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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 WST 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs NEW Stats
SYD 1 vs MEC 1 Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs PER 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs VIC 1 Report Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs WEL 2 Report Stats
SYD 3 vs WST 2 Report Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
MEC 1 vs NEW 1 Report Stats
PER 3 vs BRI 2 Report Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 20:00SS
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs MEC 19:30ES
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs NEW 16:00WS
ADE vs PER 17:00Coopers Stadium
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WST vs CCM 17:00Pirtek Stadium
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Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs ADE 19:30AAMI
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER vs NEW 17:00NIB
WST vs BRI 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs CCM 16:00AS
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WEL 19:30AAMI
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Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs WST 18:30WS
ADE vs SYD 20:15Coopers Stadium
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs VIC 17:00HUN
BRI vs MEC 20:30SS
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 17:00Central Coast Stadium
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Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 19:30HUN
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs WEL 17:00Coopers Stadium
SYD vs VIC 19:30AS
PER vs WST 21:45NIB
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs CCM 17:00AAMI
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Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs BRI 19:30ES
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WST vs NEW 17:00Pirtek Stadium
MEC vs SYD 19:30AAMI
PER vs WEL 21:45NIB
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 17:00Central Coast Stadium
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Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs ADE 19:00AAMI
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs PER 17:00SS
WST vs SYD 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MEC 16:00WS
NEW vs CCM 17:00HUN
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Round 9
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs NEW 20:00SS
Tue, 09 DecTimes shown AEDT
WST vs PER 19:30TBC
Thu, 08 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 17:30WS
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs CCM 19:30AAMI
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs MEC 19:30Coopers Stadium
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Round 10
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PER 19:30AS
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 19:30TBC
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WEL 17:00HUN
ADE vs WST 20:00Coopers Stadium
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs BRI 17:00AAMI
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Round 11
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 19:30Coopers Stadium
PER vs NEW 21:45NIB
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs CCM 16:00EP
WST vs MEC 17:00Pirtek Stadium
VIC vs SYD 19:30ES
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Round 12
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WST 20:00SS
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs ADE 17:00HUN
MEC vs VIC 19:30AAMI
PER vs CCM 21:45NIB
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 17:00AS
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Round 13
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs PER 17:30AAMI
SYD vs ADE 19:30AS
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 17:00Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs NEW 19:30AAMI
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs WST 17:00WS
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Round 14
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs MEC 17:00HUN
BRI vs SYD 20:00SS
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs WEL 19:30Coopers Stadium
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WST vs CCM 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs PER 19:30Simonds Stadium
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Round 15
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs NEW 19:30WIN Stadium
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs BRI 15:00WS
CCM vs MEC 17:00Central Coast Stadium
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER vs ADE 23:00NIB
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WST vs VIC 19:30Pirtek Stadium
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Round 16
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs NEW 17:00Coopers Stadium
CCM vs SYD 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER vs VIC 20:00NIB
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WEL 15:00SS
MEC vs WST 17:00AAMI
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Round 17
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 19:30HUN
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 17:00Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs MEC 19:30ES
PER vs SYD 21:45NIB
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WST vs WEL 17:00Pirtek Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MEC 16:00Brendan Foot Kia Hutt Recreation Ground
NEW vs WST 17:00HUN
SYD vs VIC 19:30AS
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PER 17:00Coopers Stadium
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Round 19
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs VIC 20:00SS
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs CCM 17:00AS
ADE vs WST 20:00Coopers Stadium
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs NEW 16:00Brendan Foot Kia Hutt Recreation Ground
MEC vs PER 17:00AAMI
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Round 20
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs ADE 19:30AAMI
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CCM 17:00HUN
WST vs SYD 19:30Pirtek Stadium
PER vs BRI 21:45NIB
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WEL 17:00AAMI
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Round 21
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs SYD 19:30HUN
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs ADE 18:00Brendan Foot Kia Hutt Recreation Ground
VIC vs PER 19:30AAMI
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs MEC 15:00Central Coast Stadium
BRI vs WST 17:00SS
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Round 22
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs CCM 19:30Coopers Stadium
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST vs VIC 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs BRI 19:30AS
PER vs WEL 21:45NIB
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs NEW 17:00AAMI
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Round 23
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs MEC 19:30AS
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST vs NEW 17:00Pirtek Stadium
ADE vs VIC 20:00Coopers Stadium
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 15:00Central Coast Stadium
BRI vs WEL 17:00SS
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Round 24
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs CCM 19:30AAMI
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs BRI 19:30AAMI
PER vs WST 21:45NIB
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NEW vs ADE 17:00HUN
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Round 25
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs CCM 21:00SS
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WST vs MEC 16:00Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 19:30AS
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WEL vs VIC 16:00WS
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs PER 16:00HUN
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Round 26
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC vs NEW 19:30AAMI
PER vs SYD 21:45NIB
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE vs BRI 17:00Coopers Stadium
CCM vs WST 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
MEC vs WEL 17:00AAMI
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Round 27
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs CCM 17:30WS
NEW vs SYD 19:45HUN
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WST vs ADE 17:00Pirtek Stadium
BRI vs VIC 19:30SS
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER vs MEC 17:00NIB
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Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W D L +/- Pts
Perth Glory FC 2 2 0 0 2 6
Melbourne Victory FC 2 1 1 0 3 4
Sydney FC 2 1 1 0 1 4
Adelaide United FC 2 1 1 0 1 4
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 1 0 1 0 3
Central Coast Mariners FC 2 1 0 1 0 3
Melbourne City FC 2 0 2 0 0 2
Newcastle Jets FC 2 0 1 1 -1 1
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