I’m getting pretty tired of words like “thugs” and “hooligans” characterising soccer fans, while other sports seem to be immune.
Violence at games of any sport is not a new thing, but when soccer gets singled out by the mainstream media in the first pages of the news section – not the sports section – something seems sinister.
It is not a soccer problem, it is a social problem
Last week’s front page of the Herald Sun ran ‘Ban soccer thugs’. Not one mention was given to the Essendon drugs scandal that made it to the front page of The Age, nor did the back page give away any indication that the AFL was in strife.
The Herald Sun’s blatant attack on the sport to which they don’t even give a full page space in their 12 sports pages is disgraceful. They’ve purposefully deflected the news and made an old story rear its head again along with token defamatory language.
The Herald Sun reported that Melbourne Victory v. Perth Glory finals match had four people arrested from the game after flares were released. Comparatively, 40 or so people were ejected from the AFL grand final last year, which police praised as being a well behaved crowd.
There has to be a stop to this vitriolic, one-sided reporting.
It is clear there is a very, very small minority of people that come to matches with an anti-social intent, but that is not a soccer problem, it is a social problem.
Labelling soccer violence as an “epidemic” is scare-mongering and missing the point.
The FFA has been rightfully harsh in handing out bans to fans that break the rules, and collaboration with the police has been welcome. When Melbourne Victory handed down very harsh penalties to troublemakers, it barely made the mainstream news.
What has been obvious in the mainstream media reporting is the way soccer is marginalised as the ‘other’. AFL has only 14 per cent of its players from a multicultural background, while soccer is primarily made up of ethnically diverse players, reflecting the new shift in Australia’s make-up. When criticism about “loud chanting” gets linked to violence, it shows a level of misunderstanding between the media and police with the fans. The nature of soccer fans is to be loud, colourful and energetic about their clubs. The police are so used to passive crowds at the cricket or the AFL and have struggled to adapt to change. There needs to be a better collaboration between police and the Association to work on a better relationship.
But to clarify, I am not condoning behaviour that endangers fans. What might be useful, as Fox Sports reporter Simon Hill eloquently put it, is for police to “liaise with active supporter groups, earn their trust and demand it in return”.
The media has insisted on drawing a big divide between the two audiences to make their favourite sport look better in comparison. Soccer fans aren’t taking it, the clubs aren’t taking it, and now all we ask is for the mainstream media and the police to cool their heads, and stop making soccer an easy target.