Let this sink in…

Donald Trump is the next President of the United State of America.

By virtue of the influence that the USA has on our world, this is the most important news event of 2016 and beyond. Despite having no input into the election of American Presidents every four years, the rest of the world is deeply engaged in the process because the ultimate selection has such far reaching effects. Let that sink in… really sink in.

In democratic countries, the people decide who governs based on the policies of political parties. The leaders of political parties are not just figureheads and it used to be accepted knowledge that if a leader is considered unelectable, they simply don’t progress to lead a party. If internal party circumstances see one slip through the cracks, they certainly don’t get elected. Donald Trump has unequivocally proven that that thinking is now obsolete and his election will change campaign strategies forever.

There’s no doubt that the global trend is against globalism and an increasing number of isolationist and populist politicians are the rage around the world. Historians will undoubtedly map this point in history to some other notable event in the past. Likewise, there will be another point in the future that will directly link to the election of Donald Trump as POTUS. Let that sink in…

caveman-trumpPopulist movements always have an ideological romanticism to them. ‘We The People’ are ‘taking back our country’ or ‘regaining control of government’. It’s always about rewinding the clock back to better days when all was good in the world. The ‘good old days’ is a mythical place that people look at with unrealistic nostalgia because as Bono once sang “you glorify the past when the future dries up”. Irrespectively, it is clear that many people are deeply unhappy with their circumstances in life and wanted change and did not care who gave it to them.

Success must often pay homage to ‘circumstances’ and ‘timing’. Donald Trump was in the right place at the right time; running against the right opponent with the right message that middle America wanted to hear – right now. His simple message to America promised everything would great again if they put him in charge. Jobs would come streaming back, terrorism would disappear and America would once again be as strong, prosperous and safe as it was in the ‘good old days’ as long as he, and only he, was elected. Identifying the ‘establishment’ as the enemy was the engine that drove the campaign whilst having Hillary as the opponent constantly reminded the voters about how the ‘establishment’ had let them down. As a consequence, Hillary continually provided the fuel and validation to ‘drain the swamp’. Hindsight shows that this tactic was a masterstroke.

liberty-shameHowever, alongside ‘circumstances’ and ‘timing’, Trump’s success may also have a more sinister element to thank. His love of publicity means that his pre-political comments and actions are on public record. Trump left nobody in any doubt that he was being anyone other than Donald Trump during the campaign with rhetoric littered with racial and religious bigotry, misogyny, violence, ignorance, media censorship and narcissism. These traits did not disqualify his candidacy to half of American voters; in fact it actually attracted the support of previously underground supremacist groups who felt empowered and validated in their bigotry.

The utopia presented of an America under the Presidency of Donald Trump prevailed. A majority of Americans (based on the Electoral College Votes) simply did not care about his many and varied imperfections so the nation went rogue and elected Trump to the highest political office in the world. The list below is only a small fraction of the documented Trump controversies and proves that in 2016… nobody is unelectable

1. Referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists, drug traffickers
2. Wants the military to commit war crimes, including torture
3. Said not paying income taxes “makes me smart”
4. Wants a database system to track Muslims
5. Said women should be punished for having abortions
6. Urged supporters to beat up protesters at his rallies
7. Mocked a reporter’s physical disability
8. Called poor people “morons”
9. Promised to deport citizens whose parents immigrated illegally
10. Called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.A.
11. Described global warming as a hoax perpetrated by ‘the Chinese’
12. Said, “When you’re a star, [women] let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the pussy.”
13. Said veterans who suffer from PTSD aren’t “strong” and “can’t handle it”
14. Referred to a Hispanic Miss Universe as “Miss Housekeeping” and “Miss Piggy”
15. Repeatedly walked in on pageant contestants, including teenagers, while they were changing
16. Happy to be linked to avowed white supremacists
17. Said that supporters who attacked a Hispanic man were ‘very passionate’ and ‘love their country’
18. Blamed sexual assault in the military on “putting men and women together”
19. Claimed he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks
20. Called an attorney who requested a break to pump breast milk ‘disgusting’
21. Barred reporters from campaign events for unfavourable coverage
22. Bragged about the size of his penis during a primary debate
23. Said that husbands who change diapers are ‘acting like the wife’
24. Paid campaign money to family members and his own businesses
25. Speculated about his 1-year-old daughter’s future breasts
26. Quoted in a 1991 book as telling a colleague that “laziness is a trait in blacks”
27. Said U.S. military should withdraw from Japan & South Korea and allow them to defend themselves with nuclear weapons
28. Called for the construction of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent immigration
29. Reportedly asked national security advisers why the U.S. can’t use nuclear weapons
30. Told a female staff not to take lunch orders when visitors came to Trump Tower because she was insufficiently attractive
31. Included the head of the white nationalist American Freedom Party on a list of California delegates
32. Compared his ‘sacrifices’ as a businessman with those of parents whose son was killed in war
33. Filed for corporate bankruptcy four times
34. Took out ads alleging that “Mohawk Indian criminal activity is well documented” to fight competition for his casinos
35. Pre-emptively questioned the legitimacy of the election
36. Pretended to be his own publicist
37. Called Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine ‘so smart’
38. Said he doesn’t have the time to read books
39. Joked about 2nd Amendment advocates shooting his opponent or her judicial appointees
40. Repeatedly called a deaf actress “retarded”
41. Launched at least 15 business ventures that went on to fail
42. Said women who are sexually harassed at work should “find another career”
43. Told two 14-year-old girls, “Wow! Just think—in a couple of years, I’ll be dating you.”
44. Hired the editor of white-nationalist website Breitbart as his campaign chief
45. Called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails
46. Ejected a baby from a rally
47. Said he wanted to hit Democratic National Convention speakers who criticised him
48. Screwed over the USA Freedom Kids, a group of preteen girls who performed at Trump events
49. Accepted $150,000 in 9/11 recovery funds to “repair” a building that wasn’t damaged in the attacks
50. Said of a 10-year-old girl, “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”

eddie-murphy-he-wonBased on the above list and the fact that Trump’s party now has control of all legislative houses plus the Supreme Court, the world can only hope that the Founding Fathers of the United State of America had the foresight to ensure appropriate checks and balances were incorporated within the revered U.S. constitution. Strap in for the ride… who knows where we’re going over the next 4 years.

Check out the reference link below, which includes 180 more points and accompanying documented proof to all claims: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/07/donald_trump_is_unfit_to_be_president_here_are_141_reasons_why.html

2016 – The New Dark Age of Extremism

Our personal choices in food, travel, entertainment, music, fashion, sport, politics, hobbies etc… have all been methodically recorded since the dawning of the digital age. The fact is that our online profiles have been mapped and engineered to make us feel as comfortable as possible, with minimal negative jarring so marketers can better sell their products to us. Just go on a Google expedition searching for any specific product. Click on related links, visit relevant websites and make several enquiries on the search engine about a product and you will soon see just how powerful this is. Before too long, your social media and other website visits will start containing ads for the very same products you have been searching for. It’s ingenious marketing and although seen by some as a dubious ‘dark art’, it is also something we are all complicit in.

I love sport. I devour every bit of information about my favourite competitions, teams and athletes. I follow them on social media, subscribe to newsletters, click on related articles on websites. In essence, I am a genuinely connected member of my sporting choices. Thanks to the Internet I no longer need to sift through a newspaper and stumble across news from another sport or team. I can now filter information so seamlessly that I have created a world where only my preferences are shown. Other sports outside of my personal circle simply don’t get a look in so my ignorance of them grows and my understanding of the wider landscape slowly evaporates.

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This is all pretty harmless for sport, music, fashion, food, entertainment etc… We’ve always had our favourite radio station because they play our favourite music. Buy and wear clothes that suit our particular personalities and eat food that appeals most to our palates. Sure you have narrower view of the rich tapestry of this world, but there’s no crime in limited knowledge in these things. However, the technology that has made it easier and more convenient to consume only personal bias, has become a global monster when it comes to politics and society, and in my view a major reason for the increase in extremism around the globe.

Now… let’s meet Alex.
Alex is a hard working person with a traditional view of the world. Love his/her family, works hard, pays taxes and generally feels they have a grasp on what being normal is. In essence, Alex lives by the ideal of a fair go for all. Although a simplistic caricature, this would be embraced as an accurate depiction of themselves by almost all of the adult population.

