Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has thrown his support behind disgruntled A-League supporters, stressing “without the fans there is no game”.
A league-wide fan boycott is on the horizon after Melbourne Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney supporter groups confirmed they will not be attending this week’s round of matches in protest against Football Federation Australia (FFA).
FFA has been heavily criticised for its treatment of supporters, in particular those who have been banned without an appeals process, and the situation escalated on Tuesday when CEO David Gallop urged fans to move on following last week’s crowd walk-out.
With several more supporter groups reportedly ready to join the Wanderers, Sydney and Victory in their protests, Arnold has pleaded with FFA to fix the feud.
“It’s a difficult time for everyone,” said Arnold ahead of Friday’s hosting of Newcastle Jets. “At Sydney FC we have a great family environment for the fans to watch games in, and in The Cove I think we have the best supporter base in the country, who always passionately support our team.
“The big concern is, if they’re preparing to boycott a game, it shows just how serious an issue this is, and how strongly they feel. This is an issue that we need to go away quickly.
“I saw Mark Bosnich on TV the other night, and how passionate he was about getting this fixed, and he’s 100 per cent right. Without the fans there is no game. We’re into round nine this, there’s still a long way to go in the season.
“The thing is, no-one is condoning bad behaviour [by fans], and if it happens it needs to be dealt with. But if FFA get it wrong [in banning people] the fans need a hearing. Maybe now FFA are realising how passionate people are in football. It’s totally different to the NRL and other sports. It’s the global game, and Australia is so multicultural that people are passionate about football. Those fans want a voice.
“Why is it only football to get bashed like this? There’s plenty of things that go on in other codes that get swept under the carpet.”
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