They say that fans talk with their feet and if that is the case Perth Glory Fans are currently screaming at the top of their voice, yet no one seems to be listening.
After the debacle that was last season, where the club performed superbly on the pitch and looked headed for the Grand Final, only to have that dream snatched away due to the club breaching the salary cap restrictions, fans have reacted angrily.
To many this was the final straw. There have been far too many marketing and PR stuff-ups to list in this one article, but the one consistent component through four CEOs and one acting CEO has been the man at the top of the tree, the owner, Tony Sage.
What has angered the fans was the lack of accountability for the ‘sins’ of last season. The club continually denied that it had done wrong. The owner claimed he knew nothing about the payments under the table yet one of the organisations he is involved with was reported to have paid Andy Keogh’s wife to top up the striker’s earnings. Talk to anyone who has, or currently works, at the club and they will tell you that not a dollar is spent without the owner’s approval. It was incomprehensible that he did not know about the payments. The CEO was forced to resign as the FFA brokered a deal after negotiations and threats to go to court looked like bringing further unwanted publicity. They agreed to stop delving into the workings of the club, as long as someone took the fall, and the club accepted a fine and a deduction of points that would prevent it from playing in the finals.
To many the FFA ‘bottled’ the investigation. With Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners all looking for new owners they were concerned if they ploughed on looking into the club they would find even more and be forced to take back the licence and try and find an owner for a fourth franchise. The threat of legal action was also a major concern as they did not have the funds to fight a case that could get expensive if it dragged on. In addition to these issues they did not have the manpower or the resources to commit to a thorough investigation. They had put in place rules that essentially they did not have the manpower to police.
Through all of the denials, suspensions, and point deductions never once did the owner apologise to the fans for what had happened. It is alleged, – and an IT specialist we are told would easily be able to prove the fact, – that on the morning of the FFA’s announcement of the punishment meted out to the club, the terms and conditions on memberships was altered to prevent any fan claiming a refund on fees paid to the club. If this is indeed true, is that really the way to treat your loyal fans?
The only semblance of an apology came from the new CEO – an independent appointment – at a fan forum soon after his commencing in the role. Even then sources claim that a meeting was held that afternoon to discuss how this would be handled and worded, as the owner did not see why such an apology was necessary. The Media and Communications Manager and the MC on the night of the forum were involved in the meeting.
So what could the fans do to show their disgust and lack of faith in the direction the club has been taken over the past 7-8 years? Many wanted to walk away but argued that they support the players, the team on the pitch, and not the administration, so took out membership again, and one should respect that loyalty. Others decided to support the club, but from afar. No longer would they put money into the owner’s pocket. Many vowed not to return until a new owner was found.
Once again the club announced pre season that the magical crowd figure they needed to start making money was 10,000; even though the club has never averaged such a figure in the A-League.
At the opening game of the season they managed 7728 v Adelaide United. The next home game against Sydney FC it had dropped to 6976; a figure that looked inflated by those who attend NIB Stadium regularly. Glory won and drew these fixtures respectively.
The next two games, which have been in the last week, have seen the club record two victories, and remain unbeaten at home, yet only 5590 came to watch the win over the Central Coast Mariners and 5398 the win over Melbourne Victory.
When one considers that the club boasted that it had achieved 5000 members these are disastrous figures. When you also take into account that Ticketmaster, who do the ticketing for the club, can print up to 3500 free of charge tickets for the club to give away, the crowd figures become even more alarming.
Many of these free of charge tickets are given to corporate sponsors, who then distribute the tickets to their guests. The Perth Glory also gave all their NPL juniors free tickets to the games.
It is believed that the club has not used their full quota of free tickets from Ticketmaster apart from the opening game when they acquired close to 3000 tickets to try and ensure a bumper crowd for the season opener. Even if they were only utilising 1500 of these free tickets then the crowds in the past two games drop below 4000 paying fans coming through the turnstiles. That has to have a massive financial impact on the club.
So much of an impact that although talk is currently about which overseas player will be cut in January to make way for the returning Andy Keogh, staff may well be forced out from the administration. There is no doubt that Keogh could well be the last roll of the dice for the owner. He has been brought back to score goals and re-invigorate the club and hopefully his goals will lead to wins, which will pull punters back through the gates.
Some believe that this may well happen, but usually such gambles rarely pay off. First of all Keogh has to have the service to score goals on the pitch. If he does how many of those fans who have stood firm will weaken in their resolve and leave the pubs where they congregate to watch the game and head back to NIB Stadium? At best one would suggest 500-1000 at most. Are those numbers going to be enough to reach the magical 10,000 gate?
The one thing that the owner, and to be fair many in football administration fail to realise about football fans is that whether you plough millions into the club or not, by paying their membership, by paying hard earned cash to watch their team, fans feel an ownership of the side the support. They will never stop supporting the team, but at the same time they need to be respected and listened to. They need to be treated decently and not brushed aside like some annoying pest. The owner of Perth Glory has never shown the fans respect, he has never been honest with them, and his antics and comments have finally taken their toll. Many of these fans will continue to stand firm because believe it or not they care passionately for the club, and they know that the club needs new owners and new leadership. They believe strongly that their actions will in the end be for the good of the club.
Their is no doubt that their actions are currently causing pain, but as the saying goes without pain there can be no gain. Ask many what they would like for Christmas and its not another three points at home, but a new owner.