Time to grow up

As football and its fans strive to move on, there are those in some sections of the media still hell-bent on ensuring the code never escapes the shadows of its dark past.

It still tasted fairly bitter, even the myopia was a little overpowering. Luckily, grains of salt were on hand to aid the digestion of the number of recent media reports that attempted to paint football as a place of endemic violence, ethnic tensions and pretty much the land of lawless thugs.

Of course, I’m referring to the reporting of the melee between Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix players, and the disturbance at Edensor Park during a trial match between A-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers and NSW Premier League outfit, Sydney United.

The manner in which such events are reported by certain media outlets has been the same for decades.

What’s a melee in AFL is a blatant act of thuggery in football. And even though there was an all-in brawl during an AFL match between Essendon and Carlton on the same weekend as the Newcastle-Wellington Phoenix stoush, you can guess which one was deemed an embarrassment to the sport and the other heralded as flying the flag for their clubs.

The same applies to verbal exchanges out on the terraces. What’s nothing more than friendly chatter and banter at an AFL game is viewed as the precursor to a terrace war in football. Pass that salt, will you…

Sensationalism is also added in high doses to the reporting of off-field incidents.

Those in the media that make no attempt to hide their disdain for the sport have a tendency to pass off the thoughtless actions of an idiotic minority as a common behavioural trend possessed and embraced by all football fans.

What’s been encouraging is the maturity in which those in the game have met these issues.

There’s been no denial, no condoning of the actions, nor have any heads been buried in the sand.

Instead, widespread condemnation and an acknowledgement that there is an issue — not with the majority, but with a select few of halfwits who are motivated by the desire to fuel their egos as opposed to growing and supporting the game.

For years, it seemed as though fans struggled with the direct correlation between their own actions on the terraces and the image of the sport.

While it’s common practice in Europe to light a flare in the stands and chant around it, it’s not viewed in the same light here in Australia. The detractors of the sport see it as the beating heart of hooliganism and, with that, another chance to lay the boot in.

There’s no doubt fans have cottoned on to this. You only have to recount the number of times you-ve seen the orange smoke of a flare billowing from the stands during an A-League fixture. Or, for that matter, the number of arrests and ejections.

On all counts, it’s not many — and well short of the mark to warrant the tag of “endemic violence” or anything of that nature.

The fact that fans are prepared to do the “policing” themselves is testament to the maturity level of the modern day football fan.

As football and its fans strive to move on, there are those in some sections of the media still hell-bent on ensuring the code never escapes the shadows of its dark past.

And for as long as this agenda is maintained, the sport, despite its best efforts to restructure its image, will struggle to cross the cultural divide and be accepted as a national sport.

With the exception of a select few, we’ve all well and truly moved on from the “bad old days”. It’s time you all did, too.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not in any way reflect those of FFA.