Former FFA board member Reilly backs A-League fan rebellion

Protesting A-League fans have received the support of former FFA board member Jack Reilly as they up the ante in their campaign to force the implementation of an immediate appeals process for the 198 hit by stadium bans.

A-League FFA Jack Reilly

Mariners fans made their point on Thursday evening Source: AAP

Unimpressed by chairman Steve Lowy and CEO David Gallop's eleventh hour proclamations pledging to have an appeals procedure in place by February for those who believe they were unjustly outed by News Corp Australia's now notorious 'name and shame' article two weeks ago, planned stadium boycotts will go ahead this weekend in an on-going show of fan defiance.

Thursday's Lowy-Gallop double act – an orchestrated attempt to appease active supporter groups raging against what they perceive as an authoritarian and inattentive head office – only appears to have hardened the resolve of fans who want their concerns met now ... not in the New Year.

Their uncompromising stance meets with the approval of Reilly, whose six years on the board ended in 2013 after a fallout with then chairman Frank Lowy over FFA's failed bid to win hosting rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

"If somebody is accused of anything in life there is a process whereby they can make their own case, that right should be given to A-League fans," said the former Australia goalkeeper.

"If any of the tens of thousands of people in jail in Australia all of a sudden had pictures of themselves plastered around the country on the front page of a newspaper, as you saw with A-League fans, you can imagine how all hell would break lose.

"You've got kids who go to a game, get excited and half of them don't even know anything is wrong until they receive a letter (from FFA) saying they have been banned. It's not a good system. There needs to be due process."

Reilly warned FFA to solve the impasse with some haste, or face possibly dire consequences amidst a tide of boycotts, walkouts and silent protests.

“The game is nothing without the fans. Absolutely nothing," he added. "They dictate everything; how successful clubs will be by their presence which, in turn, dictates what players and everybody else in the game is paid. They need to be treated very, very carefully.

"Everything possible should be done to listen to them and hear what they believe needs to be acted upon."

Reilly spoke as Western Sydney Wanders' Red and Black Bloc, Melbourne Victory’s North Terrace and Sydney FC's The Cove vowed to boycott games until their concerns are dealt with by FFA.

The continued refusal to disclose evidence used to ban supporters - provided by security surveillance group Hatamoto - remains a sore point, along with no commitment to an immediate appeals process.

North Terrace wrote on their Facebook page: "FFA have yet again shown they are out of touch with both the supporters of the game in this country, and the issues of the past fortnight.

"Their empty words and hollow promises should not fool anyone. Their offer to raise the issue of a fair and equitable appeals process for bans at the next FFA board meeting in February should be seen by all for exactly what it was, a blatant deflection.

"This will appease nobody. They treat this issue as if it is not a matter of urgency, whereas nothing could be further from the truth."

The Red and Black Bloc were equally dismissive of FFA's latest manoeuvre: "There is a need for immediate change with the FFA's procedures and how it manages its relationship with fans," they wrote.

"The FFA's continued referral to a "zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour" is not the issue. What is an issue is implementing this stance in a fair and transparent process.

"Another concern is how "evidence" used against those banned is labelled as "confidential". We believe the FFA cannot disclose this evidence as in some cases there is a lack of it, or it has allegedly been obtained illegally."

Reilly believes the impasse could 'get worse before it gets better', adding: "Fans, of course, want to bring things to a head, but the only people who can really do that are the FFA.

"The fact is the A-League must be successful for the game to grow in Australia - and the competition can only be as strong as its supporter base.

"We have a new board in and nobody yet has mentioned a strategy whatsoever. There needs to be a coherent seven-year plan in place which everybody is committed and with the right people to deliver on it and be held accountable.

"Unless we get to that we won’t be the sport we should be.”

After Thursday’s boycott by active Mariners supporters of Central Coast's 5-1 home loss to Melbourne City, Sydney FC's The Cove group confirmed they will boycott Friday's clash against Newcastle Jets at Allianz Stadium.

On their Facebook page they wrote: “We’ve heard FFA's words, but talk is cheap. FFA continues to stutter when it comes to providing a clear and prompt solution to the issue of unjust bans and lack of legitimate appeals process.

“Boycott action will continue indefinitely until we are satisfied our concerns has been addressed."

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5 min read
Published 4 December 2015 at 2:35am
By David Lewis