Alex hates the idea of people cheating the system and getting an unfair or undeserved advantage. This feeling is amplified when media organisations theatrically generate outrage claiming to speak on behalf of the downtrodden everyday honest citizen. Although the subject matter is often a genuine issue that deserves airing, the misrepresentation of the scope of the problem is good for ratings, which in turns drives more advertising dollars. Seeing the attention the topic has attracted, social media and news websites jump on the story as well. Click baiting with eye catching headlines, these stories grow in strength and when a topic shows consistency in attracting attention, a narrative is born.

Alex ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ stories that echo his/her view on social media and even ‘Unfollows’ pages that offer a different opinion. At the same time, Alex’s profile is being developed and stories clicked on as the preferred neignorancews now start to filter through as simply THE news. In the never-ending quest for ratings and attention, the dialogue invariably hits onto the ugly spectre of bigotry which masquerades as national pride. Slowly but surely, Alex has filtered the information of the world so it always pleases his/her particular point of view. This is when Alex’s beliefs become hardened to what even they would’ve considered to be extreme only a few short years ago.

There is now not a chance of having an alternative viewpoint being presented to Alex because with such a huge part of life now spent online, an overwhelming majority of what Alex is ‘taught’ is filtered to agree with an existing opinion. There is little doubt that people today have much more concrete views and are certainly less flexible to diverse opinions. These beliefs have been hardened by years of seeing the world through a myopic view so when confronted with something different, the reaction is more militant.

The Internet is the modern world’s equivalent of the old town square where people of the village would congregate to chat about happenings and generally exchange news. Of course people didn’t agree with everything each other said, but the ‘filter’ then was to suffer in silence or avoid that person next time. Irrespectively, people knew that different opinions existed and why they existed, something that isn’t always the case today. The amazing connectivity that the Internet delivered the planet has ironically also made it easier to disconnect with diverse thinking. Much like a mixture of the genetic pool strengthens the next generation, a dearth of genetic variety weakens it. The same can be said for diverse opinions and civilisations.

Ultimately, in our darkest and deepest DNA, human nature seems to have a default setting to believe that someone else is always the cause of our problems. Whether it is the government, welfare recipients, the banks, big corporations, religions, minorities and ultimately people that just don’t look like us; humans generally look for someone else to blame and that’s when narrow mindedness and bigotry becomes very real and extremely dangerous.

How many of us judged the stupidity of the ‘uneducated’ world of the 1930’s when the rise of political extremism in Fascism and Communism saw humans legitimise another’s execution armed with a rhetoric of superiority. This was an era of political extremism on both sides of the ideological swing. History has taught us that the general public’s mass ignorance was a major contributing factor with any dissenting voices initially ridiculed, then drowned out and many ultimately exterminated.

Do we see any parallels in 2016 to what happened almost a century ago? The mechanics may be different but the raw ingredient of mass ignorance is certainly thriving. Could anyone have envisaged a world just a few years ago where an extreme organisation was able to recruit people to kill independently, merely by suggestion in support of an ideology? Or see a political figure rise to the top of a party and be just one step away from being the single most powerful person on the planet by openly spewing racist and sexist tirades, encouraging nuclear armament and threatening the world economy with outlandish trade policies? How about seeing a great nation that has led the world in so many areas over a thousand yearswheeler decide to shrink back into isolation like a metaphorical frightened turtle.

This is now a world where diversity of opinion is no longer a curiosity but rather is seen as a dangerous threat to the status quo. In the quest to always be happy and avoid anything disagreeable, we have willingly (albeit unintentionally) embraced ignorance. So much so that we now live in the new Dark Ages. Little wonder that extremism is on the rise again!!!

Is mainstream media now irrelevant?

Ah human nature, we do crave constant approval don’t we!
Football fans have this love/hate relationship with the mainstream media. We hate their ignorance and bias when it comes to ‘our’ sport yet still crave for them to love and embrace us… why???

Now let me get this out of the way. I am not an apologist for amateur pyro and certainly don’t support flares at matches. They are simply illegal so they should not be at matches – fullstop. However, the fact that is that today’s Sydney derby is sold out yet again, DESPITE the recent over the top coverage in the mainstream media indicates (to me at least) that people are now seeing through the hyperbole.

