OP-ED: FFA are in a hole - and only the fans can dig them out now...
But that didn’t stop Football Federation Australia from trying to dig their way out today.
Frank Lowy’s son Steven made his debut as new FFA chairman, coming into battle against the press and fans with an iPad as his shield. Sadly there wasn't an app for this.
To be fair though, the biggest problem the FFA faced today was that there was almost nothing they could say or do to change things now.
The car crash presser on Tuesday - where they insisted on maintaining their hard line on fans instead of defending the sport and promising reform - left them backed into a corner.
Today, only absolute capitulation on the banning process or the sacrificial head on a platter of CEO David Gallop or A-League chief Damien De Bohun would probably have appeased the masses.
Neither Lowy nor Gallop could offer any firm promises that might end the planned boycotts of this weekend’s game by active supporters.
They admitted they had made mistakes over their handling of the crisis, insisted they weren’t taking fans for granted, and held out the olive branch of including fan groups in a two month review of the banning and appeals process.
But within seconds of the 30 minute press conference ending, fan groups had already united in agreement to continue the boycott.
Now there is even talk of extending the boycott until the review is complete in February...
Today the FFA were more keen to defend the sport against the gratuitous name-calling the sport and its fans have endured this month - including police chiefs branding fans “grubs”, “pack animals”, “louts” and “thugs” while columnists and talkback radio dubbed them “suburban terrorists”…and compared them to those behind the attack on Paris.
But the central issue of transparency on the bans and appeals process still looks like it will be a roadblock with fans, even after the review.
GALLOP TELLS KEVIN AIRS ABOUT HATAMOTO AND FAN INFORMANTS
Gallop admitted they often relied on whistleblower fan informants and undercover security firm Hatamoto to identify offenders in security footage - and won’t jeopardise the confidentiality of that information.
It’s understood the FFA have also been told legal restrictions prevent them giving identified fans access to police footage used to ban them.
As it is, it’s believed the FFA currently have to get NSW Police to request Victoria Police footage before they can view it because of interstate laws.
As a result, there seems little chance of a transparent process.
They also fear a formal appeals process will spark a flood of fans trying to minimise their bans by trivialising their offence, rather than being used to clear the names of those who consider themselves innocent.
Privately they cite the fact that just one fan has had a ban overturned in 10 years…but ignore the fact that the FFA have publicly and repeatedly insisted there has never been an appeal process until the last few days.
And there is still an indestructible disconnect between the FFA and fans over their right to ban…but the fans’ right to boycott.
The FFA insist they can deny access to any fan for any reason they want - whether they give a reason or not if they should wish, comparing it to a bar excluding patrons without any right of appeal.
Yet they are infuriated by fans then exercising their right to withhold their support in stadiums.
While the Telegraph article brought things to a head, it’s not a new row - it’s just one that has been brought into sharp focus at last.
The FFA are in a hole that they started digging years ago. As a result, unless they can persuade fans to throw them down a ladder, it may take them a while to dig themselves out.
But with a TV deal coming up, and key sponsorships up for grabs, how long can they, and the clubs, wait…?