Fan power forces change at Gold Coast

As a football fan, it’s not easy living in a place where the round-ball code is not the No.1 game in town.

Transfer deadlines come and go with little understanding of their earth-shattering significance. Big European nights equate to 4.30am starts and a giant pot of coffee.

Simply calling the game ‘football’ is enough to turn certain folks red with anger, as they threaten to round up a posse and start confiscating the passports of those miscreants who follow this strange and frankly foreign game.

So it was somewhat of a surprise to see some bona fide fan culture turn up – of all places – on the Gold Coast.

Gold Coast United’s decision to impose a virtual lock-out of fans from their Round 13 clash with North Queensland Fury prompted bemusement in some quarters, simmering rage in others.

BLOG, Sat Oct 30: Ifill towers as Gold Coast beg fans to stay away

The usual detractors painted it as proof that football is destined to fail in Australia, but if the reaction of Gold Coast’s small but hardy band of supporters is anything to go by, there are still plenty for whom the game is more than a passing trend.

Armed with an assortment of banners for the visit of Robbie Fowler and his battling Fury side, Gold Coast’s hardcore supporters may not have won any Pulitzer prizes, but their message was clear enough.

“Greatest team never seen” was one of the more inventive banners picked up by the TV cameras, while the instructive “Want bigger crowds? Ask us how” was aimed squarely at Gold Coast’s curmudgeonly benefactor Clive Palmer.

It was Palmer who insisted that capping crowds would save United bucketloads of cash, although why one of the country’s richest businessmen didn’t expect to lose money investing in domestic football is the question on everyone’s lips.

On the pitch, Gold Coast not surprisingly went down 2-0 to Fury.

Off it, the storming of the home end by Gold Coast’s hardcore fans in the 73rd minute captured almost as much attention as the record-low crowd of just 2,616 paying spectators.

Having been corralled into the main stand on the back of United’s crowd-capping policy, Gold Coast’s home-end hardcore took back the hilariously named ‘Beach’ by force.

Mind you, it was hardly a fair fight against a lone security guard – who saw what should have been the easiest night of his life ruined by a bunch of rowdy Gold Coast fans eager to rage against the machine.

They took up their position behind the goal just in time to see United defender Steve Pantelidis concede a penalty for handball, with the resultant spot-kick impudently swept home by Fowler.

It’s a shame that so much of this season’s focus has been on crowd sizes, because the football on display has been of a consistently high standard.

Mile Sterjovski scored one of the goals of the season in Perth Glory’s narrow 2-1 home defeat to Melbourne Victory last time out, with Sydney FC clearly the team of the round as they brushed aside Wellington Phoenix 3-1 at home.

Sydney’s win sets up an intriguing Round 14 clash with Gold Coast at Skilled Park – and it appears that fan power has won the day, with Football Federation Australia agreeing to help pay the costs of United’s home fixtures for the remainder of the season.

Ticket prices have also been slashed, with Gold Coast officials now imploring local fans to get out and support their team.

It’s a strange marketing tactic, to say the least, but in a week in which they strengthened their reputation as the most disliked club in the land, Gold Coast United will be looking to put one of the darker chapters in the A-League’s brief history behind them.

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