Wanderers threaten to shut down Red and Black Bloc
THE Western Sydney Wanderers have threatened to shut down their active support in the event of any future crowd issues and are actively seeking new leadership for the country's most controversial supporters group.
Wanderers FC CEO John Tsatsimas has sent a letter to members outlining a zero-tolerance policy for misbehaviour, four days out from a glamour clash against Arsenal.
The club believes the ongoing fan issues are damaging its brand, making it harder to compete for sponsorship revenue and therefore players.
"As a club we are looking to bring forward a new era in active support," Tsatsimas wrote. "This has come about due to the number of incidents in our short history which have compromised our club, our values and our culture.
"Most recently the incidents involving the unauthorised banner at the Sydney Derby in February this year, the ignition of flares at the AFC Champions league Match Day 6 and during two of the club's NPL 2 matches have proven that the current leaders have no control or worse, have no regard for the future of the Western Sydney Wanderers Football Club.
"These incidents, illegal and highly dangerous in nature by a small minority alone, have cost the club immeasurably - not just in terms of fines, sanctions and corporate partnerships but as an organisation that looks to stand up for Western Sydney, one that is inclusive for all football fans and proud to represent Western Sydney to a global audience.
"Since inception our club has had to pay countless fines from the AFC, FFA and Football NSW for incidents involving active support from matches we play in. Moreover, the imposed costs of additional security and policing, along with extensive seating damage at our venues, make the total costs significant and substantial. The effects of this significantly affect our ability to grow our club in a multitude of other areas.
"This has not only resulted in immediate financial losses to the club, but at a significantly greater cost due to lost revenue from partner and membership opportunities.
"An immediate outcome of these issues has resulted in our diminished ability to host pre-season matches in Western Sydney due to the increasing security and consulting costs due to this rogue element.
"It is quite clear that this cannot continue and such behaviour will not be accepted at our matches.
"Notice is hereby given that should any of these incidents happen this season, including use of flares or other incendiary devices, violence, pitch invasion, discriminatory behaviour or acts that constitute a failure to live up to the terms of admission into the venue, then the club reserves the right to close down the active support area for an indefinite period as outlined by the club which will lead to the redeployment of non-offending members to other available seating in the stadiums during this closure."
The club has 15,000 members renewed for the next A-League season, which the club says is the highest number it has had at this stage of a campaign.
In addition to the zero tolerance on misbehaviour, the club is also tackling the Red and Black Bloc (RBB) head on with a push for new leadership within the active area.
"To assist in the prevention of any such closure we are seeking those who feel passionately about the Western Sydney Wanderers Football Club and wish to lead this active support change to come forward and take part in the evolution of active support at Western Sydney Wanderers matches," Tsatsimas wrote to members on Wednesday.
He announced a members forum on July 25 at Club Marconi and said the club looked "forward to hearing from those who are interested and would like to take a role in the leadership of the active support area and identify ways the club can work with active support to create a more unified and better experience for all and assist with pain points for our members".
The club has offered to refund memberships of fans not wishing to risk a move to other parts of the stadium, should the active area be closed down.
"With a safe standing section lobbied for by the club and included in the design for Western Sydney Stadium we want to see active support and our match day atmosphere taken to the next level," wrote Tsatsimas.
"To make that happen we need a leadership within the group willing to work with, not against the club.
"The reality is that further major incidents that affect the image and reputation of our club may result in the indefinite closure of active support.
"We look forward to discussing the future of active support and other club matters with you and hope that your passion for the Wanderers will see us take great steps forwards, together."
Note: The writer holds Western Sydney Wanderers active membership.