It wouldn’t be the first time an omnipotent Russian leader had faced the wrath of a disenchanted mob, armed with a lengthy list of reforms and determined for a slice of democracy.
Fortunately, David Traktovenko didn’t order the firing squad to disperse the angry crowd, like fellow St Petersburg resident Tsar Nicholas II did 109 years ago.
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However, his representative at Tuesday’s fan forum at Allianz Stadium, son-in-law and club chairman Scott Barlow, may have been tempted to invoke brute force as temperature in the room soared.
The board originally scheduled the meeting to explain their vision but unforeseen events – grisly losses to Melbourne Heart and Adelaide – evolved its function to an arm-wrestle between seething members and a board bewildered why they are not revered like the players they employ.
Unfortunately for the fans, the A-League’s ownership model means they cannot just vote out custodians. That’s what happens in the AFL, in Germany’s Bundesliga and at a smattering of NRL clubs.
That leaves disgruntled Sydney fans armed with voices but no instrument for change.
Yet the noise has become loud and concerted enough that the board would be foolish not to cede some ground.
The forum itself was largely viewed as a disappointment by the members; both answers and the strategic planning presentation appeared short on detail. Time constraints and the irreverence of some questions seemed partially to blame.
Regardless, it will likely only fuel the members’ desire for a bigger say in how their club is run. Expect a concerted off-season push for an appointed fan representative to the board, even in a non-voting capacity.
Though it goes against every grain in the Traktovenko-Barlow duopoly, it may be their last bet for appeasement.
Never before has an A-League club’s fan base turned not only on the coach or the chief executive – a recurring state at Melbourne Victory, for example – but the owners themselves.
These fans are purposely contesting ownership of the club’s identity and future; a point missed by commentators quick to dismiss the fans’ posturing as naive and fickle.
That director Jamie Samaha was rounded upon for his suggestion that the club was only an unlucky defeat from third was taken as proof by many supporters at the kind of approach embraced by the board: close enough is good enough.
Equally, fans are fed up with the short-term decision-making and cost-cutting; the hiring of coach Frank Farina a prime example on both counts.
The club admitted on Tuesday he was signed because they reckoned he was the best man to lift the club into the finals last season. He couldn’t, yet was paradoxically given a contract extension, infuriating and confusing fans further.
Farina was not present at the forum, which does not bode well for his future. Yet if he can sneak the Sky Blues into top four – not impossible given the squad at his disposal – he gets a new deal. That will trigger another round of debate, from his defenders and detractors.
As for the owners, their lives won’t get any easier until the team is challenging for the title, there’s actual movement on the plan they so desperately cling to and they can prove they’re acting in the interests of members and not themselves. Failing that, Siberia beckons.