The image of fierce looking young men with tattooed chiseled torsos in the foreground of orange smoke was digital gold. These photos have been used countless times over the past 2 weeks. While admittedly not the most wholesome of looks, I don’t believe any of it (apart from the flare) is illegal. However, when the narrative is added that these are ‘football hooligans’ in our mythical squeaky-clean sporting landscape then it became an easy sell. Whether it was by design or omission, the picture was drawn that these things happen all over the stadium and only an irresponsible parent would bring their family to a game because NOBODY is safe attending an A-League match. It’s obviously bullshit, but that’s what some now believe.

However, with sincere apologies to my friends in the mainstream media; all the hysterical column inches, scripted talkback radio callers and coached TV interviews that painted a horrifying apocalyptic picture of attending an A-League match, have had ZERO impact on the popularity of the 3rd Sydney derby of the season. In other words, my theory that people are now consuming mainstream media as a form of entertainment rather than genuine fact is arguably closer to reality than many want to believe.

Now there’s an interesting topic for another blog!!!

Simon Hill connects with the bootlaces and…

Well done Simon Hill.

Today’s editorial on the Fox Sports website was a brilliantly ballsy piece of work. Given that you make your living through the same parent organisation that threw a bucket of vitriolic bile last Sunday, via a ‘jurassic journo’ called Wilson, your actions should not be underestimated. Not surprisingly, it has continued during the week with media organisations seeing a news item generating so much heat. Sadly, the flames weren’t tempered but fanned further on radio and in some other editorials on TV since Sunday.

Those of us who have had a life long love of football have seen these attacks many times before and we have probably been worn down by the negativity over the years. I confess that I certainly have. The fact that my sons and their friends are repeating the very same frustrations that we did so many years ago has been depressing. Sure our sport has taken huge strides in Australia, however too many of the old prejudices remain to this day. My initial reaction was to ignore it all. This too shall pass and our sport will continue to grow and prosper nonetheless. After all, readers and listeners who would agree with Wilson and Jones wouldn’t be in the football orbit anyway. These troglodytes preach to the converted and look to maintain relevance in their shrinking world by incubating outrage. It’s a con, it’s malicious and motivated by a mindset set in 1950-ville where everyone knew their place – fullstop.

Simon, your editorial today absolutely nailed it – thank you.

PS: I’m anticipating that your article will not survive the News Limited stable censors so I repeat it here below.
The link (while it lasts) is: http://www.foxsports.com.au/football/simon-hill-on-weekend-reports-detailing-crowd-problems-in-a-league/story-e6frf423-1227621998463

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By SIMON HILL (25 November, 2015)

THERE are always two sides to every story, or so the saying goes. Yet the article in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph regarding the so-called epidemic of football violence, only tells you one.

So, let’s redress the balance shall we?

Let’s start with the inherent contradiction that I consider runs throughout Rebecca Wilson’s piece – that is, the suggestion that FFA are somehow bystanders – accomplices even – in the alleged trouble, because they refuse to accept there is even a problem.

If that is true, then why has the governing body issued banning orders to the 198 people listed? Isn’t that taking action? What else is FFA supposed to do? It already has a security presence in every town where the A-League is played. Maintaining law and order in public places is the job of the police, as it is at any sporting event, or public gathering.

FFA has taken the strongest measures within its remit to punish any perpetrators of trouble, and should be applauded for doing so – not hung out to dry. FFA has also recently dispatched a senior executive to Germany, to learn how the authorities approach crowd control in the Bundesliga (they do it pretty well incidentally), so they can hardly be accused of sitting on their hands on this issue.

Have the Australian Police followed their lead? Because at the moment, their tactics, according to Wilson’s article, aren’t working, and it always takes two to tango.

All we seem to hear from Commissioners are their outdated opinions on a sport they clearly have little understanding, or experience of. Witness this crass line from NSW Chief, Andrew Scipione, in Wilson’s article.

“The last thing we want to get to in Australia is putting rival fans in cages like the UK model.”

Now, I don’t know what century Mr Scipione lives in, but it can’t be the 21st, because “cages” vanished from English football grounds post-Hillsborough, as far back as 1989.

Mind you, we shouldn’t be surprised he thinks this way – this is the sort of football narrative Australia is repeatedly sold, via media lickspittles whose primary agendas are other codes of football.

