Flares are out of fashion
Pelting the pitch with flares and rubbish is simply not on. It's dangerous and it's juvenile. By all means be passionate, just don't step over the line.
The Red and Black Bloc are creating a great atmosphere at Hyundai A-League games this summer. The stands are rocking and although the chants are a little repetitive, the passion they show has brought an X-factor to the competition.
A friend of mine, who has been a Sydney FC fan since their inception, is split on her allegiance and even went to the game against the Mariners in the RBB to see what it was like. She wanted to be part of the experience, which illustrates how the RBB are encouraging fans to get around the Wanderers.
Because of that passion they already rival any supporters group in Australian sport, but as good as they have been for the game, a few individuals are doing their best to give the rest a poor reputation. There are elements within the bloc that need to be removed.
Too often this season, there have been incidents at Wanderers games and the latest, which saw members of the RBB throw projectiles and flares on to the pitch after Mark Bridge was denied a penalty, is simply not on.
It-s a behaviour that Wanderers Chairman Lyall Gorman wants removed - but he is quick to defend the club-s “wonderful fan base” and says those individuals will be found out by the club and the self-regulation of the rest of hugely passionate RBB.
“There were 16,357 people [at the Mariners game]; there were probably 10 or 15 people who expressed frustration and what we call unacceptable behaviour, but we-re not prepared to let that drag down the other 16,342 who were remarkable,” Gorman said.
“There wasn-t an eviction from the ground, there was no intoxication, there was no anti-social behaviour apart from some bottles being thrown on the ground and one flare. We don-t condone that. Our active supporter group was as disappointed with that as anyone is but we-re not going to let it detract from what was a remarkable spectacle yet again from a wonderful fan base.
“We-ll weed those few recalcitrant fans out over time. But there was a concert at the Domain last week where 157 were arrested, let-s put it in perspective.
“There is a lot of self-regulation. The majority of people saying, ‘we-re not going to accept that- is the best way to resolve it.”
While Gorman backed the club-s fans, the FFA has been vocal in announcing that they will find and ban anyone found to have flares. And that stance is spot on. There is nothing wrong with showing your passion for your team, but let-s not let the A-League become associated with the sort of boorish crowd behaviours that play into the hands of those looking for old stereotypes to stir up anti-football sentiments.
The A-League has been vigilant in moving away from such incidents, to becoming a family sport; flares and projectiles do not create that friendly environment.
The end effect is that less people will be converted to the game, new fans won-t necessarily get involved for fear of their safety and we will find ourselves on the end of more negative press.
Flares may be accepted in other parts of the world, but they are dangerous. Recently, Dynamo Moscow goalkeeper Anton Shuni was injured by a cracker; Manchester City fans hurled two flares at Newcastle supporters and in Argentina-s Primera League, Independiente keeper Juan Olave was injured by an exploding flare thrown on to the pitch in a match against Belgrano.
As recently as last year I attended two Independiente matches, one at La Boca and one at Independiente. On both occasions I went with locals and tourists and was advised by our local guides that if we had anything we wanted to smuggle in, usually a lighter to tuck it into your sock, as it wouldn-t be noticed there.
“Great, they are encouraging it,” was my first thought, which was quickly erased from my mind as I saw the security levels - heavily armed riot police in full kit, complete with automatic weapons and flak jackets. It-s extreme and it-s not a sight we want at any football match, no matter where in the world you are.
Full body searches followed and while usually the inner part of a woman-s upper leg is a no-go zone for the police when they are searching, this was not the case in Argentina, not when the risk to the players and opposing fans has been all too often demonstrated to be real.
It-s a level security I had never ever seen the likes of at a sporting event, with the direct aim of avoiding the sort of pandemonium that can be caused when flares are let off in the crowd or projectiles are thrown on to the pitch.
Security searches in Australia are much more lax than anywhere else in the world and I hope they stay that way - but right now the actions of a few likely could change that, and it shouldn-t take an injury to a player for it to happen.
When I spoke to Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic before Christmas, he was full of admiration for the club-s fans, but implored them not to bring flares to matches.
“They (our fans) dominate in the stands, and it-s a huge buzz to play in front of that, it gives you tingles when you walk out on the field,” Covic said.
“We all know what the rules are. There is a reason they are not allowed, there is a danger aspect and if it gets thrown in the wrong direction there is a danger someone will get injured.
“The few fans that do bring them (flares) in they probably deserve not to be there, we have to build this sport and the flares don-t help that.”
Certainly it-s not just an issue limited to Wanderers fans; flares have been seen at Victory and Adelaide United matches, but recently the RBB seems to be the most common culprit.
In a lot of ways they have been great for the game but when it comes to flares they are banned for a reason. Your own keeper wants you to put them away, so does your CEO and the league. In the end all they add is a little colour and a lot of trouble.
Sing, dance, be passionate; but when it comes to football matches bringing flares in to the ground is reckless and dangerous and the rule is there for a reason.