Explained: Why fans are boycotting the A-League this weekend

Active fans will be avoiding A-League fixtures in their droves this weekend, which could well lead to the lowest attendance on record in the history of the competition. So, how did this furore begin, and how did it come to this?

Stadium

Source: Patrick Nugent

It is unprecedented - a league-wide vote of no-confidence in Football Federation Australia. 

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A governing body that plays on the passion and intensity of the fans' support as part of their marketing campaign for the league itself.

The story

On 22 November The Sunday Telegraph published a front page story exposing the names and faces of some of the 198 football fans around the country who have been banned for various reasons. 

The list of banned fans was obviously a confidential document, but in addition, description of fan trouble as "endemic and acute" and a "cultural problem". 

The fallout

Fans (those banned and those not) were rightly upset about how a confidential document could come to be in the possession of News Corp Australia.

Indeed, one lost his job when his boss found he was one of the banned 198. 



The journalist who wrote the story appeared on 2GB the next day, and agreed when Alan Jones compared the issue to the terror attacks in Paris, where more than 100 people were killed. 

And finally, it emerged that the fans who were banned were given no right of appeal, either at the time, or now. 



FFA's reaction

This, really, is the crux of the issue.

The FFA have had countless opportunities in the fortnight since the story was published to come out in defence of the game and condemn the obviously inflammatory nature of the original story. 

It was, after-all, written by a journalist with a long-standing history of resentment towards the game. 



But the FFA was silent. A cursory statement from CEO David Gallop, while on his travels, was the first sign of life at FFA HQ. 

Then there was the confusion when A-League chief Damien De Bohun said there was no right to appeal. Then said there was. Then said, a week later, that from that day, there is in fact a right to appeal. But, only if one could present evidence that one had not done what the FFA had accused one of.

Confused? 



The fans

The fans staged mass walk outs at fixtures last weekend, and have decided in large numbers to avoid matches altogether this weekend.

The main issues are:

- Disillusionment at the FFA's so far baffling decision not to condemn the inflammatory, sensationalist nature of The Sunday Telegraph front page.

- Disbelief and disappointment that fans who have been banned have been denied a democractic right to appeal the decision previously, and that now the onus is still on them to prove their innocence in order to have any ban overturned. 



What now?

An impasse has been reached.

The fans will vote with their feet this weekend, which they hope will send a clear message to the FFA that they are not satisfied with the governing body's reaction to the situation. 

The FFA doesn't look like they will back down at all, let alone admit it made a mistake in not springing to the defence of the majority of football fans (the ones they use in their marketing promotions, of course), those who don't cause trouble. 

As it stands there are 103,500 members of A-League clubs, but they have chosen to stay away.

Either the FFA back down, or the fans will have to decide to come back to the games.

Someone has to blink.


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4 min read
Published 3 December 2015 at 12:16pm
By Matthew Connellan
Source: SBS