FFA has conceded it “got it wrong” over the banned fans furore and promises to review the A-League’s appeals policy, but the apparent olive branch has only fuelled angry active supporter groups who say they will boycott matches indefinitely.
New FFA chairman Steven Lowy fronted the media for the first time on Thursday in response to deepening fan anger and league-wide strikes following News Corp Australia’s publication of 198 banned spectators’ names late last month.
Lowy and chief executive David Gallop attempted to quell the tensions that boiled over following Gallop’s first media conference two days ago, when his perceived inability to show leadership and defend the sport sparked outcry from coaches, executives and players.
Gallop conceded FFA “had learnt some lessons this week”, admitting error in failing to come out earlier and denounce the banned fans leak and acknowledging the governing body sent a “confused message” to spectators.
Lowy, who again rammed home the zero-tolerance policy on anti-social behaviour, promised a review of FFA’s unpopular banning process, adding a new policy should be finalised by the FFA’s next board meeting in February.
He said it would involve extensive consultation with all stakeholders including fans.
But supporters reacted furiously to FFA’s stance that while it would address the possibility of making evidence against banned fans transparent, it was far from a done deal.
The issue of confidentiality is a complex one, with FFA largely relying on vision supplied by police and security bodies.
But it’s understood a condition of this agreement is that such footage is not legally allowed to be given to third parties.
“It (also) occasionally comes from fans themselves on the basis it doesn’t become disclosed that they gave it to us,” Gallop said.
“We want to protect their identity and that’s an important part of the system.
“On the one hand, you want to have transparency and, on the other, you want to protect the ability to get that information.”
The Wanderers’ active supporter group the Red and Black Bloc (RBB) and Melbourne Victory’s North Terrace responded with Facebook posts declaring they would both boycott their club’s games indefinitely until FFA changed its procedures and relationship with its biggest stakeholders.
They reiterated their demand for transparent evidence and accused the “out of touch” organisation of substantiating bans based on hearsay.
“Football fans in this country are sick of being treated like second-class citizens, being watched by anti-terrorist groups, surrounded by riot police weekly, and treated with less regard by our governing body than those on trial for murder,” North Terrace’s statement read.
Spokesman for Sydney FC’s The Cove Grant Muir was more diplomatic, saying Lowy and Gallop had sent an improved message.
But it would not change the group’s decision to boycott Friday night’s home match against Newcastle.
“On this subject, the FFA’s lost an awful lot of credibility and, until we see concrete action and can assess whether there really is a genuine will to address the issues we see, then they’re just words,” Muir told AAP.
Lowy said he had met NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, the SCG Trust and the chairmen of A-League clubs to help understand the issue, while investigations continued in a bid to locate the source of the list leak.
He described the leak as “a travesty” and condemned the recent slandering of football fans as “suburban terrorists” and “grubby pack animals”, the latter a comment by assistant police commissioner Kyle Stewart.
“I think it’s wrong, I think it’s offensive and I think it’s said by people who don’t understand the game,” Lowy said.