The FFA Press Conference Australian Football Fans Deserved (Or ‘Gallop Through the Looking Glass’)

Date: Thursday 3rd December 2015: 2.00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time

Scene: Football Federation HQ Press Room. Assembled are the intellectual elite of the Australian football media across all formats; television, media and radio. Also in attendance are journos from the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph. Outside the office a calm gathering of passionate football fans await details of the press conference announced by Steven Lowy and David Gallop. Said fans keep busy by sharpening their pitchforks and loading their blunderbusses. A smaller, separate group of older, sadder football fans wearing South Melbourne Hellas and Sydney Croatia shirts stand across the road, cooking Souvlakis and Cevaps on a barbecue fueled with copies of the NCIP. Now and again the second group laugh at the larger, younger fans, with a few cries of ‘Farken Anglos.!’ or ‘Serves you farken right!’ echo in the cool Sydney air. Security agents from the authorised FFA covert agency Hakunamatata try to blend into the background as they try to surreptitiously film the protesters.

Hakunamatata Secco Agent Kevin Bogan secretly films sokkah hooligans and suburban terrorists

At the appointed time Steven Lowy, recently installed Czar of the Football Federation of Australia, and his fellow gray haired Anglo with an equally limited connection to the round ball game, David Gallop, FFA Chief Executive, saunter into the room, beaming with confidence wrought from the contents of a  couple of bottles of Xanex. Neither appears too stressed or strained, though at one point FFA communications director Kyle Patterson is asked if there was any sighting of Hektik Hektor in the building. Reassured that the man with the itchiest neck in the A-League is not on site, both Gallop and Lowy sit in their seats. The press conference is ready to begin.

FFA Faceless Lackey: “Right, David & Steven are ready. If I could please ask you to turn off your mobile phones and turn up the power on your self-delusion, we can start.”

David Gallop: “Thanks to all of you attending today. As we are all aware this has been a fractious and difficult week for the football world in Australia, going beyond the usual strife we have with trying to find a buyer for Newcastle, trying to kick out the Nix, producing yet another documentary blaming FIFA for our abysmal 2022 World Cup Bid, looking for one more reason to boast about the Socceroos winning the Asian Cup, and bashing the PFA without any specific reason. I would like to now pass the microphone over to FFA’s Il Duce himself, the one, the only, the boy who came here for a Dad’s Day at Work Excursion and for some reason has never left, Steven Lowy.

(The journalists murmur a few grumbles about not being able to ask questions first, however they decide to keep quiet as they want to see what kind of junket they could snag from Westfields at season’s end by remaining silent.)

Steven Lowy: Thanks very much David, and by the way may I say you look radiant in that grey suit, steel rimmed glasses and a very well coiffured hair cut.

(Gallop blushes and tries to blow a sneaky kiss towards the man who has allowed him to stay in a job for another 24 hours)

SL: “Now, to matters at hand. So that this news conference can be conducted efficiently, quickly and with the minimum of fuss I have both a prepared statement plus I’ve have tied Damien de Bohun to the back of a Hyundai i30 which is currently driving to Perth so that he may examine the pitch at nib Stadium. At the end of the statement I would be happen to open the floor to questions, or failing that the door to a rapid getaway followed by six years exile somewhere in North Korea.”

“Okay. As we all know approximately eleven days ago Rebecca ‘Please Blow into the Bag Miss’ Wilson helped to create this shit-storm, when she decided (undoubtedly with the assistance of certain people in the SCG Trust and NSW Police Force) to release via her turgid rag ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ the details of 198 Australians who have received ban notices from the FFA. Of course we all know that the Daily Telegraph has the editorial integrity of ‘Der Sturmer’ circa Kristallnacht 1938, and Wilson herself…a vicious, gossip-mongering fool who couldn’t write a factually based and impartial article about anything even if her life depended upon it, made certain of exposing herself and her employers to legal action which we will be starting as soon as this conference is over. We have also offered to provide legal assistance to every person cited in that scurrilous example of gutter press reporting, and whilst anyone with a criminal conviction and a ban will be unable to claim further help the FFA is considering either reducing the terms of the bans applied for matters such as swearing, entering the pitch or calling Kris Griffith Jones a useless twat, or perhaps even giving them an amnesty.”

“We have also been in contact with radio station 2GB and with Alan Jones. We have spoken to all those people who have specific information about a certain incident that happened in a London public restroom, and have advised Mr Jones, also known as The Parrot, Jonesy, or ‘The Defendant’ to either apologise for his slurs on football and our fans, or expect to see photos, statements and semen swabs supplied to Interpol, ACMA, Media Watch and some Twitter account that goes under the name @scouse_roar. And if Alan Jones wants to sue us we invite him to do so, as we have been reading up on what happened to Oscar Wilde when he took the Marquise of Queensbury to court for libel. I wonder if Alan is aware of what can happen when soap gets dropped in specific locations.”

Alan Jones asked if would prefer to do jazz hands rather than face legal action from the FFA over his xenophobic bullshit

“Regarding the Sunday Telegraph, as well as the Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and other News Limited papers, we have decided to end our commercial relationship with them. There will be no more cross promotions, we refuse to take a red cent from them, we have banned all their reporters after this conference from speaking with anyone with anything to do with football, and will no longer allow any of their Yellow Press publications to pollute the grounds where any FFA sanctioned match is played. Words have consequences people, and when it comes to the print agencies of a company that has scant regard for facts and considers journalism now an art form designed to attract clicks, instead of balanced and articulate examinations of all relevant issues affecting our game, well that cooperative relationship has ended as of today.”

“As for the likes of Sam Newman, Neil Mitchell, Susie O’Brien and anyone else who slags off our game, supporters, or makes a snide or baseless comment about football, well we will be ensuring that from now on everything you say that has the merest whiff of xenophobia or inaccuracy will be reported to bodies such as ACMA, the Australian Human Rights Commission and any other agency that can bring calumny or punishment onto your heads. I have also instructed FFA legal team to establish a sub-committee that will look into class actions against slanderous and libelous utterances in the main stream media that draw our game into disrepute.”

“We have also decided that due to the failings of our media consultants they have all been sacked, and we are looking to start anew straight after this conference. Simon, if you want to swing by my office down the hall way in about an hour’s time I have a proposal for you.”

“The FFA board and senior management team would also like to announce that we have decided to give Andrew Jennings access to all our documents relating to the use of our security consultants Hakunamatata, the 2022 World Cup bid, the franchise licences issued to past A-League club owners Nathan Tinkler and Clive Palmer, and the minutes and associated materials that led to my election as chairman of the FFA. If Jennings finds any evidence of corruption, nepotism, favouritism or general malfeasance he will be asked to present that to an independent body consisting A-League fans which has the right to vote a no confidence motion in the FFA executive board.”

