Is football hooliganism becoming a problem in Australia? For many Australians reading the mainstream media over the last week or so, the answer to this question is likely an unambiguous “yes!”
Some fans in the country, however, are frustrated over what they see as double standards of much of the media as the start of the country’s professional league, the A-League’s, eighth season approaches.
Two incidents have made headlines of late.
Earlier this week, police used pepper spray at a pre-season game between Western Sydney Warriors and A-League team Sydney FC. Fighting broke out after a firework was thrown into the crowd.
This followed closely on the heels of an incident last week during Sydney FC’s game against the Macarthur Rams when a child was hit by a rock.
Nobody is disputing that something happened. A-League CEO Ben Buckley was quick to condemn the incidents and two men involved in lighting flares and fireworks were banned from attending all football games for the next five years
"The troublemakers who bring the game into disrepute with their reckless behavior have no place in the game," Buckley said in a statement. “The incidents at Campbelltown and Edensor Park over the past week were the work of a few idiots who wanted to cause trouble."
Football fans, who admittedly can be sensitive, feel however that the media can go overboard when talking about the beautiful game.
At times the beautiful game struggles for attention (which is why the season kicks off in October when Aussie Rules and rugby are approaching the end of their seasons) but at times, the mainstream media seems to hold a grudge towards football.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, for example, featured the trouble that saw 11 out of a crowd of three thousand ejected on its front page.
Such newspapers can be quick to talk about soccer hooliganism at the first hint of any violence at a game, but when similar incidents happen in other sports they are often treated in isolation and not reported as any kind of sport-wide phenomenon.
“What's a ‘scuffle’ in another sport – let's say cricket – is routinely a ‘riot’ in football. Always has been, always will be,” wrote the Sydney Morning Herald’s A-League correspondent.
Maybe so, but fans are becoming increasingly frustrated at this double standard.