Football: A-League faces boycott over revelation of FFA fan ban

Western Sydney Wanderers fans showing support for their team against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on May 14, 2014.
Western Sydney Wanderers fans showing support for their team against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on May 14, 2014. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Football Federation Australia (FFA) was facing a fan revolt on Wednesday with plans to boycott A-League games, as fury grows over the publication of a confidential list of supporters banned from stadiums around the country.

Anger has been mounting since News Corp Australia last week published names and photos of 198 banned A-League fans, labelling some as "louts" on a par with the worst elements of European soccer hooliganism.

What started as discontent over a privacy breach has turned into a backlash against FFA for what fans consider its heavy-handedness in dealing with the issue and a lack of support for not defending fans over perceived biased media coverage.

Fans at one of the best-supported clubs in the league, Western Sydney Wanderers, said they would boycott Saturday's match gainst Brisbane Roar, describing FFA boss David Gallop's response to the furore as "shambolic".

"This is the only way to continue sending a strong message to the FFA that we will not stand for their inept administration of our game," a Facebook statement from supporter group Red and Black Bloc said.

"The FFA cannot use the fans as a marketing tool but then continually mistreat them, while asking them to help grow the game."

Supporters have long held reservations over FFA's security policy, which provides banned spectators with no avenue for appeal. Several of those on the leaked list feel they have been wrongly banned.

The group said boycotts would continue until Gallop and A-League head Damien de Bohun presented active supporter groups with a transparent ban appeals process agreed upon by all parties.

Sydney FC fans said they would join the walkout, skipping their home game against Newcastle Jets on Thursday.

"We have consulted numerous other fan groups, most of whom will do the same," the group, known as The Cove, said in a Facebook statement.

The Cove demanded a transparent and documented process for banning fans with defined standards of evidence, a fair appeals process and a thorough explanation of the role security company Hatamoto plays in fan management.

In a statement, Gallop insisted the FFA's long-time banning protocol was a pathway to a safe environment for spectators, but admitted it could be better communicated and even refined.

He had previously denied the FFA was responsible for the leak.

"The leaking of highly sensitive and confidential information about banned people and the subsequent publication was wrong. FFA is investigating the leak," he said.

"The banning system has served its purpose for seven seasons, but like any process it needs fine-tuning. We accept that the system needs some clarification and better communication.

"I've seen and heard the response of fans over the past week. Now it's time to turn that energy into what fans do best - support and inspire their teams."

Fans on the list have been banned for offences including assaults, ignition of flares, invading the pitch or throwing projectiles.