“Regarding the involvement of the fans in the political structures of the A-League, we have decided that by the beginning of the 2016/17 a representative on behalf of all A-League clubs’ supporters groups as well as from the membership of NPL and other lower tier clubs shall be brought into the Executive Committee. This will be based on a election with ballots to be held during the 2016 FFA Cup. That representative will, during their one year term of office, be allowed to both speak on behalf of the fans to the executive board and sign off on any changes to FFA policy that affect the general welfare of supporters in this country, or if his or her approval is not met the policy change proposal will fall into abeyance until after the next representative’s election.”

“With specific reference to the Sydney derby, we have decided that from now on any Sydney FC hosted games will not be played at Allianz Stadium, but moved to ANZ Stadium in Homebush. We understand that this is not going to be overwhelmingly popular, however let’s be brutally frank here. When you have a board of trustees at the SCG Trust including the bed mate of Rebecca Wilson, that right wing nut job racist Alan Jones, an ex-CEO of the Sydney Swans and a muppet involved with the Manuka Midgets, why the fuck are we providing their venues with such a huge money spinner when the Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers fans congregate at Moore Park. Let’s take one of the biggest annual sporting events in this entire nation away from the pricks who profit from it, and keep it that way until they either change their membership by getting rid of a few of these arseholes, or they specifically invite a football friendly candidate onto their committee. Also, we not provide any political or financial support or influence regarding the proposals to renovate or rebuild any stadiums under the SCG Trust’s governance as long as we believe there is an agenda of opposition to our sport being followed by this body.”

How Allianz Stadium will look after the Sydney derby is removed from the SCG Trust

“Now, as for the banning policies and procedures we have in place, and what we will be doing with immediate effect. They are as follows:

  1. Our security consultants Hakunamatata have been advised that our contract will not be renewed until they are willing to sign off on a document that allows all fans to review and examine any evidence they provide to the FFA which may lead to a ban order.
  2. No Hakunamatata security person has the right to issue on the spot bans unless if a criminal act has been committed and this has been duly dealt with by a police officer. The fan may be ejected from that ground for non-criminal matters however his ban is provisional until a hearing is held to examine all the relevant evidence. If at the time the hearing proves that the ejection and ban was illegitimately applied then costs will be passed onto our security consultants.
  3. No security staff member at any FFA sanctioned event can hide his or her identity as such a person. They also must wear ID markings as per normal police officers.
  4. There will be no more secret filming of football fans in Australia. Every football fan who wishes to review any footage taken of their bay or seating area up to one (1) year after the relevant match can pay a small fee to the FFA to have access to any general footage of their presence at said game.
  5. Any Hakunamatata managers at any FFA sanctioned match must consult with a club based security assistant during the game.
  6. All security staff used by our consultants at any FFA sanctioned match may be liable to being subpoenaed to appear in person in any tribunal or court of law that is called upon to examine any banning order, and this will be integral to any amended or future contract.
  7. Any clauses within the current or future contracts with the existing or alternate security consultants that may be deemed as prejudiced against the football community, or commercially enriching for the consultants will be be placed into the public domain by the FFA. These clauses can then be reviewed by any registered member of any FFA affiliated club, and if sufficient feedback necessitates the removal of said clause this will take place.
  8. The FFA’s jurisdiction vis-a-vis banning and any other discipline issue begins and ends with the entry gates of any Australian football stadium. Once outside those parameters any discipline issue falls under the relevant state or federal criminal or public legal frameworks in place.
  9. We will begin this week to meet with representatives of each club, their active supporter groups, and the relevant security, local government and police officials to discuss all these issues and any others that have not been dealt with in the previous 8 points. My personal undertaking is to have in place before the end of this current A-League season a definitive framework that restores equity, justice, football fan engagement and probity to our banning system.

“Another measure we are going to implement is a reduction in overall football registration fees, as both a sign of our appreciation of the huge, passionate and engaged core of Australian football fans and players who have every reason to feel aggrieved about how the administration has run the game this last few years. We are not perfect, far from it. As part of our desire to remedy those errors and make good on them this seems one concrete and positive step to take.”

“Now, I think that has covered all the main points we wished to raise today, although we do have probably more work to do that may expand our brief. David?”

David Gallop: “Thanks Steven. Would anyone like to ask a question of myself and Steven?”

Simon Hill: “If I may David. Steven; can you tell me what you felt, what you think about the statements made by the likes of Wilson, Jones and O’Brien, among others who are afraid of football?”

SL: “Frankly Simon their pig ignorant knobgobbling fucktards. They lie, they dissemble, they ignore their own preferred sports histories of violence and racism, among other anti-social behaviours, and it’s because deep down they are scared little narrow minded Anglo-Saxons who would rather live in White Australia circa 1913. I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. We should be accepting the next boat filled with Middle Eastern refugees and then putting the likes of these pricks on said vessel and sending them out into the Timor Sea. Australian society would have a double win there folks.

Ray Gatt: “Simon, what is your position on the boycotts this weekend?”

SL: “The business side of me is gutted but you know what…how fucking…oops, I forgot myself for a sec there…how good are our supporters? In the eggball codes they have their administrators run roughshod over their interests and they just bend over, part the cheeks and ask ‘Please sir, can I have some more?’ Look at cricket. James Sutherland etc decided that Perth didn’t warrant a test match last season…did anyone of those so-called cricket tragics in any other capital complain, gather in unity with the West Australian fans and use people power to remind that sport’s administrators who was their most important stakeholder? Nope; stuck their collective heads in the sand and did SFA.

David Gallop: “If I might chime in on the issue of other sports Steven, I think I have a decent insight into how the league supporting cro-magnons react. Look at what happened when Shaun Kenny Dowell was arrested and charged with domestic violence, what did Easts fans do? Yep, they got right behind their so-called ‘man’. And where was that self-righteous ignorant so-and so Wilson re this? No-fucking-where.”

SL: “To be blunt Ray, our fans are politically aware cosmopolitan modern Australians who reflect a wider range of values than either the reporters, promoters and fans of the other codes. We hate the boycotts, but we love the boycotters.”

Lucy Zelic: “David, do you think you and the FFA in general erred when Boozy Bec’s initial piece of garbage appeared in the Sunday Telegraph. Should you have been more strident, more hasty in knocking back the bullshit, correcting the lies?”

DG: “Christ Lucy, I screwed the pooch big time over that one. I’ve got no excuses, no explanations. Mea fucking culpa. Steven has already told me one more stuff up and I’m gone. Plus I feel personally gutted by my inaction. I let politics, my own lack of an affinity with football, the business of keeping the press onside interfere with defending the people who are responsible for football’s amazing growth this last decade. That’s the family who head down to Coopers Stadium every home game, proud to wear the Red. That’s the retired teacher who hands out throat lozenges for the chanting masses in the Wanderers’ RBB. That’s the little boy or girl who smiles when Ante Covic signs their soccer ball. These are the men, women and children I forgot. I’m very bloody sorry.”

