New FFA Chairman Steven Lowy has hit out at the leaking of a banned list of A-League fans to the media, but hopes supporters don't boycott A-League matches this weekend.
“My view is that the publication of the banned list was a travesty,” he told a packed press conference at FFA HQ on Thursday afternoon.
“The list is a vital tool used by police, clubs, stadia and FFA as part of their risk management responsibility.
“It was a confidential document for good reason. FFA didn’t need the Sunday Telegraph to let us know this is an issue.
“The fact that we’ve actually issued 198 bans, shows the FFA was way ahead of the Telegraph and way ahead of Alan Jones.
“We should not be beyond criticism but should ignore those who don’t want football to succeed.
“The number of bans needs to be kept in perspective. As David [Gallop] said, it’s 198 across 1000 games. It’s wrong to portray this as a plight that affects our game or typical behaviour of our fans.
“But it’s also wrong to ignore the seriousness of those cases.”
The list was published in one media outlet 11 days ago, sparking a fierce debate in the public arena.
It drew a response from FFA CEO David Gallop on Tuesday but many fans felt FFA needed to say more about the issue and the vast majority of law-abiding fans across the league and active supporter groups.
Lowy said a review would be put in place to improve the system in which the FFA, the police and security and the clubs and stadia work together on the banning process and appeals process within, a system he said wasn’t perfect. All stakeholders will be involved in this review, including the fans, though it's understood there are legal issues around certain pieces of evidence.
And Lowy backed his CEO after Tuesday’s press conference on the issue.
“I listened carefully to what David [Gallop] said on Tuesday and I was amazed to see the interpretation that some of you [the media and public] have put on his words.
“He made it clear that the troublemakers are a tiny minority. He praised the overwhelming number of fans who make our game great and said we would look at ways of improving the banning system.
“Somehow that got interpreted as FFA not sticking up enough for the fans.
“Nothing could be further from reality. I genuinely believe that somewhere in the debate over the last 11 days we have lost sight of the facts, and the issue of crowd safety has become conflated with other issues and agendas.”
Lowy reiterated FFA was resolute on the issue of crowd behaviour.
“Zero tolerance is our policy and nothing will change that. 99.9% of our fans do the right thing. But there is a tiny minority that don’t.
We don’t want people who ignite flares ... or throw objects. Fundamentally we don’t want anti-social behaviour.”
Gallop admitted he could’ve communicated FFA’s view point better on Tuesday this week.
“We should’ve said more earlier,” Gallop said when asked about the banned list article.
“And we were disappointed that not more of our responses appeared in the article. It was an article that unfairly tarnished the vast majority of decent football people. It actually tarnished FFA by saying we’re in denial.
“The numbers didn’t actually match that but we should’ve said more earlier. No doubt we got that wrong... there are going to be people along the road that’ll take shots at us unreasonably, unfairly and in an inflammatory way.
“We’ve seen that in recent times and the fact is that shouldn't stop us from the journey we’re on.”
Lowy offered a measured tone to the divisive debate which has pit fans against the game’s governing body in recent times, one which threatens to see many fans boycott this weekend’s A-League.
“In public communication about this issue, it’s very difficult to strike the right balance. Some people believe we haven’t been strong enough in dealing with crowd behaviour.
“Others believe we’ve been too heavy handed. If we speak up for the unique culture of football, some interpret that as condoning bad behaviour.
“If we don’t speak up it’s interpreted as deserting our fans.”
Lowy's message to the fans ahead of this weekend's round was simple: “We appeal to everyone who loves football to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
"We hope what we say today gives a sense of the understanding of the complexity of the issues. We hope it gives an understanding of where FFA stands and absolutely I reiterate we stand with the fans.
"But it's about balancing quite a few competing interests. But of course we'd love the fans to come to the games. That's what we're all about but we have to respect the views of the fans."Our job is to balance all that and hopefully we're doing that."