Active support areas at A-League home matches will become ‘members only’ zones under new measures aimed at reducing what many fans see as heavy-handed policing at football matches.
The new league-wide protocols come into effect in the new season and will enshrine the use of supporter activities such as playing musical instruments, tifo displays, capo stands and large flags.
Additional ticketing measures are also being considered for away active support areas, particularly for matches where a high number of visiting fans are anticipated.
The FFA claims the new measures will enhance and protect the unique atmosphere created by active supporters at A-League matches.
But many fans believe the FFA and clubs are crushing the development of fan culture, and that the latest steps will deter new people from being introduced to the game.
A-League boss, Damien de Bohun, said the protocols were part of a long-term strategy designed to grow membership and deepen fan engagement.
“The atmosphere at Hyundai A-League matches is unique in Australian sport,” de Bohun said.
“You don’t have to go to Europe or South America to experience football passion and see how real supporters get behind their team. It’s on show every week in the A-League.”
The key component of the new measures is a membership only area for all home club active support areas for the upcoming 2014/15 season.
This will mean that all fans within the designated area will have a valid season membership pass or shorter-term active area pass.
“The connection between active fans and their clubs goes beyond the purchase of a ticket on match day,” de Bohun said.
“We want our fans to have a growing voice in how clubs interact with their supporters and the local community.
“The other advantage of this development is that the club and active supporters will be able to work together to build on the experience of match day and continue to create a safe and family-friendly environment.”
Fans have complained the "family friendly" push has come at the expense of hard-core fans and the unique atmosphere they generate at games.
The FFA confirmed that the new measures will be linked to enshrining active supporter activities such as displays.
De Bohun added: “We want fans to be able to create the best atmosphere and in conjunction with clubs and stadium managers we will give the fans certainty over their activities.
The FFA said it was committed to working with each club to "customise solutions based on their individual needs and their respective membership markets to comply with these conditions".
An example of this may include the use of three-game membership passes, or members ‘guest’ passes into the respective active supporter area(s) to allow fans to try before they buy into a full membership.
“From our discussions with the various fan groups and other stakeholders around the competition, there is a common desire to see a reduction of the presence of police and security at football matches, in particular around active supporter areas,” de Bohun said.
“We believe that the successful implementation of these new conditions will go a long way towards reaching that common goal.
These measures will be effective from the opening round of the Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Season and will be reviewed following the Hyundai A-League 2015 Grand Final.comments