Joe Gorman: “Steven, what are your thoughts re the NCIP? Should it stay in place as it is, or will you look at that as well as part of the overall rapprochement you are endeavouring to undertake with the fans?

SL: “Fair call Joe, and yes…I think it’s time we took a geek at that too. One of the reasons why the haters of football get away with bringing up the racist slurs, talking like that hulking great turd Sam Newman, is because we have given them the high ground regarding perceptions of the old ‘wogball’ days. Okay, we know it wasn’t perfect in the NSL or beforehand, however for fuck’s sake for how long do we have to keep grovelling about Croats and Serbs having a punch up in 1983? Why do we have to keep trying to telling people this is an Australian sport with an Australian history? Seriously, it does my freaking head in that some Reclaim Australia types will get on social media to say “Yeah, we’re right with ya Rebecca. We hear you AJ.”, then later that night they’ll grab a pizza or kebab for dinner. I don’t have all the answers and this is not something we can fix that easily. However perhaps it’s time to let South Melbourne reclaim the Hellas tag, let Brisbane Lions use Hollandia. At least it’s far truer as a description of these clubs’ values and community, unlike such plastic franchises in other codes like the so-called Greater Western Sydney Giants, or the Melbourne Storm.”

DG: “Look, I hate to bring a pre-emptive close to this conference, however Steve and I need to get back to our offices, cancel our holiday plans for the rest of the season, and start making some phone calls to people in the RBB, North Terrace etc to sit down with them. If you want more details or want more information about how we are going to turn this godawful mess around, one that we certainly helped happen, don’t be shy. Simon and I will be here till 1.00am and should have some opportunities for a one-on-one session.

SL: “Actually Dave we might be pulling an all-nighter. I want to call up some contacts in the Bundesliga about the fan-owned club model they have in place over there.”

DG: “Okay boss. So, thanks to all of you for coming, and in closing,” (Gallop looks straight down the barrel of the TV camera filming the conference) “Australian football fans..we fucked up, but we’re going to fix this. And (points directly at the lens) we’re going to do this with you, for you.”

v6kj9

Why I Am Boycotting This Saturday (Or I Got The Game Against Roar And I’m Not Going Because I’m Protesting the FFA Blues)

For the first time since I became a foundation member of the Western Sydney Wanderers I am deciding to not go to a home game when I have absolutely no impediment to stop me from doing so.

And it fucking hurts.

It hurts because I feel that if I were to go my presence would be used as a tacit approval of the weak-kneed, submissive, politics-first/fans last approach taken by the likes of David Gallop and Damien de Bohun, the latest pair of (mal)administrators to inflict a wound on the body of Australian football. A sport and a community that has for decades endured incompetence, ignorance, passivity, kamikaze-like business decisions and general fucking-it-up-since-day-freaking-dot.

Of course the original spark to this incandescent flame of rage I feel came from the latest in the long line of haters of football in this country, i.e. Rebecca ‘Boozy Becs’ Wilson and Alan ‘I Won’t Sue Because I know What Happened to Oscar Wilde’ Jones, and their disgusting stunts of media-based fuckwittery. You can also throw into the mix a ‘social commentator’ (i.e. someone who failed communications studies in Year 10) from Melbourne who decided, having spent more time tweeting about Channel Nine’s ‘The Block’ than seeing the Red and Black Bloc in person, decided that football fans were ‘suburban terrorists‘ (a downgrade from the ISL aligned murderers in Paris as described by the Parrot on 2GB).

However, for all their vomitous, ill-tempered, baseless, right-wing-nut-job, borderline racist burblings, these demagogues of white bread mediocrity, whose opinions if translated into Hochdeutsch would not sound out of place in an English language dubbed version of ‘Triumph of the Will’, are not the reason why I will not be walking into Wanderland this Saturday. They are like the toddler who, due to a lack of toilet training, accidentally unleashes some semi-formed fecal matter into a pool, befouling  a pleasant place for everyone. It’s in their nature to dribble shit and with undeveloped mental acuities wonder why the grown ups are upset with them. It’s who and what they are

No, the causi belli in this battle, which for the Wanderers game against the Roar will take the form of joining a boycott, are pride, respect, anger and a sense of justice. Four characteristics, four traits that I hope to live up to, and which our current FFA board and management seem to lack. If David Gallop is going to spout such weak-kneed, self-wounding, la-la-land drivel as he did in yesterday’s press conference, then I find it a betrayal of everything good and proper that football in Australia is, as well as what the Western Sydney Wanderers and our community of fans are.

First off, what kind of out of touch emperor with no clothes talks about “Use your energy from now on in a positive way”, when his regime in the last few months has done everything to make football fans across the entire A-League feel exceedingly negative. Even before this contre temps there was the unseemly humbuggery of Gallop using both the A-League launch and the W-League launch to have a dig at the PFA and the men and women who play our game through those competitions, as well as the Socceroos. Having accused the striking Matildas of being dragged into the dispute, in itself an utterly false premise when those female players who boycotted the plan USA tour were party to the ‘whole of football’ negotiations, he made a bad situation worse by effectively using the platforms of the games’ premier domestic competitions as a place to play ‘bash the union’. It was as if he was a new car salesman who, on the brink of closing a sale, decided to back the vehicle into a wall.

Then there was the little matter of the FFA playing a game of brinkmanship with the Wellington Phoenix re their A-League licence. Putting aside the merits and the problems with the arguments both for and against the restricted offer of a four year licence to the New Zealand-based A-League club, the public manner in which it was played out and the ludicrous arguing over an imaginary Southern Sydney alternate franchise, gave everyone the impression that the FFA were making it up as it goes along. As demonstrated by the recent pronouncements re the FFA’s systems for banning, making it up as it goes along seems to now be the modus operandi of our game’s administrators.

This brings me to the fourth motivation for my boycott of this Saturday’s Western Sydney Wanderers’ match; a sense of justice. Before any mono-browed unreconstructed league, rules or cricket fan lurches into some ill-founded attack, I echo the sentiments of Simon Hill:

Now, everyone knows there are still some hoodlums who go to football to cause trouble. No-one in their right mind defends them – nor the pathetic death threats that were allegedly directed towards the writer of last weeks Sunday Telegraph article. (source)

I’ve already written about my distaste for pyro at football games in Australia, and it is a no-brainer to consider anyone who is proven to have acted violently and criminally at any football game deserving of censure and punishment. However, my sense of justice is outraged that until the current crisis exploded, according to the FFA:

“Please be advised that Football Federation Australia (FFA) is not a government agency and, as such, the obligation to adhere to the rules of procedural fairness and natural justice does not apply to our organisation. For this reason, FFA will not consider any appeal.” (Banning notice tabled at Senate Economics Committee enquiry, 3rd November 2015)

Bottom line; if you were banned by the FFA for what was considered to be an act contrary to their rules and regulations (even if their was no criminal conviction, or indeed if you were proved to be innocent by the police), you had no right to appeal. Also, as the FFA made their judgments to impose bans based on evidence only they had access to, nominally provided in many cases by a private security firm that is commercially engaged to reduce anti-social behaviour at football matches, then the core legal construct in western judicial systems, innocent until proven guilty was blatantly ignored. There could be no trial by peers, no independent oversight of the process, no ability to review and challenge the evidence.

