It was probably our most disappointing performance so far this season when the Mariners took on Western Sydney Wanderers at home on Sunday. Granted we were missing a couple of key, exciting players, but we still looked flatter than I expected. If the Wanderers had been more potent with their finishing the margin could have been more than it was.
The result was largely overshadowed by fan protests. At Central Coast Stadium these were in the form of an RBB walkout and a Yellow Army period of silence. The reason is that many fans feel frustrated that they have been let down by the Football Federation of Australia. After the game Damien De Bohun (Head of the A-League) failed to quell the frustration during his Fox Sport interview with Mark Bosnic. Rather his persistent back flipping about appeals processes probably made matters worse.
On Tuesday David Gallop had an opportunity to ease tensions but instead his disappointing public statement felt like a tipping point. Where fans expected some leadership and a new, more co-operative tone, he delivered the same message as previously about the issues with patronising advice for the fans to “use their energy positively”.
I don’t normally write opinion pieces, although I often include my opinions about current affairs in this blog. This time I feel compelled to write about this important issue because it’s turning into a debacle and I hate to see that around the sport I love.
There are plenty who still don’t seem to understand what the demonstrating fans are unhappy about. Many Mariners fans certainly still think these protest are just “RBB grubs” complaining about their members being banned. It’s a shame really because it’s those apathetic fans as much as any whose rights and reputations are not being protected here. Everyone who knows me knows that although I stand with our Yellow Army when I attend away matches, I am no “Active Support group” member. As a family oriented football fan I started out supporting the Mariners by taking my two little girls to our matches. When I hear broad brush statements tarring all football fans as “louts”, “thugs” and “urban terrorists”, I’m simply outraged to be included in with that, for I am none of those. I am a foundation member of an A-League club and a volunteer support person for the club I love and as such the FFA and the Mariners are (to some extent) custodians of my personal reputation. To be bundled up with a minority who do cause problems for our sport is just plain unfair and to have the peak bodies of my sport fail to offer a response to that is unacceptable to me. Maybe I don’t understand the issues either but in my opinion it’s pretty simple and the main concerns can be summed up in three things the FFA needs to do:-
- Publicly condemn the leaking and publication of the confidential banned list.
- Publicly reject the notion that the vast majority of fans of the A-League are “louts”, “thugs” or any other derogatory term used to describe them in offensive newspaper articles.
- Setup a fair appeals process or tribunal which does NOT place the burden of proof on accused fans and which allows fans to examine all evidence used against them.
Had David Gallop delivered these three simple things, there would likely be no continuation of the current unrest among fans. Instead his failure to do so will see more action this round beginning with announcements by several of the supporter groups, including our own Yellow Army, that they will boycott home matches this round. The solution seems so obvious and it would be easy to believe that the reason for inaction is just ignorance from De Bohun and Gallop but I don’t believe this can be true. I don’t accept that either of them is not smart enough to realise that and I am left wondering why they don’t simply take the simple steps necessary to move on from this sorry saga. Perhaps it’s time they found something to do which is truly interesting for them.
On the game with Melbourne City tonight – good news is the likely return of Mitch Austin. His high energy raids in behind opposition defenders will be a relief to see as we struggle with depth. Nick Montgomery will be suspended for this match after accumulating yellow cards. Josh Rose will take over the captaincy in his absence and hopefully find that little bit extra motivation because of it, as his experience and calm manner will be crucial to our chances. Melbourne City hit rich form last weekend and represents a massive challenge despite their poor record against the Mariners and away from home. Aaron Mooy in particular is in red hot form and how the Mariners handle shutting down his threat will be one of the keys to the game but Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli will also be tough to contain. Factor in the shorter turnaround for the Mariners this week and sadly I can’t see a Mariner’s win – my prediction 1-1 drawGoogle+