Some journalists here still truly believe 96 people died that day in Sheffield because of “hooliganism”- not police negligence. They should try reading the harrowing reports of the current inquest in England – they might just learn something.

Let’s move on to address the comments made by Assistant Commissioner, Kyle Stewart – who has only been in his post a matter of weeks. Stewart claims that there is a “bloody-mindedness within some of the clubs (and FFA) that does not accept responsibility for the culture.”

All of which is news to the Western Sydney Wanderers (who make up the bulk of the “trouble-makers” according to the article) – because, sources at the Wanderers say Stewart has yet to speak to them at all.

Clearly, minds have already been made up at Police HQ that all Wanderers fans are potential thugs. The police presence at Wanderers games – in my experience – confirms this. It is quite unlike any other.

Riot squads, mobile detention centres, horses, dogs, police officers built like Robocop on steroids, some replete with tattoos on bulging biceps that remind you of nightclub bouncers, rather than your old-fashioned bobby on the beat.

It’s an extraordinary fortnightly show of force, which turn areas of the stadium into nervous stand-off zones, where one twitch, you feel, could lead to a can of mace being thrust in your direction.

Yet even if – as we are led to believe – there are 90-odd Wanderers fans hell bent on causing mayhem, that is still a tiny fraction of the 14,500 average crowd that watch the club on a regular basis. Talk about using a sledgehammer to smash a nut. On most occasions in Parramatta, the only person “giving it some violence” is Robbie Slater, when he’s sat next to me in commentary.

However, it’s Mr Stewart’s next quote that is perhaps the most revealing of all. “Behave like a civilized human and not some grubby pack animal, and you’ll find yourself buying many, many more season passes”

This sentence barely makes for cohesive reading, yet cut through the grade two English, and Stewart is, essentially, offering his opinions on the sport itself. In proper grammar it would read “this is why football has so few fans.”

Which, again, I’m sure is news to the Wanderers, who have 17,000 plus members, around 4,000 bigger than Parramatta Eels (their co-tenant) average crowd for 2015. Still, I fail to see why a columnist goes to a policeman for comment on the progress of a sport.

Similarly, what business does the Police Association of New South Wales have in re-tweeting this via its online account, from someone calling themselves “Ice Maiden”

“Axing football al2gether would B the go. Dreadful 4 creating head injury dementia.”

We’re really getting to the nub of the issue here, and Wilson is right in one aspect of her piece at least. There is a cultural problem. It lies in the way football is perceived, reported upon and judged by those who exist only on the periphery of it – and most of it is based on age-old prejudice, and pure ignorance.

Why else would Alan Jones (patron of the Australian Police Rugby Union team incidentally) no less, ask this of Wilson on his radio show, when she was invited to discuss her article?

“Is this like terrorism in Paris? The leaders have no guts?”

It is barely comprehensible that Jones would equate alleged issues involving football fans with the horrible slaughter in the French capital. It’s tawdry, squalid broadcasting, yet where football is concerned it seems, no comparison is off limits.

This disgraceful slur is one of many from those who appear to live in an Australia stuck in some 1950’s time warp. Where anyone with a surname longer than three syllables is somehow “suspect” – particularly if they like “soccer.”

The disease is particularly prevalent among those involved in sports in competition for fans (and corporate dollars) with football. One is Malcolm Conn, one-time cricket writer, now in the employ of Cricket NSW. Conn furiously re-tweets any negative story regarding football, in order to paint his own sport in a better light. There are many others desperately trying to recreate the “glory” days of Sheila’s, Wogs & Poofters.

Quite why his employers allow Conn to continue with his daily diatribe is a mystery – though maybe a clue can be found in the attendance figures for Test series’ outside the Ashes, not to mention the Sheffield Shield, where the players regularly outnumber the crowd.

It is also indicative of a landscape in which code wars have been allowed to flourish among the media cognoscenti, who – by and large – still originate from, and hanker after, Australia’s Anglo past, rather than its modern multicultural reality.

Hence the traditional sports are ferociously defended by such groups as properly “Australian”, while football is treated with the same sort of shrieking hysteria normally reserved for boat people.

Grubby pack animals indeed.

Still, times they are a changing, and maybe sooner than they think.
Ms Wilson’s column may well have outed some who indulge in violent behaviour, and for them, I have no sympathy. Behave badly, and you deserve all you get.