To my mind that is bordering on a fascist sense of ‘justice’; a bullying, blind, biased system that is not only antithetical to what I believe in as an free-thinking, law abiding Australian citizen, but absolutely incompetent as a means to meting out appropriate punishments. As Joe Gorman accurately stated when assessing the FFA’s banning process and the current Wilson-ignited furore:

It may be that FFA are furious that the banned list was leaked to the media, but ultimately, the original sin is in their own processes. By not having a clear appeals pathway for supporters from the beginning, fundamentally they loaded the gun and then left it lying around for the Telegraph to pick up and fire off a few rounds. They are accountable for this mess. (‘FFA’s concern for its own reputation outweighs that for its constituents’ The Guardian 30/11/15)

To make matters worse, in the last few days we’ve had a litany of conflicting, self-serving, unfulfilled BS spouted from the Dumb and Dumber of the FFA, de Bohun and Gallop, re there actually being an appeals process, but it needed tweaking.  First it was de Bohun:

“We will be formalising a process that if a banned spectator can prove to us through new evidence that there has been a mistake made, they can bring that evidence to the club,” De Bohun told reporters.”That club can then work with us and the fan to work through the issue. If it is proven that fan has not engaged in that behaviour, the ban will be overturned.” (FFA confirm formal appeal process for fan bans, SBS World Game, 29/11/15)

Funnily enough this statement only came out after both the Melbourne Victory’s North Terrace, and the Western Sydney Wanderers Red and Black Bloc staged march outs in their respective Round 8 matches, and CEOs like John Tsatsimas (WSW) and Ian Robson (MVFC) issued releases backing their clubs’ fans.

Then, like a straight man in a fifth rate Vaudeville comedy duo, there was David Gallop with a shambolic farrago of promises, red herrings and rhetoric:

“We have absolute discretion to decide who enters our grounds,” he said. “We don’t ban people trivially. These are serious offences, many assaults, many ignitions of flares, the throwing of projectiles and invading pitches.

“If there’s proof that you did not engage in anti-social behaviour, then of course the ban will be overturned. But it is not enough to say you are sorry, or you didn’t mean it.”

There would have to be “strong evidence” to clear a fan’s name, Gallop said. But he promised the FFA would “fine tune” the appeals process, after confusion due to what he described as “a communications problem” (David Gallop offers ‘fine-tuning’, but insists FFA has the right to ban fans, Joe Gorman ‘The Guardian 1/12/15)

So from not having to answer to ‘natural justice’, to ‘formalising a process’ to ‘we don’t ban people trivially’, Gallop and de Bohun have been all over the place like a dysentery victim’s shit at a baked bean dinner. How can I, an average Australian who likes to think that justice is more than just a slogan for those in power to throw out like a bone to a starving dog, an ordinary non-active football fan, have any faith in the FFA and their banning processes? If boycotting helps bring down this inchoate, unfair mess of a banning system, and also fits into my beliefs when it comes to justice, then so be it.

Another motivation for my boycotting the next Wanderers game is pride. I’m not talking seven deadly sins pride, bordering on an arrogance that has no concerns over my actions and how they may impact upon those who play in the red and black, or fellow supporters not just of my club but of all parts of our game. The kind of pride I feel in boycotting is simple; it’s feeling both valuable and valued in a way that the FFA can’t comprehend, when for them a fan is just a commercial commodity. Not a someone but a something, a metric, an advertising tool. It’s liberating and very satisfying to know that when it comes to an issue as big as the FFA’s continual efforts to drag my preferred sport and club through the mud, or fail to defend me and my comrades, I can stand up and say”No.”

This is the sort of pride one can revel in because it is not selfish and it is not motivated by personal gain. In some ways it is the natural corollary of finding pride in being a ‘westie’ through the agency of the Western Sydney Wanderers. It’s the kind of pride that I can share with my fellow fans who boycott because we want a better outcome for our sport; one that may have a longer legacy than just turning up week after week and doing the Poznan at the 80 minutes mark. It’s the type of pride you have when you find yourself doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone, challenging your own perceptions of yourself.

Perhaps I may be too esoteric in exploring the construct of pride within this situation, however the next trait that brings me into the realm of boycotting fans is one that is far more palpable, more sociable, more external. It’s respect. I have a strong and reasonably large group of friends that I have made through football and the Wanderers, and I respect each and every one of them. As most of them are boycotting it would be disrespectful of me to ignore or reject their actions. It doesn’t mean I will follow them blindly, sheep-like. However, I believe I know the characters of each of my close friends who wear the red and black at Pirtek, who share a stein with me at the Bavarian, who sit with me as we drive to and back from Newcastle or Gosford for away games. I respect their opinions, their attitudes, their characters. I would lose my own self-respect to not take these friendships and these good characters into account when making my decision to boycott.

I would like to note that I also respect those who will not be boycotting this weekend, if not because of their reasoning, but definitely because they have that right to support the sport and their clubs. Unlike the FFA and the haters who troll football, I have no scruples against offering best wishes to those who don’t fit the model of what is acceptable, and what is not (within the boundaries of socially sanctioned behaviour) when it comes to being a football supporter. If you attend the Wanderers versus the Roar match on Saturday, please do whatever you (responsibly) can to spur on our team for a sixth straight win. However I hope you can respect the choices I and thousands of other football fans are making when we don’t attend the matches this weekend.

