Being a supporter means being exactly that, supporting the club and the image of that club through thick and thin; having supported Swindon Town all my life, trust me I know.
Swindon in the past 25 years have had more owners than fans can list. From the turn of the last century until 1980 – 80 years – the club had 13 managers, from 1980 to the present day – 33 years – they have had 20 managers. That has much to do with the changing trends in football as the calibre of the people given the role.
Owners come and go in modern football, players come and go, and so too do managers. Fans will air their grievances as they are entitled to do, as they quite rightly feel paying their membership or entrance fee and wearing club merchandise showing their allegiance means they have earned that right. Many will vote with their feet if they feel strongly enough on issues at the club. Fans around the world have also launched all manner of protests over the years; one of the most famous being when Reading fans wore underpants on their heads, PANTS stood for “Players Are Not Trying Sufficiently.”
Yet despite airing their views on players, coaches and owners fans will remain loyal to their club. A difference of opinion does not make a fan disloyal.
Perth Glory fans are currently being tested, as the club once again finds itself embroiled in an unwanted public spat. Social media is a new phenomenon that means, in the modern day, things escalate extremely quickly and rumours right or wrong, gain legs rapidly. This puts the clubs under even greater pressure and shows how they need to be proactive with the fans rather than reactive.
Consistency off the field has been a major issue at Perth Glory. Alistair Edwards is the fourth coach since Tony Sage took over ownership. The club is on its third CEO, and in addition to these two others have acted in that role. One of the few constants has been the leadership on the pitch. Jacob Burns was recruited by Dave Mitchell and installed as captain, he has maintained that role through the reign of Ian Ferguson and Alistair Edwards. Whether fans like the coaches or the player, Burns under Mitchell lead the club back into the finals for the first time in A-League history, under Ferguson he took them to a first Grand Final. He has proven leadership qualities where they matter. He has also lead the club to a certain level of success.
The area the club seems to be failing is leadership off the pitch and they need to spend the relevant money and employ a CEO with a genuine football background and with experience in a similar role. (With respect to past and current incumbents they have not had that experience).
The lack of any form of statement from the Perth Glory since the dressing room bust up on Friday evening has again highlighted this. Had such an issue occurred in any club in Europe the matter would have been snuffed out within 24-48 hours.
The silence and speculation is upsetting many members who have handed over their money pre-season, sponsors, and walk up fans, as well as the stay at home fans. Following the trends on social media it is reminiscent of the rift that broke the back of Perth Glory when then owner Nick Tana opted not to renew then Coach Bernd Stange’s contract. Some fans sided with Stange and co-owner Paul Afkos, others with Tana. The club witnessed pre-match protests, and to be honest never recovered fully from this split of allegiance The current situation is taking on a similar shape with some fans backing the coach and others backing the leader on the pitch Jacob Burns.
With gates averaging around 8000 a game, – including a large number of giveaway tickets – the club cannot afford to alienate any of these loyal supporters and that is why swift action and communication was and is vital. Hopefully the issue will be resolved today as it cannot afford to roll into another day.
Perth Glory will survive this storm, the fans will remember it and talk about it for years, but not with pride. Another incident like this is severely testing as they are becoming an annual event. The loyal fans will continue to support the club, despite the hurt and disappointment, because that is what loyal fans do. Everyone should take their hats off to those fans, especially the club itself as they have had a lot to bear in recent years; hopefully they will be rewarded in time on the pitch.