Every coach in modern day sport knows that if results are not going their way, the pressure on their job mounts. In this modern era of social media that pressure can intensify and also become extremely personal.
Regrettably there will always be people who will not put a real name to their comments, just as you will have an individual within the safety of a packed grandstand hurl racial abuse, some people simply do not have the courage to stand by their comments and beliefs, nothing has changed there.
It was interesting to read Sydney FC coach Frank Farina’s comments on his own website about a campaign to see him sacked. Credit to him for speaking out. Many a coach would have sat there quietly and not responded.
There is no doubt that Farina’s life has revolved around football, as his autobiography implied, “My World is Round,” and having played and coached the national team he will have seen all kinds of strange and hurtful goings on, but it is hard to agree with one part of his article.
In his piece entitled ‘About Ducks and Fans’ he states “A real football fan follows their team through thick and thin. A real football fan, when faced with 1 win & 3 losses for the start of the season, is asking what they can do to help get the team on track. A real football fan doesn’t write an expletive laden message about not going to the game on the weekend, but realises this is the time more than ever that they’re needed at home against their biggest traditional rival.”
Sadly having been a player more than a diehard fan paying to watch his team each week Mr Farina’s views are a little misguided. Yes a real football fan follows their team through thick and thin. This writer was at the ground for his team’s lowest crowd in the club’s its 134 year history, and vowed he would not watch the next home game their performance was so poor, but the lure was too great and he paid his money and was back at the next game.
Fans will always question coaching decisions, player recruitment and deployment, as football is a game of opinions and similarly when things are not going well they will question those decisions even harder. One thing that a fan will not tolerate is their team falling below the standards they expect, win or lose, or their club being made a laughing stock. Frequently these issues are not of the coach’s doing, but of the administrators at the club who cross that line and try to become involved in footballing matters which must always be the sole domain of the coach. As one former England international player stated recently ‘too many club owners want to be managers of clubs.’
Farina is right real fans do not write expletive ridden messages about their club. They do however have every right to vote with their feet and not attend games if they feel the club is not being run properly on or off the pitch. It comes down to an individual’s opinion and principles, many will continue to attend, and if they do they feel they have the right to air their views at the game. Always in their mind they are stating what they believe is the best for their team.
Footballers and coaches now earn far more than they did in yesteryear, in many cases much more than the fans paying to watch them. Fans spend their hard earned cash to support their team, and to many that investment gives them the right to have a say in what they see as their club; after all they are constant, coaches, players and owners are not. Too many owners forget that important issue.
With the money in the game today comes expectations. Expectations on performance and simple everyday business practises to ensure that the club continues in the image that the fans believe in. The reason many fans opt to either not attend or air their views in a balanced or unfortunately vitriolic way is because the care about their club, but feel that their opinions and views are not being listened to. That decisions are made without consideration of the impact it has on them their loyal supporters. Frequently the club’s own social media is to blame as it lacks honesty, failing to acknowledge below par performances and making out the team was unlucky, when in truth they had a bad game. Fans want honest communication not spin. Fans want respect and not to be treated like idiots.
Looking back at Sydney FC and Frank Farina’s current situation, of one win and three losses from their first four games, is there really a need to panic just yet? The truth is they deserved a win against Perth Glory in their last game, and only the heroics of Danny Vukovic prevented them leaving the West with at least a point. Why would you sack a coach five games into the A-League season? Why would you sack a coach during an A-league season, when if he manages to steer the team to mid-table they will make the finals and have a very good chance of being crowned Champions. Is it worth the disruption, and a new coach gaming his predecessors recruitment on results for the next year?
Real fans care. Just as a young child when it is really mad with its parents may tell them it hates them, they don’t. They love them but they do not know a better way of showing how hurt they feel. Sometimes that vitriol is simply the hurt fans feel at their team underachieving, but rest assured they care.