The Squadron Football Supporters Club (FSC) Committee announced on 6th Feb that, for the remainder of the 2015/16 season, active support would be relocating behind the goals on the Southern Hill. The reason for this was that after a number of years spent in Bay 60 to try to rebuild active support after Bay 2, the numbers had again dwindled to the point that there were barely 10 people showing up to join in raising the atmosphere at Hunter Stadium.
After home games against Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix, feedback on the move and active support levels were overwhelmingly positive. This included positive comments from both the Club and FFA.
However on Friday afternoon we were contacted by the club who informed us that Hunter Stadium, E-Group and Newcastle Police had decided during this week’s security meeting that they were not in support of The Squadron being positioned on the Southern Hill for the fixture against Western Sydney Wanderers due to the fixture being classified as “high risk”. We were informed that they wanted us to return to Bay 60 for this game for “general public safety and safety of The Squadron”. We were warned that security would be checking everyone’s tickets to ensure that only people with GA tickets were located on the Southern Hill. Anyone with a different ticket would be told to move to their allocated seat, and that anyone who doesn’t cooperate would be removed from the venue.
We were also informed that if we co-operated, we would then be allowed to return to the Hill for the final game against Perth Glory and that discussions would be entered into in the offseason to facilitate making the Southern Hill the permanent location for active support. Discussions regarding the Southern Hill being made permanent were already agreed to however in a meeting several weeks ago with the FFA, Jets and Squadron committee representatives during the recent FFA Review process.
At no point was anyone from The Squadron contacted about attending this security meeting, nor were we told beforehand that there was even a consideration that we would effectively be directed to vacate the new active support area behind the goals. We have already given up the right to have any fence banners, drums, megaphones, tifo and large flags in good faith so negotiations could begin in the offseason regarding them being allowed from Season 12. We have already had to put up with a number of E-Group Security employees harassing active supporters in the new area despite only bringing in the same size small flags that any supporters can bring into Hunter Stadium. And we have already had at least two supporters removed by E-Group at the previous home game for supposedly breaking chairs that were already broken. Not to mention that the chairs across the entire Southern Hill seating area are brittle and dangerous after being in the baking sun for approx 15-20 years without being replaced.
The Squadron FSC Committee is intensely frustrated and disappointed that what is effectively a directive has been handed down with zero consultation and we as a group are expected to “toe the line” with the inference that life will be made more difficult if we choose not to comply. This is despite an existing agreement between The Squadron, Jets and the FFA that during the offseason there would be consultation into making the Southern Hill the permanent home of active support for the following season. We had also hoped that we would be able to capitalise on the fantastic numbers and atmosphere generated by the away support at the F3 Derby two weeks ago, but this directive and attitude for the WSW game will continue to throw barriers up to prevent people wanting to join and improve active support rather than making thing easier. We moved from Bay 60 as it was proven after a number of seasons not to work – returning there will undo all the hard work of the last month to revitalise active support numbers and enthusiasm.
As such, The Squadron is advising everyone to make their own decision where they choose to stand for the game against WSW. Anyone choosing to stand on the Southern Hill should ensure that they have a General Admission ticket. If you do not have a General Admission ticket, you should either buy one or sit in your assigned seat. If E-Group Security decide to cause an issue, please do not take any action that will get you into any trouble or evicted from the venue.
The Squadron Committee will continue to liaise with all stakeholders to ensure that the move to the Southern Hill is made permanent prior to the commencement of the 2016/17 season.