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The Grand Stand: What Makes A Club

The RBB getting ready - Photo by Eric Berry

 

In eight years of following Sydney FC, I have often struggled to find a connection to the franchise. To me, nothing really stands out. Nothing the franchise has done in seven and a bit seasons has made me affectionate toward them.

In the first couple of seasons, the club brought in Manchester United legend Dwight Yorke, Japanese legend Kazu Muira and Benito Carbone. But one constant that has remained throughout its existence has been change. And not good change either.

There has almost been a new coach every season. Same goes for changes on the board and new chairmen. On top of that, there has been constant change in the playing ranks and the coaching staff. None of which has given the club any stability.

What is my point? Well, my point is that the franchise I follow has given me nothing to show it is a club. It has given me nothing that in return makes me love the club. I follow the franchise, yes. But I do not support it. And that is pretty sad. It is pretty sad that in 8 years Sydney FC has done nothing to make me love them. Nothing.

What’s that you say? They’ve won the A-League Championship twice, the Premiership once, played in the Asian Champions League and Club World Cup. My answer to that: so what?

For eight years Sydney FC has struggled to find a culture, an identity, a philosophy. They have struggled to find something that I associate with. I would argue with anyone that these are key factors which attract fans to the clubs they follow, whether it’s A-League club, an EPL club or an AFL club.

I look back at 7 years of Sydney FC trying to find something that pulls me closer towards loving them. As I write this I try to find what their culture is, what their identity is, what their philosophy. All I can come up with is a season’s worth of identity, when way back in season one, they were nicknamed ‘Bling FC’. Other than that, there is nothing.

I couldn’t tell you what Sydney’s culture was other than the fact that it seems to be toxic. Good players arrive and are sold (or released) a shadow of their former selves (see Scott Jamieson and Michael Beauchamp for examples). What is Sydney’s philosophy? Your guess is as good as mine.

Come to think of it, they don’t have anything that makes me want to be like them. Just thinking now, a person loves a club for a reason, culture, identity, philosophy or because it’s the family tradition. But sometimes it’s not always like that. Sometimes the club you want to love has qualities that you want to have to in yourself or better yourself with. Sydney have none of that.

I look across the city and to what is actually my backyard, metaphorically speaking. There lies Western Sydney Wanderers. A franchise created a little over six months ago as the backwash to Gold Coast United’s expulsion.

Here is a new franchise. I think it’s fair to say that the Wanderers were established hastily. But they did things that, to the best of my knowledge, no other club has done. They held forums with the community. They asked the people who they hoped would support the franchise what they wanted.

The people got to tell FFA what they wanted the name to of the franchise to be. They picked what colours they wanted for the jersey. They even got to pick the nickname ‘Wanderers’. Credit to the FFA, they went to every region which represented the name of the franchise and got everyone’s opinion. Hell, the RBB put themselves together just as quick.

Fast forward to now. 8 months on I would argue that, aside from Melbourne Victory, the Western Sydney Wanderers are a club and not just a franchise. They have a squad who know what they’re doing. They have a squad that understands what it means to play for their fans. They have a squad who know that their fans love them regardless and in return they love them back more. The fans of Western Sydney have an administration willing to listen to them. Most importantly, they have established a culture and an identity. They are also well on the way to creating their football philosophy.

Sydney FC has been around for 7 and a bit seasons. They are still so far away from any of this. I would argue that its administration, players and staff don’t know what their culture, identity and philosophy is. They used to have an identity: Bling FC. But that was quickly washed away. And now they are wandering (pun intended) around, trying to fit into Sydney’s fickle sporting landscape. This is why I refer to them as a franchise.

Meanwhile, in my backyard, Western Sydney is fast becoming the premier sporting attraction in Sydney. It’s hard not to admire what they’ve done in a short amount of time. They have become a club. In the not too distant future, if things keep going the way they are, they’ll be the premier sporting club/attraction in the country.

Follow me on Twitter: @gligsy23

About Boris Gligorevic (44 Articles)
Sydney FC lifer. FTSAL Original. Opinionated, highly. Legendary ‘baller (in my own mind). Just short of being a pro.
Contact: Twitter
  • Amos

    Terrific article. You’re bang on target here. I think a lot of the teams struggle to create their own identity as club, and Sydney FC has always relied on a “big name” signing to draw in fans, rather than engagement.

    I can see why some Sydney FC fans will be drawn to the Wanderers, they have a spirit money can’t buy, and a sense of belonging already.

