How can you let them know commercially they need to be fair with football? This is your challenge, not only to react every time, that’s a victim.

You are strong, so take up your arms and take control.

And welcome to a brave new world where football controls its own destiny.

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5 min read
Published 26 November 2015 at 10:50am
By Craig Foster