Over the last month The Squadron Football Supporters Club (Squadron FSC) has been working hard on how we would choose to react to the restrictions imposed by Football Federation Australia on all active supporters across the A-League. The Squadron FSC has communicated with the Jets that we have significant concerns over the implementation of these restrictions and their effect on the future of active support in Newcastle. The club then kindly negotiated on our behalf new measures for active supporters which fit inside the constraints of the FFA restrictions.
However it is with regret that The Squadron FSC informs you that we can not accept the new restrictions for active support this season. This is a decision we have made after discussion with our Members. In the interests of engaging a wider cross-section of Newcastle supporters on this particular issue, we are looking for feedback from people as to whether they believe these restrictions are necessary, and whether it will impact if you choose to participate in active support in the future if these restrictions remain.
The Newcastle Jets management, The Squadron FSC, Hunter Stadium and Newcastle Police have been working tirelessly together over past seasons putting in place measures to improve and enhance the active support and to make it a more welcoming and inclusive experience at Newcastle Jets games. This included a safe and secure environment for all supporters who wanted to join the active area and this hard work resulted in zero incidents occurring within Bay60, a positive we were looking forward to increase this coming season. Let us make this clear, we had ZERO incidents in Bay60 last season. However these new restrictions will completely negate the work that has been done over many seasons and especially last season.
The Squadron Football Supporters Club wants the best for the Club, the A-League, and Football, however our biggest concern is the Fans and Supporters who we represent. In light of this The Squadron FSC will be vacating the designated active supporter bay for the 2014/15 season, or until such time as these restrictions are removed. This is not an action against the Newcastle Jets, it is however a response to the absurd and overbearing one-size-fits-all FFA restrictions. Should these restrictions be removed, we will return to our place in Bay60.
We will however continue to provide a voice for the fans, by being a link between them and the club. Further to this, we believe that between ourselves and the club we can negotiate, plan and provide an experience on game day that allows for growth of active support, and the general support in Newcastle.
We believe in a free and organic active support, one which can grow and diversify. The new FFA restrictions do not allow this to occur, neither do the Clubs negotiated measures. Through discussion with other fans within the Newcastle Jets supporter base, we have already seen that these measures will reduce and restrict our members and growth.
Our issues with the proposed changes to active support are:
1) Membership only access – The Squadron prided itself on the number of young people becoming involved in the matchday active support in the 2013/14 season. These young people ranged from early to late teens, people that the Squadron considers vital components of the future Newcastle, and more broadly A-League, support. A no-membership, no-access restriction disadvantages this key demographic of our support, now and into the future. Membership-only access also forces people to buy memberships which some younger supporters & parents are not able to afford. Yet more supporters will also be disadvantaged as not everyone able to attend every game due to family, work and local sporting commitments thus negating the benefits of purchasing a membership.
2)No Match-day Purchase of Active tickets – Through having a conversation with stakeholders of the game, i.e. supporters, we have found that the purchase of active tickets on game day was a common occurrence. Supporters being unable to purchase these “walk-up” tickets to our bay will significantly reduce the number of people able to experience our unique style of support for the first time.
3) Restricting movement into Active Support areas – We believe that support, particularly active support, ebbs and flows minute by minute, game by game, season by season. Whether our team is winning or holding onto the game as it draws to a close, putting a run of victories together, or excitement peaks for the season launch or a run to the finals series, the numbers in the active support bays would swell as people wanted to join in and put their voices behind the team. We believe that supporters should be free to do this, and that these new restrictions are placing barriers in front of people wanting to move into the active support area.
4) Price Gouging of fans – Further to restricting the purchase of active bay tickets on match day, it is forcing the pre-purchase of tickets online. The Ticketmaster/Ticketek monopoly on online sales, one company of which the Jets now use, are well known for their absurd price “add-ons”. We believe that by forcing fans to buy online that this incurs extra expense for the purchaser that will further put them off buying active tickets. In the interests of transparency, the Club has proposed that active supporter members would have a “bring a friend option” which would see a $5 reduction of the face value of tickets bought through these sites for active support.
5) The collection and storage of personal information – The Squadron FSC has always maintained a strict self-policing policy. Perpetrators of anti-social behaviour in our Bay have always been easily identified and removed, or encouraged to participate in a positive way. We believe that the bulk collection of everyone in the bay’s personal information is unnecessary and invades their privacy. We believe that those who commit acts of crime, or behave in an inappropriate manner should have details collected as per legal requirements. The Club says that they have “Strict privacy rules surrounding the collection of information”, however it is our belief that if the club is unable to say no to the FFA on these new restrictions, they won’t say no when asked to divulge personal information.
6) Supporters United Australia – We believe that in light of the League wide situation facing active supporters that it would be unfair of us to accept a deal based on the FFA restrictions. We believe that the best way for OUR game to continue to grow is to provide both active support and general support that is free from these restrictions. We also believe that the best way to achieve freedom from these FFA restrictions is to join with our fellow supporters from other clubs in protest against these measures. The overall aim & attitude of football administrators should be to remove barriers and restrictions so as to make it easier for people to migrate into the active support bays when they wish to. Active support is frequently used as a point of difference between our game and the other sporting codes in FFA advertising and public relations, yet it seems the overall attitude is to dilute, restrict and reduce this point of difference rather than work with the various groups on how to best maximise the effects and help grow the unique atmosphere generated by the supporter groups around the league.
We have a unique set of circumstances which affect us as a group, circumstances which are shared by all supporters of our club. These new FFA restrictions are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to be applied across the league and will have a negative effect on active support, due to the individual circumstances with each stadium, supporter group and club. These measures are vehemently opposed by all other active support groups, who we are continuing to liaise with. We believe all supporter groups should be allowed to continue working with their own clubs to continue to implement measures specific to their circumstances without interference. We are willing to have discussion with OUR club to implement such measures, which should not involve FFA restrictions or input.
We appreciate the management team of the Newcastle United Jets, and look forward to working closely with them into the future.
Thank you for your continued support,
The Squadron FSC Committee