Leaders of a new Socceroos active support group believe heavy-handed restrictions and poor ticketing measures are to blame for the insipid atmosphere at Asian Cup games.
Australia fans have come under fire for their inability raise the roof during Asia’s premier football event, with many reverting to tired old chants and Mexican waves.
By contrast, fans from other nations have set the tournament alight, most notably the vocal Iranian and South Korean contingents.
But a core member of the new active support group, Julian Farrell, has hit out at the tournament’s Local Organising Committee (LOC) for unfair treatment.
A frustrated Farrell told FourFourTwo: “The LOC don’t seem to understand. Overseas active support groups have been patrolled more leniently.
“For example, Japan had two megaphones in their area against UAE. Whereas (ours) has been confiscated in every stadium to the point where someone got ejected for smuggling one in and doing something which is considered normal in the A-League.
“We have some drums now but we have been hamstrung by the fact that we can’t use megaphones.
“The Newcastle semi-final match was probably the most positive that we’ve had in terms of involvement. Even though singing wasn’t necessarily loud, it was the game that people were happiest, relaxed and people were getting on as Australian home supporters.
“We’ve created a tifo for the final given the circumstances. We had no help from anyone and we had the LOC hinder us. They wanted a 100m x 50m tifo and we had two days to make it. And we’re working with people who don’t have much understanding of active support.
“The FFA are helping us. Bryan Gibson (FFA’s Digital Community Manager) is trying to get the word out about the tifo we created and are helping. However, they aren’t the go-to people for getting things into the stadium.
Despite the criticism that they have received over social media sites, Farrell insists he will not let pessimists get in his way.
“It’s difficult when you’ve got people who are even part of the group saying stuff such as: ‘I’m sorry but you’re crap’. It doesn’t really help anyone.”
Fellow group team member, Lee Hinton, lamented the LOC’s ticketing policies which failed to back active support.
“Megaphones allow us to engage and it would’ve been a massive difference especially in Brisbane with grannies and kids who buy the cheapest active support tickets but don’t know what it’s about.
“We’ve had cricket fans go to matches thinking they’re the active supporters. They start Mexican waves and ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’ chants and cringeworthy stuff, they’re making things harder.
“The Stadium is very vigilant in enforcing set seatings and if one grandma complains about someone standing they will be ejected from their active seat.
“It’s a problem selling tickets to those who don’t know what active support is about.
“The LOC could’ve done something similar to the A-League (where) you need an active membership in order to buy active tickets to matches. It would’ve made a lot of sense. Ultimately, they (LOC) wanted bottoms on seats.”
The establishment of the new Socceroos active support group comes after the demise of the previous Terrace Australis.
Given the growth of active support groups in recent years – in particular the rise of the RBB and increased interest in The Cove, The Squadron and others – the FFA sought to deliver something similar for the Socceroos and improve the atmosphere at matches.
However, both Farrell and Hinton believe the group’s downfall was due to the FFA’s focus on implementing their own agenda without letting the group grow “organically”.
“The FFA tried to coordinate with all the A-League supporter groups to form a new national supporters group,” Farrell said.
“They tried to force things in a direction which supporters didn’t want.
believing things needed to develop naturally, as any normal active support group does, and not as the particular FFA marketing executives wanted to,” Farrell continued.
“It’s quite difficult now because there was a lot of disillusion around. A lot of people have been quite burnt from TA experience and there’s only a couple of us now who realise the Asian Cup is the biggest football tournament in our history and we are doing our best in quite difficult circumstance to motivate people and generate atmosphere at matches.
“We’re not just dealing with disillusion with TA, though, but also disillusion with the Green and Gold Army in Melbourne. People have been disenchanted and friendships have been lost from GGArmy.
Meanwhile, Hinton rubbished rumours suggesting that members were unable to leave their A-League rivalries behind, adding: “A-League rivalries weren’t a factor”.
Despite the negative scrutiny, the core members have targeted success at the Asian Cup Final on Saturday, hoping it’s a stepping stone to greater things.
“For the Final, our plan is to have all the big flags waving down the front, to get people involved, to get people with drums to have them in one location,” Farrell added.
“Hopefully Stadium Australia will allow people to stand in their seats, to drum together and get a megaphone. If not, we have to work with what we have got to work with.
“South Korean supporters are extremely vocal and organised. Hopefully that wakes up our own supporters.
“Hopefully we have a huge final with a brilliant atmosphere and we’re hoping the enthusiasm comes back from there. As we’ve seen, more people are putting attention into the clubs and have put the national team into the too hard basket. We’re trying to change that.
“Giving up will not be an option. “
Hinton added: “I’m not walking away. I want to part of this new movement and a catalyst for discussion of active support.”comments