But by naming and revealing the identities of ALL those purportedly on the banned list, she has not only invited opprobrium, but opened up a potential can of worms.

There are already allegations that some of the names are incorrect, while some are reportedly underage. Others are not necessarily guilty of criminal acts. It’s also believed some of the photographs published were taken from social media sites, and used without permission. On top of that, none of those listed had any course of redress for their bans via an appeal.

If that’s the case, then we would appear to have conviction by media without proper judicial process. That would be a very serious matter indeed, and litigation may well follow from some of those involved.

Senator David Leyonhjelm meantime, has already called for an investigation by the NSW Police Integrity Commission, to find out whether they are the source of the leak. If proven, it’s a serious breach of ethics on their behalf too.

FFA absolutely refute allegations they leaked the confidential list – so unless it’s the police, that only leaves the stadiums and A-League clubs with access to such information.

Some are claiming the source is the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. The SCG trustee list, incidentally, contains not a single person connected to football – that despite Sydney FC being Allianz Stadium’s biggest tenant.

There is undoubtedly much more to come on this story, but in the meantime, and in the absence of public comment from FFA (which in my view, sells the majority of fans short), what response should there be from football?

In my opinion, the best response is to turn up in even bigger numbers to games this weekend. Be loud, and be proud of the world’s favourite game.

But we must also demand to see the names – and faces – of all those banned in the other football codes and cricket, so the public can make a fair comparison. Even if there are – as Wilson claims – only a handful, then so what? Let’s see exactly who they are, and what they get up to. #ShameonYOURgame anyone?

I’ll close with the best quote of this entire saga, which came from veteran broadcaster and football fan, George Donikian. It’s simple, but pithy.

“Words have consequences.”

Indeed they do George, and as we wait for the defamation cases, we can take solace in the fact that this current football-phobic generation, which controls so many spheres of public influence, will eventually retire, and be replaced by a more enlightened one.

It can’t come too soon.

MEME

Dear Western Sydney Wanderers FC,

As you can see from the date of my previous blog, I really don’t do this very often. It takes a fairly noteworthy event, such as, oh I don’t know; the pending launch of a new football entity to embrace and feel a genuine connection to make me write more than a Twitter post. Anyway, in case I’m being a bit vague, I’m referring to my family and friends’ favourite sporting club; the Western Sydney Wanderers.

I was there from Day One when you formally embraced public opinion with community meetings and the Western Sydney Wanderers embryo was germinated with our DNA. You listened when the colours of red and black were first mooted. You listened when Parramatta Stadium was presented as the preferred home ground. You listened when the term ‘West’ had to be included in the club name. Thank you – you listened.

Despite modest expectations on the field, we were excited at seeing OUR team from Western Sydney take part in the Hyundai A-League. Our kids now felt like there was a genuine link in our part of Sydney to the top of the football tree in Australia. We walked on the ‘hallowed turf’ of Parramatta Stadium along with Dicko and other foundation members before the inaugural match. We bought memberships to provide our financial support. We purchased shirts (by the many thousands) to display our support. We energetically and proudly embraced our more boisterous fans in the Red and Black Block to lend our vocal support. We travelled to away games to provide our moral support. In essence, we were all in. There was no ambiguity about being a Wanderers fan and the feeling was that we were all in it together. The fans, the players, the coaches and the club, we were one.
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Like any large group of humans (schools, governments, police force, armies etc…) we too have had issues with some members refusing to stay within the confines of the law. In our case it was incidents of smoke flares and some anti-social behaviour from a tiny minority. Those that have done the wrong thing deserve their punishment and life goes on. This blog won’t go into the perceived imbalance in reporting incidents, lack of appeal procedures or the misrepresentation of facts. It is quite pointless reheating those arguments. However, what this blog does want to get into is the decaying ambience of ‘Wanderland’.

Having experienced a fantastic opening season with the Wanderers ‘family’, I enticed 12 extra people to become members this season. I also upgraded my membership to the highest level and sit amongst many other families in Bay 44. It has mainly been a  fantastic season with our grandstand of mixed demographics (from middle aged couples, young families with toddler children and singles) happily engaging with the RBB chants and even joining in on the Poznan. It offers us all a couple of hours of fun and a bit of escapism watching OUR team.

