Having not been at this tribunal session myself, and having not been given a debrief by anyone - not that I'm owed one, so don't take this as a complaint - I can only rely on the result of the tribunal hearing as put up on FFV's noticeboard, and the scuttlebutt on smfcboard.
The tribunal notice unfortunately does not go into any surplus detail about the nature of the incident. There are the charges against the relevant South fan (who pleaded not guilty) and the club for failing to control club associates (the club also pleaded not guilty), but no explanation of how the tribunal came to its decisions of guilty on both counts.
This is unfortunate because apart from FFV failing here to live up to its purported organisational value of transparency, I appreciate it when serious incidents such as this and the way they are handled are described by FFV's tribunal; because even if they don't work on precedent, it's nice to get a handle on the thought processes involved.
From what I can gather, the relevant sponsor who was accused of making the most egregious of the remarks towards the assistant referee fronted the tribunal, and accepted responsibility, and for that, credit must be given. Despite this intervention, the supporter put up on the various charges however was, by some process that remains unclear to me, found guilty, possibly for other comments made.
The process of identification, in particular what evidence was produced on the night, remains unexplained. That the conduct on the night of some South fans within the vicinity of the Kingston Heath grandstand was at best less than stellar is not in doubt; how one individual was picked out of that mess, and what the security firm in charge on the night was doing we will perhaps never know.
The interpretive fallout from the penalty has been diverse, but also predictable. To my mind the worst reactions have involved the allegations of a conspiracy theory; that FFV punished us for our so thoroughly identifying the Victory hooligans from the Lakeside incident earlier his season. I find this proposition utterly absurd, without any shred of evidence.
Other supporters have fallen into various camps of blaming the board for its handling of the matter, based on party lines so to speak. So there's your run of the mill Clarendon Corner type who are distrustful of the board based on their experiences going back a decade now. The are also those who have become hardened to the board over the course of time. In both instances it can be hard to separate the preexisting ideology from the reaction.
Despite its seeming inevitability (and some have even argued relative leniency, noting also the tokenistic $500 fine) I can understand the angst caused by the decision to dock us three points. Assuming for the time being that South Melbourne co-operated as was its obligation to do so in identifying the fan it was asked to by FFV - and that there were no mischief being done out of the public eye - what more can South Melbourne or any club do to prevent such incidents occurring in the first place?
Earlier this year at the AGM, we were told that we had avoided punishment as a club after a South fan (or one designated as such on the day; that individual would be one of those associated with the Victory hooligans who attacked South supporters) lit a flare and caused an incident in amid the Heidelberg fans, due to our identification and banning of that person. It was at a South home game, the security features there are better than most other grounds, and we were able to take advantage of that situation.
Earlier this year, after a flare was lit within the area where Clarendon Corner was located at the Veneto Club, on heading out of the ground after the game I was asked by president Leo Athanasakis whether I knew who had lit the flare. I replied that I didn't, and that was true - and if I did know, I would have told him. Likewise, when things threatened to get out of control at the cup match against Altona Magic this year, me being in the role of a supporter marshal, I had to try (probably badly, but well enough thanks to another fan at a crucial moment) to prevent people from our side doing something stupid.
But as per a discussion I had with one of our regular supporter marshals prior to yesterday's match, the obvious issue with that approach is do we (that is every club) then have to provide a chaperone each and every one of our supporters?
More nuanced therefore, from both inside and outside the club, have been the discussions surrounding how normalised point deductions have become in Victorian soccer as the primary way of dealing with serious cases of individual or club misconduct. While other local/suburban sporting competitions (the ones I'm familiar with most are various footy leagues) also use point deductions, I think you'd be hard pressed to find another sporting body which is so reliant on docking points instead of punishing the individual.
It has become so normalised that one can go through several divisions of the FFV league tables and see where point deductions have been applied. But the other punitive option employed by FFV over the years, namely fines, have also been controversial. Not being terribly imaginative, I'd like to know what the other disciplinary options are from people who don't like the way the current system operates. What course of action should FFV take instead to curb incidents of poor on and off field behaviour, especially in the case where a club refuses to identify individuals or cooperate with FFV?
Don't get me wrong: even if I'm one of a very small minority of people who thinks we got what we deserved, I get the frustration relating to the inconsistency of punishments dished out. We copped three points for failing to prevent comments that varied from stupid to offensive to outright vile. Heidelberg got nine points for for something worse - including alleged damage to an official's car - but got that down to three but also a hefty fine. Victory got six points and no fine for 30 odd blokes streaming across hundred metres to punch on with opposition supporters. Other teams get docked points after repeated infractions, when expulsion could be seen as the more appropriate answer.
But most of these things seem to me to miss the most crucial point - that without the first cause of the incident itself, there would be no need for the board to clean up this mess whether poorly or well; nor would be tribunal sessions where FFV would be asked to dispense summary or actual justice. This is where I feel sorry for people at the club - even if I think that they could or should handle such situations better, the point is that they shouldn't have to deal with such situations in the first place. In addition to that, there is only so much any club can do to prevent these sorts of incidents from occurring.
And the FFV, too, has a duty of care to its officials. Those officials are the branch of FFV that the Victorian soccer public most comes into contact with. The competency or otherwise of these officials is a matter for consideration on its own terms; it is not a line that can be used as a pretext for arguing that officiating mistakes are a justifiable pretext for fans or players to vent bilious hatred or even violence. As I argued last week, the supreme irony is that so often it's the fans who get it wrong seems lost on the people making these arguments - should the officials then get the chance to cry 'instigation' at the supporters?