My last motivation for boycotting this weekend is anger, and I’ve already touched upon this when discussing the FFA’s failures, plus the bilious shite spewed forth by the haters. I’d also like to add as a ‘reason to be angry’ the frustration of seeing errors and calumnies perpetrated by both the administrators of football and its critics in Australia repeated from years gone by. Have the FFA not learned from the fuck-ups and bullshit of their predecessors the Australian Soccer Federation and Soccer Australia? The incestuous, nepotistic regime that has grown in ‘new football’ during the Lowy years is beginning to look more and more like the same bumbling, self-enriching autocratic administrations that continually took ‘old soccer’ one step forward then two steps back. The inability of Gallop, de Bohun and both Frank and now Stephen Lowy to listen to the fans reminds me of the era of David Hill and his ‘de-wogification’ of late 90s Australian soccer. The strife riven years of the Sir Arthur George ascendancy in the 70s and 80s, when the NSL became first a promising rebirth of Australian football and then was brought low, seem eerily similar to what is happening now. It pisses me off that we are seeing yet more self-inflicted wounds being wrought on football when common sense and being more receptive to the fans could’ve been avoided so much of this shit happen again, and again, and again…

I’m also infuriated by the submissiveness of the FFA under the current leadership, as they have utterly failed to mount a vigorous and fact-based defence of my sport, fellow fans, and by direct association, me. I can’t say it any better than how Simon Hill frames the anger of being let down by Gallop:

When fans are labelled thugs, criminals, even likened to terrorists, you’d expect one of the main faces of the game to stand up and be counted. After all, those same supporters are the ones used incessantly in FFA marketing campaigns, to promote our point of difference.

We expected to see a football version of Braveheart, all fire and brimstone, ready to charge forward in defence of the games greatest asset.

What did we get? A man trotting at a sedate pace, armed with a damp sponge, subsequently used to gently mop the brow of the games accusers. This was appeasement of Neville Chamberlain proportions. (Simon Hill: David Gallop missed chance to defend football, now game is fighting with itself, Foxsports, 2/12/15)

'Peace in Our Time'...The Great Appeaser easing Code War tensions

‘Peace in Our Time’…The Great Appeaser easing Code War tensions

There are literally dozens of facts, arguments, histories and plain, simple stories from those at the coal face of football that Gallop could’ve used in rebutting the lies, exaggerations and hate spewed forth since the Sunday Telegraph went at football like an Afrikaaner’s police dog at the Soweto uprising in 1976. Only last Friday, November 27th 2015 a report from the NSW government advised that the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust stadia (i.e. SCG and Allianz Stadium was one of the most violent venues in the state, and of the 12 verifiable incidents that led to this situation four were during NRL games, three during cricket matches, and two each from union and AFL. Football, the supposed sport where thugs and suburban terrorists put families at threat of all manner of harm could only manage one incident (source)

It makes every passionate football fan’s blood boil that when we wanted someone to stick up for us, to tear down the scaremongering, inaccurate falsehoods and exaggerations about our sport, the man who should’ve lead the charge instead did a half-baked impersonation of Sir Robin the Not So Brave from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. He could not have been any more submissive if he had been written into the plot of ‘Venus in Furs’ by Sacher-Masoch. Instead of Churchillian defiance we got Mussolini standing outside the Villa Feltrinelli in his puppet Salo Republic circa 1945, presiding over a regime that had lost the support of all bar a few delusional hangers-on. Gallop failed to honour those very supporters who, without their passion, money, time and belief that has been committed to Australian football, would leave him and everyone else associated with the FFA and the A-League unemployed.

So when the Foxtel cameras scans around Wanderland this Saturday and seat upon seat upon seat is shown to be empty, there will be at least one of those vacancies that hopefully has been explained. I am boycotting because the push has come to shove.

Gallop Out

de Bohun Out

Reform or resign FFA.

The 2013/14 A-League Season Half-Time Report

The beginning of Round Fourteen sees the current A-League season effectively reach the midway point of normal competition, and for all the positives spruiked in the early rounds, there are some points of concern both on and off the pitch. Whilst no one would say that the A-League administrators, clubs, players and crowds are in the worst of times, there are several symptoms of a malaise that wasn’t so concerning last season. I’ll be writing more on some of these issues in future posts, but for now here are what I consider the highs and lows of 2013/14.

Refereeing/Officiating

If there is one single part of the A-League that has done the most damage to football as a sport this season it has to be the officiating. From bad calls on offsides, disallowed goals, bad penalties that shouldn’t have been given or spot kicks that were missed, the use of yellow and red cards, almost every game in every round has had something to make the fans flesh crawl and the coaches to yank their hair out. In recent games we’ve had multiple handballs missed (Victory vs Wanderers, Round 12), players sent off before they even get on the pitch (Glory vs Mariners), players protected whilst they arguably dive or at least manipulate the officials (del Piero winning a free against Brisbane), and this is but the tip of an iceberg. At the beginning of the season the referees lobbied for an were awarded a pay rise of 20%. Yet if there was to be a commensurate increase in the proficiency of the officials or a similar quantitative decrease in blunders then the refs should be charged by the ACCC for theft.

I’m unsure of how the FFA or anyone else associated with the A-League can help redress this problem with the A-League’s officiating. Unfortunately the referees and linesmen who are given their role in each round are coming from a relatively small group of people who may not necessarily number in sufficient quantity to allow for promotion of better officials and relegation of those who make errors. About seven or so referees seem to be cycled through repeatedly over each round with hardly any reward for excellence nor deterrent for stuffing up. Many are relatively young and inexperienced, with only someone like Strebre Delovski standing out as someone who could officiate not just in the A-League but also in other more prestigious domestic or international competitions. The plight of linesmen and lineswomen a.k.a. assistant referees is even worse. I certainly don’t agree with the thoughts of referees’ boss Ben Wilson about extra eyes helping the men and women officiating A-League games, and like many fans I understand that the human element in each game’s officiating will mean mistakes are made. I would suggest more needs to be done to get our match officials drawn from a wider base of participants (including ex-professional players where possible), plus have those currently in the A-League given more support to train and engage with more prestigious leagues. Whether these suggestions solve the problems hurting the A-League right now is anyone’s guess. However right now no one from inside the halls of FFA’s HQ seem to be saying anything public about recognising the problem and saying it will be dealt with.

The Coaching Roundabout

Even before the beginning of Round Thirteen the A-League had seen four clubs change their coaches, either unwillingly or as a result of a boot up the bum of the previous seat holder. As it stands Ange Postecoglou left Melbourne Victory to become the Socceroos coach, Graham Arnold departed the Mariners to join J-League club Vegalta Sendai, Alistair Edwards lost a in-house power struggle at Perth Glory, and finally the management of Melbourne Heart eventually woke up to the disaster that was John Aloisi’s tenure. In each case assistant or interim coaches have been brought in or back, however with  casualty rate of 40% it seems as if job security as a coach in the A-League is not that easy to establish. Throw in public and rumoured rumblings over Frank Farina (Sydney FC), Gary Van Egmond (Newcastle United) and Josep Gombau (Adelaide United) only Tony Popovic and Mike Mulvey seem to have a grasp on their roles at their respective clubs.

