There are times when people have to make the right decisions even if there is a cost in the short term. This is when leaders gain respect. This is when people know the boundaries that they must not cross. Leadership can be lonely it can be unpopular, but that is why many of our leaders are paid the big dollars.
A few weeks ago on the show we stated that the honeymoon was over for Football Federation of Australia CEO David Gallop. He has been in the job for a year and it is now time we start to see his leadership come to the fore. He has had time to asses the overall operations and work out what needs changing, what needs tweaking, and what should stay the same; of course he may find financial constraints hard to overcome.
Last night at the A-League fixture between Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar a number of flares were let off, and it appears a woman aged in her 20s and a 12-year-old boy received burns.
The clubs have a duty along with their security staff to ensure that flares do not get into the grounds. A fact that they are all very well aware of. Although some will always sneak through and as we saw in the old NSL fans would go into the ground days before the game and hide them so that when searched on match day they were clean. People who wish to let these things off will find a way. However the clubs need to be more vigilant.
Victoria Police’s North West Metro Commander Rick Nugent was quoted in a Police press release as saying “The increased anti-social behaviour we are seeing at the soccer this season is completely unacceptable. Last season, there were eight instances where flares were let off. Since the first match on 10 October this season, we’ve already seen 38 flares let off and approximately 200 chairs broken.This is not acceptable.”
“Flares are extremely dangerous. They can burn at more than 1000 degrees Celsius and are not designed to be released in highly populated areas. As we saw last night, people can get and will get injured if this behaviour continues.” He continued.
So last night was not a one off incident. Seven games into this season and 38 flares have been let off. That is an average of five per game.
As Mr Nugent said in the same release, “We have been working closely with the Football Federation Australia, the stadiums, the clubs and security to make matches a safer, more enjoyable environment for match-goers. But clearly there is more that needs to be done.”
Most fans would agree with that sentiment. The FFA had the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker and state that they will not tolerate such behaviour. The obvious penalty would have been for Melbourne Victory to be forced to play there next home game behind closed doors; a penalty many clubs around the world have suffered as a result of their fans behaviour.
Instead the FFA issued a statement of their own today which said they are ‘working with all stakeholders to ensure those responsible for discharging flares at last night’s Hyundai A-League match at Etihad stadium face five year bans under the FFA Code of Conduct. FFA stands firm with its stance against anti-social behaviour and is working with the Victorian Police, Etihad Stadium and Melbourne Victory to ensure the unique atmosphere and environment at A-League games is protected and those responsible last night face bans.’
Head of the A-League Damien de Bohun is then quoted as saying “”FFA has a zero tolerance policy in relation to anti-social behaviour and will enforce all sanctions available under the Code of Conduct. The incident last night shows the dangers of discharging flares and FFA will continue to show zero tolerance. The incident is a police matter and FFA will not make any further comment.”
Will the FFA take stronger action than just fining Melbourne Victory, the answer is that such action is very unlikely as to do so would ruin one of the FFA’s major marketing tools, crowd figures. They continue to tell us how the game is growing based on crowd figures at Hyundai A-League games. Melbourne Victory’s next home game is a blockbuster against arch rival Adelaide United a game that saw 33,000 pack Adelaide Oval in round two. So they would not want to see a game which can make the crowd figures look rosy damaged by forcing the Victory to play behind closed doors.
Fans need to be asking how would the FFA react if Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets or Wellington Phoenix had such a record with flares. Melbourne Victory is one of the two biggest clubs in the A-League along with Western Sydney Wanderers – whose fans had incidents of their own last season – and they will never punish the big clubs in a way that will damage the overall image of the A-League. Those less supported clubs mentioned would have faced far greater penalties as to make an example of them would not hurt the league so much.
If you find this hard to believe think back on how when Sydney FC were the blue riband club in the competition, they broke the salary cap and won the League, yet were not stripped of the title. Imagine if Perth Glory continue their splendid early season form and go all the way to win their first A-League title, and then the FFA find that they have assembled their squad by topping up player payments outside of the club; something nearly every club has done every season. David Gallop stripped Melbourne Storm of their NRL titles when he was the head of that game, would he take the same action in the A-League? Would he make an example of a club like Perth Glory where John O’Neill chose not to with Sydney FC?
There are many who feel that the A-League is run on a one rule for some and another for the other clubs. Their handling of these multiple flare issues just add fuel to the fire. If you will excuse the phrase.
In the meantime we pray no one else gets hurt as a result of a flare, and wish those injured a speedy recovery.