Football Federation Australia (FFA) has admitted it “got it wrong” over the banned fans furore and promises to review the A-League’s appeals policy, but the olive branch won’t stop active supporter groups boycotting matches this weekend.
New FFA chairman Steven Lowy fronted the media for the first time on Thursday in response to deepening fan anger across the code following News Corp Australia’s publication of the names of 198 banned spectators late last month.
Tensions have boiled over in the past two days since chief executive David Gallop’s first media conference, when his perceived inability to show leadership and defend the sport led to outcry from coaches, executives and players.
Active supporter groups from Western Sydney, Sydney FC and Central Coast have pledged to boycott this week’s matches entirely, while Adelaide United’s supporter group, the Red Army, have announced they will walk out after half-an-hour of Sunday’s home game against Perth.
Speaking alongside Lowy on Thursday, Gallop conceded he made a mistake in failing to come out earlier and denounce the banned fans leak.
“We should have said more earlier,” he said.
“It was an article that unfairly tarnished the vast majority of decent football people.”
Lowy promised he would take a proposal to review FFA’s unpopular banning process to the governing body’s board later on Thursday, adding a new policy should be finalised by the next board meeting in February.
He said it would involve extensive consultation with all stakeholders including fans.
Supporters are furious FFA is still insisting fans seeking to have a ban overturned must prove their innocence while the governing body won’t disclose evidence used to ban them.
Gallop said transparency was something the review would address, but it was difficult for confidentiality reasons.
“There is information that … only provided if it’s kept confidential, so we’ve got to be careful how we look at that in this review,” he said.
It’s understood the reason FFA is unable to share evidence with the fans is due to a binding legal agreement with NSW Police.
Gallop acknowledged FFA’s “confused message” on fan consultation needed work, adding channels of dialogue had now been opened with clubs.
It was an improved message according to The Cove spokesman Grant Muir.
But Muir said 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.
He described the leaking of the list as “a travesty”, but reiterated the organisation’s zero-tolerance policy to those supporters engaging in anti-social behaviour.
But he did condemn 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,” he said.