Now has such instability hurt the development of the A-League this season, especially contrasted to last season? I believe it has. Of all fourteen coaches who have had a role in guiding the ten clubs this season I would argue only Postecoglou, Popovic, Gombau and Mulvey have demonstrated any growth in their players’ systems, style and (hopefully) success. Kevin Muscat has definitely lost some of the developmental traction his previous boss had with the Victory, whilst Popovic has been the one to implement the most serious change to his club’s system and roster and get good results. Mulvey has possibly done little more than embellish the old ‘Roarcalona’ motif of playing under their 2010/11 and 2011/12 guru Postecoglou, whereas Gombau has taken the Spanish possession leitmotif to another level (without a decent return on investment in terms of points and wins). Having said that the Adelaide experiment is focused on longer term results beyond the current season, so with that context in mind it is a little unfair to judge Gombau’s work on the results so far.

Those clubs that are in the lower half of the ladder as it stands right now are not just reflective of average performances on the park; they are also demonstrating the failings of their coaches to achieve consistency and create winning systems. There also have to be questions in some instances over how those coaches recruited and had their players prepared physically. Frank Farina has had many of his issues stemming from the combination of an ageing squad prone to injuries, thus curtailing any consistent performance from the players. Ally Edwards was undone by a combination of injury and perhaps most heinously the introduction of his sons into the Glory squad. John Aloisi had the misfortune of recruiting players who have under-delivered most egregiously (i.e. Michael Mifsud) or had any value in the first half of the season curtailed through injuries (Engelaar and Kewell). These three coaches have arguably been the most bankrupt in terms of creating success through quality coaching, and in the specific case of John Aloisi the disarray his management of the Heart engendered leaves them effectively already out of the 2013/14 race.

Crowds and Game Attendance

Generally speaking the first half of this season has been very productive in terms of numbers going to A-League games, thanks to almost every club lifting their average attendance above last season’s figures. Round One started the season with a bang, thanks to a 100,000+ total across all five games driven by the Melbourne derby between Victory and Heart. Then there was the great success from the first Sydney derby of the season, when over 40,000 fans went to Allianz Stadium to see the Wanderers beat Sydney FC in Round Three. As it stands eight of the ten A-League clubs (the Jets and Mariners being the exceptions) have exceeded their 2012/13 crowd averages, and in the case of the bigger clubs these numbers are up by around 24% (Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers), and around 9% (Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC). There have been some flat rounds and the FFA must have some concerns over the decline in raw attendance numbers for the Mariners. Having said that there should be every reasonable expectation that by the end of 2013/14 we will see the largest numbers of attendees at A-League games across a single season in the competition’s short history.

Media

The introduction of new free-to-air options in TV and radio has undoubtedly helped the A-League’s profile rise through 2013/14, with SBS now showing the Friday night games on their second and HD channels. Additionally ABC radio now broadcasts all games live on their digital network plus depending upon circumstances local and regional AM/FM channels. Having said that the main engine for the A-League’s coverage in the audio/visual media has been Foxtel, who have claimed a rise of about 6% in viewer numbers over last season. However in relative terms the major difficulty faced by the A-League this season in getting eyes and ears glued to games is that the competition from a resurgent Australian cricket team and that sports coverage has blossomed exponentially. TV and radio coverage of the A-League this season has also been damaged somewhat by the lack of last season’s excitement created through the debut of the Wanderers plus the arrival of major marquees like del Piero, Heskey and Ono. Generally speaking until the A-League finds mass free-to-air coverage through commercial broadcasters such as Nine, Seven or Ten, who are then hopefully willing to devote as much production and promotional effort to the A-League as per their respective current broadcast sports such as Rugby League, AFL, Cricket and Tennis, it will continue to be a marginal sport when it comes to broadcast media coverage.

In the mainstream print media the story is far more complex, with reportage often at variance with the more general ‘op.ed.’ work of the newspaper commentators. Unfortunately with the decline  in quantity and quality of specialist sports journalists who write only on their specific sports, most of the articles that have been written that have done damage to the A-League this season have come from biased, unscrupulous News Limited writers. The dominance of News Limited papers in several major Australian cities has arguably helped contribute to a less than flattering image of the A-League and/or the clubs, particularly in Adelaide and Melbourne, and to a lesser extent in Sydney. I would argue that whilst there are some good journalists in both Fairfax and News Limited print organs, they are not of a standard seen in past years (for example I don;t believe even the best of Mike Cockerill or David Davutovic matches the work done by Tom Anderson in the 70s and 80s).

One promising aspect of the A-League’s media coverage this season has been the growing depth and quality of podcasts, both commercial and independent. Personally speaking my two favourites are the ABC’s Top of the League and Fox Sports Football Australia podcasts. However these are not the only options for audio media coverage of the A-League, and it could be argued that it is through these formats, as well as other new media (including blogs such as this one), the future of the A-League’s non-TV coverage will be directed.

Playing Standards

Generally speaking it would be hard to prove the hypothesis that the overall majority of games this season have been played at a similar standard of those in 2012/13, and this must be a concern for all parties with an investment in football in Australia. The A-League has been improving gradually over the last few years, most noticeably due to the influence of coaches like Postecoglou and players like del Piero and Ono. However stagnation has set in with only Mulvey’s Roar and arguably Popovic’s Wanderers showing glimpses of how the game could be played. The strikers in almost every team have been less than satisfactory with their finishing, and in the case of two gun performers from last season (the Mariners’ Daniel McBreen and Phoenix’s Jeremy Brockie) the decline in standards has been awful. I’ve already referenced the disappointing efforts of Michael Mifsud, but you can add to this list Emile Heskey, Archie Thompson, Shane Smeltz , Mitchell Duke and Jeronimo Neumann who have been battling injury concerns. Aside from the Brisbane pair of Berisha and Yeboah the only A-League strikers who have looked the goods in more than a couple of games have been Tomi Juric for the Wanderers, Adam Taggart for the Jets, and of late Stein Huysegems for the Phoenix.

In terms of midfielders and their quality across the board things look a little better, thanks in no small part to the work of Broich, del Piero, Ono, Troisi, Miller, Hersi, Carrusca, Flores, Hernandez and Nichols. However I would argue that aside from Broich and arguably Nichols none of these leading midfielders have demonstrated week-in, week-out consistency. The elephant in the room regarding A-League midfielders is that we are not seeing enough young creative Australian midfielders who could be the next Harry Kewell or Tom Rogic. An example of this problem is Aaron Mooy, who has only shown a modicum of his promised talent this season. Players like him, the Jets’ Josh Brillante or Glory’s Daniel de Silva need to be progressing further not just for the good of their clubs and the A-League, but for the football in Australia overall.

