Fan culture is key for A-League

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It’s crazy to think that it’s
already been 11 years since the birth of the A-League.

Football lovers have witnessed the
popularity of the world game sky rocket to unimaginable heights around the
country. Like the MLS, the A-League has faced the difficult task of gaining
exposure ahead of already established sports, such as the AFL and the NRL. Despite
certain setbacks faced, last season saw the A-League hit, with a 1.7 million fan attendance for the season, and 5 million fans watching
from home. We have attracted some of the biggest players and teams down under, contributing to the growth of football in Australia.

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There is no doubt the growth of
the game stems from the fan culture that is created on match days, and through club involvement with fans. The growth of fans as a collective community has been something
we haven’t seen before in a mainstream recognised competition. Pre-game festivities
quickly become a main part of match day for any fan. The notorious march to the
home or away ground followed by a sea of fans is a feeling which will give you
goose bumps every time. As the fans roll through the gates in excitement, you will
see the active support terraces setting up their tifos to put on a show for all to
see. It’s a passion which sees them standing and singing for the entire 90
minutes. The sound of banging drums, trumpets, and flags provide the entertainment
which keeps the neutral fan coming back for more.

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Although the fan growth has been a
positive for the game; football newbies have struggled to understand and adapt
to the footballing fan culture that has been adopted from a long European
history overseas.    

In the past, it has been an uphill
battle for many organisers of active fan groups, having to deal with the
struggles of misunderstandings with police.

Just recently the Western Sydney
Wanderers active support group RBB (Red and Black Bloc) dodged a massive bullet
with the Police. 

Western Sydney’s Red and Black Bloc have so far faced the most excessive police intervention; the match-day march, chants, flags and banners all set to go under a set of tough new restrictions. But for now, NSW Police’s proposal has been halted pending further negotiations.

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The MLS has had a similar history
to that of the A-League. Established in 1993, the MLS and its fans have
experienced the roller-coaster ride between fans and its security.

As fan support groups grew in numbers, so did the added tension
between authorities and fans. As time has progressed, both fans and authorities have
been educated into co-operating as a football community. The MLS now displays
some of the greatest Tifo’s and fan atmosphere in the world. The active fans can
harmoniously display their undeniable passion for their team, amongst the
majority of fans made up of families and youth.

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The amazing atmosphere has seen a
large migration of fans from rival codes, fall in love with football at first
sight.

For a child it is entertainment at
its finest, which is why the MLS have targeted fan culture as a driving force
in their sales market.

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The A-League is also capable of
achieving a similar model to the MLS. The fans are already at a rapid growth
and slowly the police are understanding the fan footballing culture on match
days.

The charity work from Wanderers active support group RBB is just one example of the benefits it can bring to a community. Not only has Sydney’s West been brought together as one, the RBB has hosted multiple fundraisers: including a recent fundraiser for a supporter who was diagnosed with cancer. The campaign raised upwards of $20,000.

With the football community constantly growing, the A-League can use the beauty of fan culture to promote and market our game to a
new audience.

A-League chief Damien de
Bohun has acknowledged the increase in attendance, which proves that the
competition is on the way up.  

“With
our numbers last year around 13,000 or a bit more as our average crowds, that
makes the A-League I think the 14th most attended competition on earth” he told the A-League Website.

The growing support will lead to better home grown players, more international marquee players, and better performances on the Asian Champions League stage. 

It’s already been a remarkable
journey for the A-League, though undoubtably, the best is yet to come.

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By Ari Charilaou (He’s also on twitter here). Imagery: Aleks Jason / TURF

THE TURF