  • marco sagredo

    Inspiring!,love wsw,at last a club for the true football fans of western Sydney,
    WHO DO WE SING FOR?!

  • It’s only been a few months into their first season mate. Surely you can only compare WS to Sydney’s first year? Crowds were high, buzz was high, Cove was full, etc. If in eight years WSW has improved on its position now then you’re talking. But they could also have a history of change. We just don’t know yet. Hell, they don’t even have an owner.

    FC had some fan forums a year or two ago, for the record.

    But saying all that, great read!

    • Boris Gligorevic

      Matt, I don’t disagree with your view.

      As a whole, what’s happened since the club lost it’s identity as Bling FC? Signings, coaches, staff and administration have come and gone in 8 seasons and ask anyone in this city, anybody, and they won’t be able to tell you anything pertaining to Sydney FC’s identity, culture and philosophy.

      As for the Wanderers, no one knows what their future holds. In 5 years they could be extinct, who knows. But what they’ve done in establishing their foundation is creating a culture and identity that the people of Western Sydney relate to. It’s not a franchise just put there for the sake of expansion. The people wanted it and for so long too. They went out and asked the people exactly what they wanted and this in turn made people connect with the club.

      This is my point. I don’t have any issues with Tony Pignata either. In fact, my thoughts on Sydney FC is that he’s inherited a shambles of a club because of previous players, coaches, staff and administration. I like Tony and he seems to have a great love for the game and the knowledge required to get Sydney going again. It’s just unfortunate that he’s inherited a hole so deep that it will take a few years.

    • Nermin

      There is a major difference. East Sydney FC was the only locally based club when it arrived on the scene. WSW, on the other hand, has entered while only one other club “represented” an entire city, and its fans therefore had much more of a choice. Thus, to be able to attract such numbers and dedication despite having a rival team not far from home, is an incredible achievement.

      • Boris Gligorevic

        I don’t think previous administrations of Sydney FC did enough out west. Like I said, Tony Pignata has inherited a Sydney FC destroyed by previous administration. It’s such a big task to turn around Sydney’s fortunes and get them back to the top.

        Sydney FC should be the premier club in the country. They should be the club that others in the league look to because they have best practice across the board. But right now it’s a pipe dream and my article is years of frustration because we’re not.

        I like Sydney. I’m there every week. I’m there for the love of football. But I need that connection. I’ve been looking for it for years. I’m hoping Pignata’s reign finally gives me the connection I need.

  • KTBFFH

    This is the most biased article I’ve ever read.

    Basing comparisons from an 8-year old club to a debutant in the league? Achievements do nothing for you?

    Holding open forums (that most clubs do once per MONTH) is something new for you? Research then write, see how much better your articles come out.

    • Boris Gligorevic

      KTBFFH,

      The intent of the article is not to be biased. Far from it. It’s my struggle in identifying a connection with the club.

      I know they hold open forums. I know Sydney did a couple in the lead-up to the season but I don’t think they hold any during the season. More often than not I have had training on when the forums have been on.

      But I don’t think my issue is Sydney-centric. I’m willing to bet that most clubs in the A-League have this issue.

      I have a few questions for you:
      – What club do you support?
      – What’s their identity?
      – What’s their culture?
      – What’s their football philosophy?

      Sydney have won trophies, yes. but it’s baseless to me when I can’t identify what the club means to me yet. I can’t identify what its culture, philosophy or identity is.

  • Boris Gligorevic

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I didn’t expect the volume of response I received. My Twitter blew up last night with lots of positive discussion.

    There will be a sequel to this article soon hopefully.

  • Scott Munt

    That’s classic Sydney mentality though, how about you try and create that culture, nah I’ll just sit back and expect it.

    What’s been made at MVFC hasn’t been 100% the club’s making.

    • Boris Gligorevic

      Agree. But fans forced the issue there I believe. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • I don’t believe that Sydney FC lack an identity, it’s just not as strong as it should be. I believe they are still “Bling FC”. That is after all what I believe they represent. The star linup with marquee players Del Piero and Emerton show that. They represent eastern Sydney, the “bling” of Australia with its Harbours and city skyline; its beaches (Bondi, Manly and Cronulla) and its north shore; The Bridge and the Opera House. Only the Gold Coast could compete with that.