In the back of the pitch A-League defenders and goalkeepers have been like a curate’s egg, with some stand out performers and squads, and some absolute shockers. The Roar again have the best record and the performers in this context, though I don’t rate Theo as highly as other goalkeepers in other clubs. The work of Ivan Franjic has been generally excellent, and has outpointed his nearest rival Adam Traore. In the right back position Jerome Polenz has been consistently the best performer in the A-League, whilst the return of Matthew Spiranovic to the domestic game also through the Wanderers has been a great success. Unfortunately most other clubs have had their defenders perform in fits and starts, and in some cases (most noticeably the Melbourne Heart and to a lesser extent Sydney FC) the standards have been woeful. Ante Covic, Mark Birighitti, Danny Vukovic, Vedran Janjetovic and Eugene Galekovic have all had pretty decent seasons in front of goal so far, and demonstrated that our best footballers are usually those doing glove work in front of the net.

The Fans

Overall the A-League has achieved a hell of a lot of success with their fan base this season, thanks in no small part to the ripple effect of last season’s fairytale of the Wanderers and the RBB. Memberships are up at many clubs (and in the remarkable case of the Wanderers went from just over 7,000 to 16,000, thus selling out), and targets have been met or exceeded. Having said that the two most well supported clubs in terms of members (i.e. Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers) have had recurrent issues with their active supporters. Whilst not all these problems originate from the fans, there has been incidents and breakdowns in relations between fans and their clubs that have without doubt damaged the reputation of the A-League. The extent and nature of that credibility problem depends on who you listen to or your position within or without the supporter base, and it hasn’t been helped by some hysterically vicious opinions emanating from anti-Football writers in the mainstream press. The bottom line is that no matter how well behaved part or all of the A-League’s fan base is, there will continue to be scrutiny placed on them that borders on unethical, unreasonable and xenophobic.

My Overall Rating

If I was a teacher looking to give a report on this season, I’d think a B+ grade would be appropriate, which in some respects is a bit of a let down from last season. I would not say that the likes of David Gallop and Damien de Bohun have got cause for major concern, however it would be hard to put a positive spin on everything accomplished this season. I suspect that overall the competition has hit a plateau that needs new stimuli to help it take the next step. What they are could be anything from the impact of the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 AFC Cup, through to better refereeing, the return of an iconic Australian player like Tim Cahill to the A-League, or another foreign marquee legend being recruited. The forthcoming FFA Cup will also be a potential positive influence, and who is to say how the ACL may impact upon the A-League in the near future. These are interesting and challenging times for the A-League and its players, coaches and fans.

A Tale of Two Cities (Well, Half and Half of the Same One)

Saturday night saw Sydney’s first A-League derby game of the current season. For the fourth time the two clubs that represent the largest city in Australia in our premiere domestic football competition were going to face off, with every expectation of this most recent of fierce tribal rivalries in the A-League drawing a huge crowd to Allianz Stadium. The home team was at a disadvantage thanks to the non-appearance of their creative heart and soul, as Alessandro del Piero had been injured in last week’s submission to the Roar, however like any (supposedly) proud club they were expected to defend with honour and pride their own turf. The Western Sydney Wanderers, still barely out of their sophomore season build up had shown some tentative form in their first two games of 2013/14, and without defensive midfielder Aaron Mooy might have had some doubts cast on their ability to do the deed required. Instead…

Instead anyone who was there at the game, or watched from the comfort of their own home or a friendly pub, club or tavern would’ve seen two utterly divergent clubs, two teams and their associated fans who only have a postcode starting with 2 as a common factor. By game’s end it was like a football version of a bloodied and bedraggled mess of wounded, defeated soldiers after the battles of Stalingrad, Dien Bien Phu or El Alamein streaming away in utter disorder whilst the rampant invading forces time and time again showed their superiority, both in and out of the arena. Sydney FC capitulated in a way that underscores the cultural, tactical and morale crisis that is haunting that club, whilst everything associated with the Wanderers, whether it be the players, the supporters, the admin staff looked inviolate, unstoppable, all-encompassing.

It must be said that at the very beginning of the game the Sydney FC faithful (a diminishing band no doubt) made a vainglorious attempt at asserting some pride and passion on behalf of their club, but from thereon even this misguided and ill-informed attempt at asserting tribal prominence seemed overshadowed by anything and everything in red and black. On the main field of combat the Wanderers players assumed control very early and barely looked threatened. The first goal came from a magnificent dead ball cross from Shinji Ono, which was connected with by a sweet header from Italian midfielder Iacopo La Rocca and hence went arrow-like into the back of SFC’s net. Within a few moments of this 12th minute goal Youssouf Hersi had nominally taken the Wanderers up to 2-0 however the linesman correctly called an off side, however within a quarter of an hour the Japanese Tensai struck again with what must be considered one of his best in red and black. At this point I feel it important to state what should be obvious except to any one-eyed fan of ADP; Shinji Ono is the best overseas marquee player to have played in the A-League in the last couple of seasons and alongside Thomas Broich and perhaps Dwight Yorke has done more for the success of both their respective clubs and the domestic comp than any other import. I recognise and appreciate the importance and genius of ADP within an incredibly faulty and disconnected SFC structure, but being a sole hand of quality in a dysfunctional situation is more readily seen than being excellent within a better than competent squad. Shinji Ono is not necessarily vital for the Wanderers to be successful, however he has been able to both sit within a holistic or organic team vision that is more often successful than not, yet when necessary take the lead and stimulate the very best from his team mates. It’s the difference between being an ace among rookies and being a leading professor among learned scholars. Shinji inspires and is inspiring, and whilst he is a fulcrum for the Wanderers he is also not above his station as a cog in the red and black machine. He is a champion in a team of champions.

For most of the derby’s first half the Wanderers looked in control, with Hersi, Juric, Polenz, Poljak, Ono and La Rocca being at their best. From the shambolic ranks of Sydney FC only Petkovic could arguably hold his head above his Adam’s apple, with his shot on Covic’s goal rattling the woodwork. The same terrors of incompetent defending that haunted SFC last week returned and particularly in the battle on the right flank Hersi toyed with the underwhelming Warren. In what might be considered an inverse relationship almost everything attempted by the Wanderers was met with an equal amount of wastefulness from the home team. Nicky Carle who has a reputation for style and flair looked out of touch, whilst Adam D’Apuzzo (the most flawed player in the WSW ranks in the last couple of weeks) came back with a vengeance. No longer hirsuite Nikolai Topor Stanley and Mark Bridge demonstrated that clean shaven or not they were superior to their opposite numbers, whilst  Tomi Juric reminded everyone that he has so much potential; a semi-formed talent that needs a little more polish from Popovic. Jerome Polenz was aggressive in defence and insightful in attack, and by half time the myth that Sydney is supposedly sky blue was utterly debunked.

