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Why it's time flares fell out of vogue with A-League fashionistas

On fire ... Western Sydney Wanderers fans during the Sydney derby.

On fire ... Western Sydney Wanderers fans during the Sydney derby. Photo: Anthony Johnson

There is an equation often used by Australian soccer fans to illustrate the victimisation they feel: 11 arrests during a one-dayer at the SCG equals a quiet night out; 11 arrests at an A-League game equals a bloody riot.

The raw numbers might not reveal the nature of the offences, the discomfort caused to fellow spectators or the capacity to incite wider violence. Yet, after another weekend when the alleged misbehaviour of soccer fans attracted the often selective media spotlight, you must have some sympathy for the Football Federation Australia. And for the vast majority of fans who attend the A-League in peace and - until crowds grow - sometimes too much quiet.

So strong has the FFA been on crowd violence compared with other nations, some clubs and fans believe their hardline statements and policies might even feed, and perpetrate, media myths. Regardless, no one could say the FFA has buried its head and ignored the potential pitfalls of a sport with a chequered history, and a potentially incendiary cultural mix.

Yet, despite the FFA's vigilance, the introduction of the Western Sydney Wanderers has been used to raise the spectre of crowd violence.

The Wanderers' ethnic support base, and soccer's history of spectator violence - albeit mostly in far-off leagues - is the two-plus-two that, for some observers, adds up to five. The factors that fuel the belief mayhem is inevitable. Even when the facts don't match the perception.

Still, regardless, of the seriousness of the problem, or the motivation of those publicising it, surely a simple lesson should have been learnt: When you are being hunted, do not paint a target on your back. Not with profane and, in the case of Wellington's Paul Ifill at Hindmarsh Stadium, allegedly racist abuse. Nor juvenile stunts.

A flare is meant to attract attention. When thrown at, or near, an A-League game, it attracts the unwanted attention of those thinking - perhaps hoping - that the robust, raucous nature of soccer fans will result in violence. That it will create the riotous scenes the most xenophobic observers reflexively observe, ''We don't want here''. Whether the flares at the Sydney derby were lit by misguided enthusiasts, or troublemakers, they merely harden the attitude of those with an ingrained disdain for the behaviour of soccer crowds.

After a flare landed dangerously close to a ball girl on Saturday night, surely it was time for introspection. Not for fans to take to social media forums claiming victimisation. Not every criticism of soccer fans is a calculated attempt to undermine the game, or the work of journalists doing the bidding of rival codes.

It does not help when respected former Socceroos captain Paul Wade suggests, on Sky News, that legalised flares could be a welcome addition to the A-League's game day experience. Wade was, in every way, blowing smoke. The only flares seen at A-League games should be worn by those hoping lumber jackets will make (another) comeback.

The suggestion that flares should be legalised is based on the hoary assertion, ''They do it in other countries''. Forgotten is that, in some of those other countries, fans of rival clubs face compulsory - not merely voluntary - segregation, and are marched in and out of stadiums, sometimes by heavily-armed police and with snarling Alsatians snapping at their heels.

Fans beguiled by the faux-machismo of a retrograde brand of malevolent soccer tribalism, or excited by the thought of inhaling the acrid scent of flare smoke while watching the game through watery eyes, should reconsider their alliance with the A-League. Perhaps a career inside a UFC cage, instead of in the comfortable confines of The Cove, would be more their thing.

The A-League has mostly got the balance right, despite the provocative headlines. The chants, the rivalries and the enthusiasm are welcome. The self-aggrandising boorishness is not.

The most threatening incident I've seen at an A-League venue this year was a couple of Victory supporters throwing plastic cups at rival Heart fans. A few fists were waved. But, had the combatants come face to face outside the ground, I doubt they would have exchanged anything other than Facebook accounts.

Which is not to say, having drawn attention to themselves, a handful of misguided Wanderers fans do not deserve the scrutiny they have received. Intimidating and provocative behaviour is not welcome at Australian grounds. Not for A-League games. Not for anything else.

Email- rhinds@smh.com.au

Twitter- @rdhinds

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Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs NEW Stats
SYD 1 vs HRT 1 Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
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Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs VIC 1 Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
SYD 3 vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 3 vs BRI 2 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5 vs HRT 2 Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4 vs NEW 1 Stats
ADE 2 vs PER Stats
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WSW vs CCM Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2 vs NEW 1 Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2 vs CCM Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL Stats
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs BRI 1 Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
ADE vs SYD Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs HRT 3 Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 1 Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 4 Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
SYD vs VIC Stats
PER 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
HRT 2 vs CCM 2 Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs BRI Stats
PER 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
HRT 1 vs SYD 2 Stats
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CCM vs ADE 2 Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs PER 1 Stats
WSW 1 vs SYD 1 Stats
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WEL 5 vs HRT 1 Stats
NEW 1 vs CCM 1 Stats
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Round 9
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1 vs PER 2 Stats
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1 vs WEL 3 Stats
ADE 2 vs WSW Stats
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs BRI Stats
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Round 10
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 1 Stats
PER 2 vs NEW Stats
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs CCM 1 Stats
VIC 3 vs SYD 3 Stats
Wed, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 3 vs HRT 2 Stats
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Round 11
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs VIC Stats
PER 4 vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 2 Stats
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs WSW 4 Stats
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Round 12
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs PER 1 Stats
SYD vs ADE 3 Stats
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3 vs BRI 3 Stats
VIC 1 vs NEW Stats
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
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Round 13
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs HRT 5 Stats
BRI vs SYD Stats
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs WEL 3 Stats
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM Stats
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
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Round 14
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs NEW Stats
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WEL 3 vs BRI Stats
CCM 2 vs HRT Stats
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs VIC 2 Stats
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Round 15
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 7 vs NEW Stats
CCM 1 vs SYD 5 Stats
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 3 vs VIC 3 Stats
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HRT 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
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Round 16
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1 vs BRI 2 Stats
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CCM 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
VIC 3 vs HRT Stats
PER 1 vs SYD 3 Stats
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WSW 2 vs WEL Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs HRT Stats
NEW 1 vs WSW 1 Stats
SYD 3 vs VIC 3 Stats
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ADE 1 vs PER 1 Stats
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Round 18
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD 4 vs CCM 2 Stats
ADE 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
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WEL 2 vs NEW 2 Stats
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Round 19
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HRT 3 vs ADE 1 Stats
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Round 20
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2 vs ADE Stats
VIC 1 vs PER 1 Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs HRT Stats
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Round 21
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
HRT 4 vs NEW Stats
PER 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
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SYD 5 vs BRI 4 Stats
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Round 22
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs HRT 1 Stats
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WSW 1 vs NEW 2 Stats
ADE 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
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Round 23
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs CCM 1 Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs BRI 19:30AAMI Park
PER vs WSW 21:30nib Stadium
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 15:00Westpac Stadium
NEW vs ADE 17:00Hunter Stadium
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Round 24
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs CCM 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs HRT 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 19:30Allianz Stadium
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WEL vs VIC 17:00Westpac Stadium
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NEW vs PER 17:00Hunter Stadium
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Round 25
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC vs NEW 19:40AAMI Park
PER vs SYD 21:45nib Stadium
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HRT vs WEL 17:00AAMI Park
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Round 26
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs CCM 17:30Westpac Stadium
NEW vs SYD 19:45Hunter Stadium
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Round 27
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
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Round 28
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Round 29
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 30
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Perth Glory 22 10 4 7 38
Adelaide United 22 11 7 12 37
Melbourne City FC 22 8 8 -1 30
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Central Coast Mariners 23 4 11 -17 20
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