Sydney FC fans group, the Cove – who will meet with NSW Police chiefs and the SGC Trust next week as part of their campaign to improve the treatment of active fans – were shocked by
images from AAMI Park on Friday night of security personnel confiscating a banner supporting the 198 A-League fans banned from stadiums nationwide- although TWG's Lucy Zelic was told by a club official after the match that it was their understanding that this occurred due to a pre-game agreement between fans and stadium staff.
The 198 banned fans were outed in a controversial article published by News Corp last Sunday, which has sparked a populist uprising among supporters enraged over breach of privacy issues and FFA’s refusal to condemn the article, or even initially admit that fans had any form of redress in having unfairly-imposed bans quashed.
The Cove, whose mid-week talks with FFA precipitated a U-turn, want the governing body act to dispel the popular perception that it treats active supporters more as customers than stakeholders, and condones heavy-handed tactics by stadium trusts and security personnel on match days.
Speaking after the banner at the Melbourne City v Perth Glory game that read ‘We stand by the 198’ was removed from sight, Cove spokesman Grant Muir said: "This is symptomatic of the way football fans are dealt and are not given the benefit of the doubt.
“Would stadium security have done that at a Melbourne Storm game? I doubt it. A-League fans are generally not dealt with in sympathetic manner. The worst is always assumed.
“There is a lot of tension out there now and the FFA needs to make statement over who was responsible for what happened at AAMI Park, and the reason that it happened. They need to be on top of it and across it.”
Supporters need permission to unfurl stadium banners, with the three others at Friday's match, in unison with the current tsunami of unrest sweeping the terraces reading: 'No Fans No Football', 'No appeals No Justice' and 'Terraces not Terrorists', in reference to broadcaster Alan Jones comparing fans to Islamist terrorists in Paris.
Just 5953 supporters turned up to AAMI Park – the A-League's lowest attendance of the season – to watch City thrash Glory 5-1, with active fans group, the Melburnians, staging a partial boycott.
“If FFA was responsible for the banner being ripped down, I’d be surprised," added Muir. “I suspect it was stadium security, but it’s all part of the problem that fans deal in their relationships with stadiums, trusts and security.
“The banner wasn’t offensive; objectively it may be against the rules, but a sensible application of rules is part of being in a position of authority. The outcome here shows ignorance about the culture of football culture."
The burgeoning fan power movement will flex their muscles again this weekend with Melbourne Victory's North Terrace and Western Sydney Wanderers' Red and Black Bloc planning mid-game walkouts against Adelaide United on Saturday night and Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
Wellington Phoenix’s Yellow Army flagged their intention to stage a silent protest at the club's next home match while Wanderers management have pledged to helped supporters – up to 90 of who are on the FFA's banned list – to fight their exclusions if they can provide supporting evidence of innocence.
All this comes amid disclosures in a Fairfax Media report that football matches have the fewest violent incidents of any sport played at SCG Trust administered venues, despite the hysteria whipped up by the Sunday Telegraph's name-and-shame article.
"FFA still haven't condemned the leaking of the information used in the story," Muir said. “They need to say it was inappropriate and inexcusable for it to used by a newspaper.
“They should be saying they doing everything possible to get to the bottom of it and to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That would gain them some credit with average fans.
“Regarding those bans, the FFA has a legal obligation to comply with procedural fairness in their dealings with individuals, it’s a legal obligation and they know it.
“They come out in the past and said they don’t have to comply with natural law and procedural fairness because they are not a government body ... well, they do.”
The Cove will meet NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Kyle Stewart on Tuesday in a bid to encourage a more collaborative and conciliatory style of policing at A-League games.
Stewart, who labelled Wanderers fans “grubby pack animals”, is likely to be asked to justify those comments. The NSW police are also under fire for tweeting links to the New Corp story last weekend.
“Our intention is discussion the consequences of certain statements and see what common ground we can find," Muir said.
“Our relationship is challenging enough and saying nasty things about football fans does not encourage a climate of corporation. It sets up a 'them-and-us' situation and is unnecessary.”