The real reason why Glory fans have snubbed the A-League.
Posted by cegan on October 23, 2013
A recent article on the Football Australia website investigated why Glory fans are not attending A-League games in the same vigor that they had done in the old National Soccer League. Mike Cockerill’s opinion was to tell the Perth public they had no excuses to not turn up at games as the club had listened to them.
However Cockerill has used nostalgic memories, rather than an in-depth understanding of the state’s football culture.
The Glory of 1996 was the Perth Azzurri of 1951.
Perth Azzurri at its peak in the early 1950’s expanded rapidly and dared to challenge the traditional football clubs.Forty years later Perth Glory repeated history with 10% participation growth per year during the late 1990’s and broke countless Australian NSL records.
The other element that typifies Western Australian Football is the diversity of the states interactions towards football. How a community interacts with the world game in one suburb was different to another. Unison statements on football culture in Western Australia is problematic.
In the working class communities in the inner east of Perth there was very little opportunity for kids like my father in the 1970’s to play football in Maylands, the only option was Australian Rules Football.
However for his friend who grew up in the Swan Valley, there was only soccer to play up until he was 15. He had no opportunity to play Australian Rules Football as a young kid.
CT Stannage in A New History of Western Australia talks about the class system of sport in Perth. Soccer is clearly a team for civil servants and thus its influence on working class suburbs such as Maylands are limited. Australian Rules Football in Western Australia was a code not supported by the gentry of Western Australia as they believed it engendered violence. However Australian Rules Football bound working class communities which would limit any opportunities for my father to play any game other than Australian Rules Football in 1970’s Perth.
If we look at the current crowd issues, Damian Mori’s column in 2002/3 indicates why in 2012/13 the crowds are some of the lowest in the A-League.
“I can understand that some people might have been turned off the NSL by the problems that continue to hamper the league, while the loss of TV coverage has also been a big blow to the competition. But I’m sure that before too long, with the help of the Federal Governments inquiry into the sport, the league will be reformed”
“But Perth Glory needs to stay strong as a club and that needs the assistance of fans. I know supporters are entitled to show their dissapointment by refusing to come to matches. I only hope the opposite will be the case and we can show the rest of the league exactly where the game should be.” The West Australian, October 31st 2002
The crowds of 2011/12 are a similar average to those of 2002/3.
The nostalgia in the Glory fan, which Cockerill represents well in his article is not why crowds are bad in 2013. .
If history is seen as teaching us lessons for the future then a comprehensive analysis of the codes history is necessary.
In my initial research the vastly different interactions with the world game is clear throughout the Perth metropolitan area.
Even with the immense hype of the Glory in the late 1990’s, not every suburb interacted with the club with passion. Notably the inner city suburb of Leederville had over 1500 people opposing the club’s proposed move to their town in 2001 in a petition to the Town of Vincent.
So what drives hype in football in Western Australia?
- Perth v Fremantle rivalry
- State Parochialism
The research and development of the book will exemplify these themes, but it’s a lot more complex than Cockerill’s analysis. Perth became disenfranchised by the NSL and they haven’t been encouraged to head to the A-League because of the dearth of excitement surrounding the game. The code is currently in a natural plateau of support that has occurred many times after strong growth in support and was present prior to the introduction of Perth Glory in 1996.
The FFA and Glory need to reflect on the past to spark a return to the interest in the game of the late 90’s. A comprehensive understanding of the codes diverse interactions within the city is needed before the world game reaches the ‘untapped’ potential that Cockerill accurately identified.
By Chris Egan