Now as this point I would like to raise an issue that may or may not be germane to the club culture at Sydney FC, or the structures and fan base. However I could not fail to notice the lack of any major numbers on the field at half time of small children playing short games for entertainment and the experience. There was to my count only one micro-contest between the littlies at Allianz at half time, which may be a one off situation. Perhaps the timings were wrong for junior teams to involve themselves in such a home game context, or perhaps Allianz, the SCG Trust and/or Sydney FC couldn’t find enough willing takers. Having seen plenty of wee tackers running around on the pitch at half time at Wanderland though I have to ask a question that may or may not be fair; where the fuck are the kids who are SFC’s future? When the little boys and girls come to Wanderland and play their small games for the enjoyment and the privilege of all involved they always have good numbers plus shout out their support for the Wanderers on leaving the pitch. It may be a moot question however there is a readily apparent pre-teen support basis for the Wanderers; Sydney FC seem to be at best hiding theirs.

The second half of the derby was unfortunately goal-less however there were plenty of opportunities for the Wanderers as Sydney FC’s squad continue to blunder along. I must say that Brendon Santalab looks to be settling in quite nicely with Popa’s squad. He had one major chance that was blown, however not only did he add some spice to the attacking options of the Wanderers he also didn’t look out of place combining with Jerome Polenz. Things did get a bit willing with the yellow cards flying thick and fast, and there was some egregious moments particularly from Warren and Carle. However amid all the disciplinary issues Ono, Bridge, Juric, Poljak and Polenz all had solid chances at scoring. On the other side of the coin aside from a shot direct to Ante Covic the Sky Blues failed to have any meaningful go-forward. Again and again they lost the ball in midfield, failed to cover their flanks or simply didn’t know where they were or what they were doing. When the final whistle came it was like euthanizing a terminally ill goldfish; Sydney FC flapped around out of their comfort zone then quietly passed into oblivion (for at least another round).

It’s only proper at this point to make a few points about the level of support shown in the stands for the two teams. It could be argued that it was for the first 10-20 minutes an even contest between the RBB and the Cove, which in itself is a Pyrrhic victory for the supposedly rusted on Sky Blues. In their ninth season and with premierships and championships behind them at their home ground the Cove should’ve been larger and louder from the start than their junior opponents. Instead by the middle of the first half there was a definite tailing off of the intensity of the active SFC support that was in direct correlation with both the on field impotence of their players and the growth in energy coming from the RBB. There was plenty of support for the Wanderers coming from non-active stands, and by the time came around for the Poznan not only were the RBB fully engaged there were plenty of bays and pockets of red and black supporters contributing from other parts of the stadium. The signal effect of the SFC’s supporters’ defeat was in the closing minutes of the game, where a consistent stream of departing fans from the sky blue bays exited Allianz. Contrasted with the spirit and passion shown by the Wanderers faithful after their most recent defeat at Allianz Stadium, where the vast majority remained behind post-whistle to commiserate with their team after the 2012/13 grand final, it was a pretty piss-poor demonstration from the self-proclaimed ‘best fans’ in the A-League.

So, whither the two clubs? For the Western Sydney Wanderers it would seem the immediate to mid-term future is theirs for the taking. The current squad is certainly better in terms of depth and achievement than that which was in place a year ago, and with such a solid support base that has translated into over 16,000 financial members and future sell-outs at their home ground even if they fail to win any titles this season they are streets ahead of arguably all other clubs in the A-League bar maybe Melbourne Victory. Tony Popovic has kept the team hungry and even with three good results there is still room to improve. It would need some kind of utterly unexpected disaster for the Wanderers to run off the rails. Culturally, professionally and from a spectator’s point of view they are building an empire in football’s heartland that would make every member of the FFA incredibly satisfied. Yes, the need to sell off the club is a process fraught with potential hazards but so far David Gallop and Lyall Gorman have shown astute leadership and good old common fucking sense. If the Western Sydney Wanderers realise their potential then we won’t be talking up the annual derbies between them and Sydney FC; the talk will be of Asian Champions’ League and maybe even greater.

Sydney FC on the other hand are in a hell of a bad pozzie. No one would deny that before the Wanderers came along they had every reason to be proud of what they achieved on the field for most of their short life. I’ve already pointed out their failings as a club that didn’t embrace all of Sydney as they have boasted, and those chickens have come home to roost most pointedly in the last 36 hours. What is more frightening for Sydney FC must be what does their club culture portend for the future? Alessandro del Piero’s absence in the derby was obviously an influence on the basic football brains of his co-players, and at his age with injury always more likely, or at least with his fitness needing careful safeguarding, there could be more non-ADP Sydney FC line ups as the season progresses. Then when he leaves at the end of this season will he take with him all the hype, revenue, on-park nous and appeal for a club that has essentially ridden on his back? Frank Farina and the rest of the coaching staff are patently failing in either their ability to guide their players, keep them fit or develop younger talents, and the fans of the Sky Blues are close to revolt over their continual incompetence (which in turn is damaging the reputation and management of Tony Pignata, Scott Barlow and David Traktavenko). The ‘Sydney is sky blue’ facade is as cracked as a dozen eggs placed under a hippo’s bum, and the continual questions over whether Sydney FC is a popular club or Bling FC eats at the heart of their raison d’etre (if in fact there is such a thing). If ever the FFA looks to expand the A-League with a reborn Wollongong club it is highly likely SFC would lose a significant reservoir of junior talent, and  the continual turn over in coaches will make them even less appealing to anyone foolhardy enough to take over if Farina gets dumped.  It would seem to me that Sydney FC has dug itself a hole through willful incompetence, delusion and overly-exaggerated expectations that has created a perfect shit-storm of misery. Joe Gorman’s article in The Guardian sum’s this up perfectly:

As much as he has boosted the profile of the A-League, off the pitch time is fast running out for Sydney FC to capitalise on his presence. He was rarely spotted in pre-season, and when he returns home at season’s end, the club is likely to be back at square one. How many of the new fans that came to see Del Piero play will hang around to watch Sydney FC in the long term, particularly considering the lacklustre football on display? Sadly, Sydney’s marquee player might be just another costly short term investment.
The lack of boardroom stability and vision has left the club in a perpetual state of flux, constantly agonising over whether to embrace or shelve the Bling FC tag they’ve been burdened with. They’ve flirted with stars and experimented with blue collar cred, but nothing has really ‘stuck.’ Perhaps the only consistent message has come from the home end in The Cove.
It is said that Sydney is a city that loves winners, but in a 10-team competition levelled out by the salary cap, no club can hope to hedge their future on success alone. There needs to be a more nuanced understanding and articulation of why Sydney FC exist, who they represent, and what they stand for. Otherwise, the Wanderers will win more than just the west.

In this A-League Tale of Two Cities everyone at Sydney FC is up for the guillotine and there is no nobility in their sacrifice; they have been a wastrel club whilst their new cross-town rivals have won all the plaudits, all the honour, all the recognition they have sought. The 2-0 win for the Wanderers was just a symbol of the clash of cultures that has coloured Sydney red and black.