Not that it should make any difference. The officials across any number of team sports expect a vocal home crowd to particularly scathing towards decisions that go against the home side, but there are lines that just shouldn't be crossed, not because of common sense but because of common decency, or failing that, respect for our club. For South fans who get targeted by opposition players, who have over the past decade or so taken the opportunity to celebrate goals in front of us instead of their own supporters, the best thing to do is not give those players the satisfaction of retaliating. As one of our more passionate but also level headed supporters noted yesterday and has been noting for years, attention at those moments should be paid to supporting our team
There are people who are still going out on the all or nothing approach on the matter of abuse, as if their entire right to be passionate at the soccer has been taken away. They are doing this I assume either because they are ignorant of the vile nature of the comments that were made on the night in question, or because they are on some sort of free speech, anti-PC brigade bandwagon. If it is the former, than I wonder how they would justify comments made to the official which included references to rape; if the latter, then it's the kind of absolutist position that is impossible to negotiate with, and which is an ideological which will never be accepted by FFV or any other similar sporting body, unless by chance you become an Australian test cricketer.
Rocking up to the ground yesterday, I was concerned that the game would be marred by further crass stupidity liable to get the club in trouble; instead a more humorous turn was taken, both in the stands and after the game, when the supporters ironically clapped off the officials as they left the field. I get that that kind of approach is not hardcore enough for some people, but I always find that a subversive, clever attitude is what we should be aiming for rather than crass macho bullshit. But then again since I could never pull the latter off, I would say that, wouldn't I?
The laughs keep on coming...
The suggestion was made yesterday by some supporters that the club had decided to take up its option of making an appeal. Should that be true, I can't say that I agree with this course of action. In part this is because of the lessons which one hoped would have been learned from South Melbourne vs FFV 2010; namely, that FFV can dock us more points, points which would be applied next season, and done so for no other reason than the the tribunal would consider our appeal to be frivolous.
Now of course an appeal could be successful - after all, Heidelberg got their nine point punishment reduced to three points - but I don't see the point in taking that risk.
Update: The club will not appeal the decision.
A casual reminder of other forum options
Some people on smfcboard once again noted the locking of threads, the clamping down of discussions etc, and once again came up with the idea of starting up another South Melbourne supporters forum. Of course these things have been tried before, both in the fashion of a forum that quickly ended up in gimmick territory, but also one that was started up this year, and fell out of use due to a lack of traffic.
So if you are fed up with smfcboard, organise your buddies and go here and register and vent in the way that you think you're not allowed to do so right now. Create a critical mass and see what you can do.
For the record, I registered on there ages ago mostly to secure my preferred username.
After all that...
There was a game to be played in front of a small and initially fairly sombre crowd. With Clarendon Corner taking the pisstake route by employing 19th Century style upper class polite disagreement to its logical conclusion, and the rest of the crowd probably assuming the worst that Heidelberg would beat Victory, there didn't seem much to be enthused about. Even less so when after South had pressed for most of the contest, Gully took the lead when an unmarked player on the far side of the six yard box smashed the ball into the back of the net uncontested.
At least the poor finishing of the first half was turned into some quality finishing in the second, and we eventually romped this game in. Of course we had to let Gully score another goal because our defense remains a sieve; as one of our favourite cynical forumites noted, we're probably going to have to score three or four goals a game to give ourselves a chance of winning the title from here. If that's the case, at least now we look like a team that not only can score three or four goals, but also one that seems to want to score that many instead of relying on grinding out a result from the opening minute.
Though neither team was probably at full strength or demonstrating full aturmbition, there are some things South can try and claim as hopeful omens leading into the finals. First, that Leigh Minopoulos playing alongside Milos Lujic is such an obviously good idea that one wonders why no one thought of it before. Second, that by hook or crook, we've managed to win three in a row. Third, that for the first time since the last time we beat Gully, we actually managed to one of the teams currently sitting inside the top six.
I assume that no one who was at risk of getting a fifth yellow card and therefore missing out on the first week of finals, did so. To that end the squad yesterday used Chris Irwin in place of the the People's Champ, and Andy Kecojevic and Joshua Hodes, the latter making his senior debut, also came on off the bench during the latter stages of the game. Apart from the People's Champ, one assumes that Amadu Koroma will be the other possible player to come into the starting eleven, probably at the expense of Tim Mala.
I'm not expecting miracles, but I don't see the point quite yet of writing off the team before the season is officially done. The nature of this finals system in particular is that with just one good performance and a couple of arsey results, you can find yourself with a title. Failing that, let's all fire away with who should be kept, who we should sack, and who deserves to be shot from a cannon into the sun.
I know who'd I'd like to see put into that cannon by the way.
Barring some unforeseen circumstance, we're playing Hume City at home this Sunday evening in an elimination final. Now not that I keep up with these things, but I'm told that Hume may have an FFA Cup match this week, which one hopes may tire them out a little as the midweek duties of Green Gully probably took the edge off as well.
Your South Melbourne membership will get you free entry into this game; otherwise tickets are $15/$10.
Senior women's team on verge of title
Our senior women have yet to wrap up their State League 1 North-West title after they lost to Melbourne University yesterday. This sets up a grand finish to their season this week in the final round. They'll be playing fourth placed Eltham Redbacks on Sunday, and with South Yarra playing Melbourne University, only a win absolutely guarantee South the title. The senior women's match against Eltham will kick off at 3:00PM, acting as a curtain raiser to the senior men's match.
Should they win the title, I assume, but am not sure, that they will play a match against the winner of the south-east side of the competition. I suppose we should cross that bridge when we come to it.
Just in case you were wondering what Fernando De Moraes was up to these days, he will be the Futsalroos' assistant coach when they head off the World Cup later this year. Which reminds me, I really should update the Futsalroos page on OzFootball.
"Convicted of a crime I didn't even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"