Football Federation of Australia could have landed a knock-out blow to the unruly supporters of Western Sydney Wanderers and had it not been for a major commitment from the club to join the fight against trouble makers, their players would have been collateral damage.
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Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop says Western Sydney fans need to behave or their club will lose competition points.
The poor behaviour of Western Sydney Wanderers' supporters cost their club $50,000 and a suspended three-point penalty after the FFA found the league leaders guilty of bringing the game into disrepute after fans lit up to 19 flares simultaneously at a football match. That penalty could have been a lot worse for the Wanderers had it not been for their strong commitment made in response to a show-cause notice issued by the FFA.
The FFA was set to make the historic step in deducting up to three competition points immediately from the Wanderers, such was its anger at ongoing fan troubles and the club's inability rid the problem from their fan groups. The real threat of losing competition points put the Wanderers firmly on side with the FFA in the battle against the criminal minority of Wanderers fans. The latest incident last Saturday was the final straw as the club vowed to drastically improve efforts to remove the association of law breakers with their supporters, including stricter measures involving police and venue security.
FFA chief executive David Gallop confirmed the governing body was ready to strip points immediately from the Wanderers had it not been for a convincing reply to their show-cause notice that was issued on Monday
"The club's determination to continue to address these issues has been taken into account in the arrival of the penalty," he said. "We know at home games that the introduction of things such as fan marshals has worked for them. But, you can also say that not everything is working if you can see a section of the fans behaving like they were behaving on Saturday night."
A cultural problem associated with a Wanderers supporter group was cited by the FFA as it's understood several banned spectators travelled down to Melbourne for the sole purpose of orchestrating events, including the ignition of flares and intimidation around the precinct. There is no evidence to suggest the banned spectators entered the stadium. A suspended three-point penalty will now hang over the heads of the players, coaches and fans for the next 12 months where the deduction could be triggered by repeated significant poor behaviour by their fans in and around matches.
The club was hit with a suspended points penalty in late 2013 due to a violent brawl. That sanction failed to quash wrongdoers but Gallop believes the a reintroduction of such a penalty, combined with a harsher approach from the club, will have a different outcome.
"These are very serious ramifications in terms of the competition. We potentially have got the closest A-League finish that we've ever had, three points is very significant," Gallop said. "This is [the club's] responsibility. These people are associating themselves with the club and we're looking for the club to take some responsibility in putting measures in place so we don't see this again."
The timing of the sanctions adds to the attention placed on the Sydney derby next Saturday, which will sure to be played in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 at Allianz Stadium for a fixture deemed a "high-risk" match by NSW Police. The FFA will also be introducing a National Flare Management Policy next week.