The section of the home active end left empty by the RBB. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

The section of the home active end left empty by the RBB. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

‘You, our fans, are the lifeblood of the A-Leagues. The atmosphere you create is what makes our leagues so exciting and unique.’

That was the opening line used by Nick Garcia, CEO of the APL (Australia Professional Leagues), in a statement released this morning regarding the events that unfolded over the weekend involving fans and police.

After reading that first paragraph, for once it seemed as though the heartbeat of what makes the A-Leagues tick was finally being fully backed and supported.

However, the rest of the statement is another glaring example of how the code’s leaders in this country fail to read the room and provide some backbone.

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Garcia inexplicably went from acknowledging supporters’ concerns to backflipping entirely as he mentioned twice about not condoning fan misbehaviour.

Given the feedback about the alleged heavy over-policing creating an uncomfortable environment and using unnecessary force, as well as viewing video footage from CommBank and Suncorp Stadium – the lack of assurance provided to fans is incredibly confusing.

Perhaps, the only logical explanation that makes any sense is that the APL knows something that we don’t.

Mid-statement, Garcia mentions that ‘we call on every fan – the overwhelming majority we know are fantastic supporters – to adhere to venue and safety protocols.’

Everyone is aware that football is not immune to a few idiots who can quite easily bring the game into disrepute and ruin it for the rest. Could it be that other incidents have occurred behind the scenes that only the APL have information on?

Obviously, we hope that’s not the case, but Garcia and the APL board sure better have answers if that isn’t the reason for publishing a less-than-convincing announcement.

The domestic landscape in Australian football has survived countless horrific mishandlings and incidents that have unequivocally sent the game backwards whether it be Tom Glover being hit with a bucket, the controversial APL Grand Final decision, or the 2015 walkouts – never has it been smooth-sailing.

But although people may argue that the A-League will pull through once again, this is the last chance for the APL before serious damage is created which may kill the game we love for the foreseeable future.

When the strikes and walkouts played out almost a decade ago due to protests regarding the treatment of active support on top of other issues, many who were counted as casual fans did not return again.

Let’s be real, the crowd figures at most clubs are nothing to set the world on fire, but the ones who are supporting their respective teams each week are the core fans – the same fans who are used in the APL’s promotional videos to keep the competition alive.

If the A-League fails to represent the people who are keeping the game afloat in this country, then it’s very difficult to see a way back from there.

Western Sydney Wanders’ CEO Scott Hudson’s statement yesterday was a genuine statement of intent that deeply resonated with its supporters that the board will always fight tooth and nail for them.

‘The Wanderers are seeking a National Response from all football stakeholders to ensure that venues all around the country are safe for supporters to support their team, no matter where you are in the stadium,’ said Hudson in part of his statement. That right there is all the makings of a leader.
Yes, the APL’s hands are tied to a certain extent in what they can say, but surely they must read the room better and understand that enthusiasts of the game have reached the point of being fed up and exhausted.

After the reversal of the Sydney Grand Final decision last season which resulted in an embarrassment for the APL, you would think that they would be more conscious about respecting the voices of fans.

The league is finally beginning to produce a brilliant product on the pitch that is captivating and entertaining for diehards and neutrals to enjoy. In saying that, the competition doesn’t find itself in a stable position, and this recent setback could unfortunately become the tipping point.

From Ben Buckley to David Gallop to Danny Townsend – the A-League has never been blessed with a fair dinkum leader who can stamp their authority and understand the true essence of what football means for fans in Australia. They fail time and time again to demonstrate that they care about nothing but their own desires.

The next few days will confirm whether Nick Garcia and the APL will join that unwanted category of names.

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