    What Sydney FC is missing is not it’s identity (although they should embrace it more), but its missing its stability. As you’ve said, they’ve gone through so many coaches, managers, players, etc. With each new major personnel comes a new philosophy, a new culture, and that’s the problem. They need to find stability with what they have now for 3-5 years and build on it. Build on their “Bling FC” identity. Represent the riches of eastern Sydney and find some consistency in their playing style and matches (They can be a great attacking team). Then the culture and philosophy will evolve.

    When that happens and they embrace what they are, then they will be a dominant force. Then they will have a great rivalry that would split a city into east and west.

    • Boris Gligorevic

      I like your feedback. You raise some great points that I wasn’t aware of.

      Maybe ‘Bling FC’ is sleeping. Who knows but it is an interesting point you make in that regard.

      As for Brett Emerton, he was a great player but since his return to the A-League we’ve only seen glimpses of what he’s capable of. IMO he should relinquish his marquee status and assume a place within the salary cap.

      • But also, they were before WSW trying to represent a whole city that is divided. They started as an east Sydney club and “Bling FC” but tried to engage the west as well. The people of western Sydney didn’t believe in that. They are workers of the city and now they have a club they can relate to, a club of their own, Sydney can go back to its traditional representation. Its time for the fans in eastern Sydney to start embracing the club. Help bring about the culture and philosophy. Chant “Bling FC” at games. Get involved.

        • Boris Gligorevic

          Can’t argue with that.

          If previous administrations were reluctant to use the ‘Bling’ tag, maybe Pignata’s regime won’t be. But even if they are, it is important that the club finds an identity that appeals to fans.

          Not sold on the ‘Bling FC’ chant though.

          • “Bling FC” chant not every game, just one game to reignite the fire and direction in the team, the fans, the club. I do believe that is an identity that appeals to the people of eastern sydney.

          • Boris Gligorevic

            You can’t really do that until the club decides on what their identity is. Once they do that, they need to market it effectively so as to alienate as little people as possible.

            On top of that, it would then be up to The Cove to progress that because ultimately, they need to believe in the club more than anybody.

  • Tim

    Hi Boris…

    As a fellow Sydney fan I read your piece with with some dismay. You are of course entitled to your opinion and I agree with what you write in regards to the lack of stability and any semblance of a football ‘philosophy’. Aspects such as these are immensely frustrating to me and all Sydney fans. However, are these the only things that turn a “franchise” into a “club” in the genuine sense of the word? I am immediately drawn to events last year where, following the passing of a senior member of the cove, the players, club and fans staged a moving tribute prior to a match. I remember seeing Alex Brosque standing with Sydney fans during the minute-silence, then the cove chanting “win it for Dogga” following this. For me personally, it is moments like this that that make Sydney FC a club. Sure, Wanderers are doing a great job in regards to community engagement, but we can argue such an approach for a new club is crucial following the failures we saw at Gold Coast. The FFA in this context have had 8 years of A-League experience to get it right..

    • Boris Gligorevic

      Hi Tim,

      everyone is entitled to their opinion and this article is mine.

      I recall the game you talk about re: ‘Dogga’. I was there and thought it was a tremendous gesture from Alex Brosque. And you are also right; small things like that also make one’s love for a club grow.

      Whilst I rate that highly, for me it is also important that a club has a culture, identity and football philosophy. This is helps me identify why it is that I love a club. I’m not saying these are the only things that turn a franchise into a club, but I would argue they are key factors that turn a franchise into a club.

      • Red and Black

        This was a tremendous moment in A-league history. Sydney FC and the Cove should be proud of this. There is no doubt there is some great Sydney FC support out

        One must also think what would have Dogga thought of the events at this years Sydney Derby on your home ground when the Cove could not leave quick enough come full time.

        One side of the stadium do not move until the players walked off the pitch, one side was 80% gone by the time the players reached the goals in front of the Cove.

        I think his shows a lot about how much the club really means to some of the fans in general and goes along with what Boris has said. Wanderers fans are truely in love.

        Still Sydney FC fans deserve a lot of kudos for sticking by them and still receive great support, I just really identify with this article. Lets just hope both clubs become as big as they can!

        • Borganstein

          Dont get me wrong it was disappointing to see that although I think not surprising the way we played, but wasn’t the RBB held back by police to let Sydney fans go first?

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  • Boris Gligorevic

    They’re doing things well out west. Credit to them. It’s good for the city and the A-League. Hopefully it fuels a fire at Sydney FC. Not just in the players but everyone involved in the organisation.