The necessity of police at major events is an accepted part of the package of watching live sport. When something goes wrong in public places, it is these fantastic men and women that we look to protect us; which they often do without any thanks. Therefore, I know that I’m only referring to the minority of police who deem it appropriate to be aggressive when interacting with Wanderers fans.

The confrontational attitude of one particular policeman at the Round 24 match (Sunday 23 March, 2014) at Pirtek Stadium was jaw dropping. He approached a group of about 20 of us in Bay 44; consisting of the very young to middle age people and threatened to evict anyone who swore. The fact was that there was no swearing at all (particularly with young children in the vicinity) and so the police officer was challenged as such. When asked by a growing section of the grandstand about ‘who swore’ a clearly agitated policeman told one member to shut up and returned to his position stating that ‘he’s watching us’.

I know the above statement sounds petty and even trivial. However, having experienced this harassment first hand, it left an extremely bitter taste and destroyed the enjoyment of what should have been a pretty gratifying 3-0 home win. Speaking with many other members, I know that this kind of incident is happening across all parts of Pirtek Stadium, including the RBB section, so we have a serious problem.

The old expression stating that “if you treat people like animals they will act as such” immediately sprung to mind. As soon as this confrontation ended, the mood in the grandstand changed from a festive one, to one of protest. The happiness of the event was immediately sucked out of the day and in truth, I felt like going home to watch the second half.

These are my facts and views:

  1. I enjoy the RBB noise and movement but purchased 4 x Red memberships to secure a seat in a ‘calmer’ area of the stadium
  2. My family and friends are NOT criminals
  3. There has NEVER been an incident at Wanderers games anywhere near our Bay despite all away teams having their players’ family and friends, and even away fans sitting directly in front
  4. Police presence near our Bay is blatant overkill of resources
  5. Aggressive police activity is simply provocative
  6. I will NOT be treated like a criminal

This is a serious problem that has the very real potential to destroy what was once the greatest spectator experience in Australian sport.

Dear Western Sydney Wanderers FC,
It is time to listen again.

(Photo – Gregg Porteous)

NOW THE WEST HAS ONE

I find myself thinking about what makes things successful a lot these days.

At a very basic level, the old fashioned advice of ‘fish where there are fish’ always rings true. In other words, you wouldn’t set up a boat shop at Thredbo and expect business to flourish would you? The same logic would compel you to set up a boat shop in a relatively affluent area, preferably near the water and in a location that your potential customer base would know you’re in business. Right?

Well it is this same logic that has had me bemused for 7 years or so. With about 20% of the registered players that play football in this country all doing so in what we call Greater Western Sydney, it would seem a no-brainer to have had a club based out here from day one. We didn’t have one and yet many of us embraced Frank Lowy’s words on the eve of the Hyundai A-League and supported the new national competition. Many of us attended Sydney FC matches (an 80 – 100km round trip for some) in HAL 1 to watch a World Cup winning player Pierre Littbarski coach a team featuring the charismatic Dwight Yorke and mercurial ‘local boy’ Steve Corica win the inaugural championship. Despite a tumultuous off season, we returned in HAL 2 to watch the team defend the championship only to be disillusioned by a negative and dour experience. Ultimately, the lack of community spirit and not feeling like you actually belonged killed the initial enthusiasm.

Despite Sydney FC’s efforts, many WestSydnians just didn’t feel part of the club. After all, it was a bloody long way to travel to support our ‘local’ club. This is something non-Sydney based fans can’t quite grasp and see a new West Sydney club as Sydney’s second team. It obviously is by definition, but in many ways, it’s just like a brand new territory. In fact, it is almost as far and takes a heck of a lot longer to get to the outer edges of GWS (Penrith or Campbelltown) from Alliance Stadium than it does to get to Gosford from the same location.

This is just one of the many reasons why this new entity in football’s heartland (no apologies for using this terminology at all – it’s true) will not cannibalise Sydney FC support. In fact, all ingredients are in place to ensure it will be nourished and as a consequence of a natural tribal rivalry (East/North vs West/South) make both clubs stronger.

