Out of control ... a flare which was thrown onto the pitch during the Sydney derby. Photo: Anthony Johnson
FOOTBALL Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop has backed supporter groups to effectively self-regulate the actions of their members after the behaviour of fans was again called into question.
The FFA announced on Monday it will impose tough sanctions on fans who throw flares or racially abuse players, but praised the overall conduct of most A-League spectators.
Speaking at a function to promote the A-League's schedule over the holiday season, Gallop reiterated the governing body's ''zero-tolerance'' stance towards fans throwing flares, by pursuing five-year bans for those responsible. However, he has put his faith in the leadership of supporter groups, such as Sydney FC's ''The Cove'' and Western Sydney Wanderers' ''Red and Black Bloc,'' to crack down on the troublemakers.
''We have to remember that was a very small minority of people that misbehaved in an otherwise wonderful atmosphere in Australian sport,'' Gallop said. ''It's an issue that we need to stay vigilant about, we need our fans to stay vigilant about. If our fan groups can regulate that kind of thing, then we're a good chance of stamping it out.''
More than 26,000 fans attended last Saturday's Sydney derby to create a tense and passionate atmosphere, but the arrests of two men and a teenager for throwing flares threatened to spoil the occasion.
''By and large, the atmosphere on Saturday night was wonderful,'' Gallop said. ''Our fans need to understand that the atmosphere is brilliant without throwing flares, and they need to know that we take it seriously.''
On Sunday, at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide, Wellington Phoenix striker Paul Ifill was the victim of an alleged racial verbal attack from a fan. Ifill alleged the spectator racially abused him when he was substituted, then ran away before authorities could intervene.
''[I was subjected to] a few things that were blatantly racist that I'd rather not repeat,'' Ifill tweeted. ''To be fair I believe it's an isolated incident have to say its a 1st for me in the ALeague.''
Gallop was forced to address fan violence during his 10 years as NRL boss. He suspended four competition points from Canterbury Bulldogs following a brawl between their fans and Sydney Roosters supporters in 2004. He would not draw comparisons between rugby league and football fans but vowed to promote the style of active support displayed throughout the A-League.
''It's always difficult to make comparisons,'' Gallop said. ''The fact is, the atmosphere at our grounds are unique in Australian sport, and we want to continue to see the singing, the dancing, the drums. All those things are fantastic but throwing flares isn't.''
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Alan Clarke praised the behaviour of most of the spectators who attended last Saturday's Sydney derby.
There was a low number of reported incidents, ejections and arrests at the match although the actions of the few involved in throwing flares has attracted close attention from the police.
''The problem can boil down to a few fans who don't know how to behave. The majority of people [who] attend soccer matches … go and enjoy the event and go home quite peacefully. We'll concentrate on that group that don't wish to behave and they'll have to understand that they have to accept our standards of behaviour at football events,'' Clarke said.