However, we must also take heed of words of reason. David Zdrilic is right when he says that the maxim ‘build it and they will come’ does not apply to West Sydney. If anyone thinks that simply plonking a team out here without genuine community collaboration will work is kidding themselves. To avoid this becoming the most embarrassing failure in Australian sporting history, the FFA must ensure a thorough understanding of WestSydnians. Unfortunately, there is no template to ensure success out here; especially in football. There are thousands of disenfranchised former NSL fans who will be hardest to convert. Many will stay away never to forgive the execution of their club from the top tier. I know a lot of these people. Some are close friends and in reality, I don’t think will ever truly embrace the new Western Sydney Hyundai A-League entity. Then there are people like me and my family who will support a Western Sydney football club because we feel a sense of belonging and pride. And then there will be those non-committed fans who watch NRL and possibly AFL on television, attend the occasional big match and only have a passing interest in the EPL because they hear work mates talking about how Liverpool lost again (it hurts me to even write that) or that brilliant little bloke called Leo Messi.

These fans are barometers. The ones that will help us understand if the club is boring or unwelcoming, or even fresh and exciting. There are so many more of them than us so we should not alienate them. Also remember that it is very likely that their kids are one of the 90,000 that play football out here, so I see no point in insulting them by calling the NRL ‘thugby’ or AFL ‘aerial ping pong’ etc… They should be considered potential customers and it is time our sport gets that massive chip off our shoulders and tries to get them to sample and ultimately embrace our game beyond Qantas Socceroos matches.

There is a concern that we won’t get a chance to ‘crave’ for the team’s debut as per the three year journey the AFL gave the GWS Giants (although in fairness – they had zero base to start from so needed every minute). It is only 6 months or so before the new season kicks off so the anticipation and satisfaction of learning new things about the club will and must happen very quickly.

–          Club name, Colours, Playing strip, Logo

–          Home Ground or Grounds

–          Membership packages, Players, Coaches etc…

This must all happen over the next 6 months so there will be no ‘eager anticipation’. It will all be unveiled with a blur as if we’re hitting the fast forward button to get to the car chase scene in a movie.

Obviously, Western Sydney is football’s most lucrative (potential) market in the country but it will take real understanding, hard efforts, delicate diplomacy and a pinch of pizzazz on the park to extract the gold. I am convinced that the football fans of Western Sydney need their team playing the way we all want football played – beautifully and successfully. This team cannot be a head down – ass up, run all day and bang it in the mixer when you get to that white line style of play. To expect WestSydnians to embrace anything other than beautiful football would be suicidal.

We’re in the entertainment industry. I don’t believe we are actually competing with NRL and AFL. They are winter sports and the Hyundai A-League is predominantly a summer competition so I believe that their fans can absolutely also be our fans. Why not? I like to watch a bit of NRL and AFL as well. I even took my youngest kid to watch GWS Giants kick off their story at ANZ Stadium a couple of weeks ago. I do however believe that we’re in combat for the entertainment dollar against Cinemas, Social Clubs, Pubs, V8 Supercars, Restaurants, Picnics, Beach, Backyard BBQs and even TV. There are many choices to spend the entertainment dollar so it is important to build that emotional connection ASAP in order to make football in West Sydney one of the top choices for the public.

This is a very exciting announcement for people who love football in Western Sydney. Kids have already started talking about it. As players are signed, perform, attend junior clinics, perform again, sign autographs and eventually become heroes to young players, that is when the foundations of a club take root and young fans are embraced emotionally. Unlike the AFL and NRL, our future heroes don’t have the benefit of feasting on Free To Air TV. Accordingly, ours take longer to grow so we have to understand the importance of this and be in it for the long haul.

For almost a decade, we’ve watched the Qantas Socceroos take on the world with more than a generous representation from our part of the world. Schwarzer, Okon, Cahill, Culina, Kewell, Emerton, Popovic, Kalac and many more all from Western Sydney. We’d point at the players in the Hyundai A-League plying their trade across the league all from Western Sydney; Thwaite, Brosque, Antonis, Carle and many more. We’d tweet away with pride at where they started from and bleat with a hint of injustice that they’re ‘our boys’. We’ve watched them play as kids at our local parks, grow up and take on the best and flourish. These players, in a strange way were representing us. Well the bleating and whining and carry on is now over. NOW THE WEST HAS ONE… our very own club in the top flight of football in the country – Hyundai A-League

Football is coming home.

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