This article originally appeared here and the photo is courtesy of FTSAL.
Despite what 99% of the Australian football media says, Sydney FC is a club in crisis. Anyone who thinks otherwise is blind. But I’d go one step further.
Sydney FC is engulfed in Civil War.
Fans are at war with the coach and club management. On the other side, club management are playing a charm offensive with the media and in turn, not engaging with its membership base.
Saturday night’s game against Adelaide brought to head a number of issues and an impromptu walkout only served to highlight the widening divide between the fans and the club.
The club’s active support group, The Cove, unfurled two banners before kick off, one directed at the coach, Frank Farina, which read “We Want Frank Gone.” The other banner was directed at David Traktovenko, the club’s owner. It was in Cyrillic and read “Fire Scott and Tony P – Traktovenko.”
The fallout from these banners saw a member of The Cove escorted from the ground and her season ticket confiscated. She did nothing other than fold the banners away once security told them to remove the banners. The problem with this was that she happens to be the wife of The Cove’s Capo. He walked out with her, supporting his wife. A majority of The Cove walked out with them.
What you also have to remember is that the wife of the Capo had previously worked, both voluntarily and in paid employment, for Sydney FC. She was singled out because she was the easiest to identify.
The club’s response to this was to try and sweep it under the carpet. But this impromptu walkout led to protests outside the stadium, along the same lines of the banners that set of this chain of events. Were it not for The Capo taking to social media, there would have been no acknowledgement of the incident from the club.
Where did the club acknowledge the walkout and its causes? In the club’s unofficial forum, SFCU, run by members of The Cove. But, there was no statement on the club’s website or social media.
But social media served to inspire fans to spread the word of this statement. And then came the comments from the wife of the Capo. While the club said they had apologised to her, she refuted it. So not only was the club trying to sweep the issue under the carpet, they hadn’t even apologised to her before releasing the statement.
This breakdown in communication is where a lot of the issues emanate from.
The club signed coach Frank Farina to a caretaker contract in season 2012/13. A majority of the fans didn’t want him then. As if that wasn’t enough, the club gave Farina the stipulation to make the finals that season as his one and only KPI in order to get the job permanently.
He failed to meet that KPI and the fans thought they’d seen the back of him. However, to their astonishment, he was re-signed to a 2 year deal. To say fans were enraged is an understatement. Yet here he is, in his first full season as manager, delivering underwhelming results and performances. This only fuels the fans argument that Farina should be fired.
People will point to the fact that he was able to get the club to win four games in a row for the first time in the club’s history. He also managed to get the club to beat arguably its biggest rival, Melbourne Victory, 5:0.
But looking deeper at those results, both facts indicate the club played teams who were either playing as bad as Sydney FC has or in the case of the Victory result, they caught them on a bad day.
But the fans don’t just have a problem with the coach. They also have a problem with Scott Barlow, Traktovenko’s son-in-law who he installed as Chairman.
Rumours circulate constantly that Barlow involves himself more than he actually should. A particular rumour suggests that the club’s CEO, Tony Pignata, is hamstrung in his efforts to improve the club because of Barlow’s over-involvement.
Others suggest Pignata is as bad as Barlow, if only for not speaking out in defence of himself or trying to communicate better with fans.
Strange rumours exist where in an era where sports science is seen as a key performance analysis tool, it’s influence at Sydney FC has been dwindled down to a minimum due to cost cutting measures. The weirdest rumour I have heard is that the club’s players, in their own time, are visiting another club’s physiotherapist to receive treatment. That is ludicrous for a club that a) claims it is the biggest in the league and b) is apparently professional.
There’s also the fact that Barlow has been advertising his 3 Year Plan to journalists first and not the fans. This enraged fans immensely. Due to this rage being publicised on social media, the club has organised a night where he will present his plan to fans.
Given the events of last Saturday’s game and the negative feelings toward Farina, Barlow and to an extent, Pignata, the presentation of the 3 Year Plan is sure to be a hostile evening.
So what do fans want out of all this?
Fans want change. The club last won a trophy in 2010. In that time Traktovenko has taken full control of the club and has had his son-in-law, Barlow, run the club. His running of the club has seen fans watch a mediocre team for 3 seasons now and Barlow gives the impression that he’s not there to take the club to the next level.
For fans in Australia’s biggest city, a mediocre Sydney FC is now the norm and it shouldn’t be. The fans expect to challenge year in and year out and to regularly qualify for the Asian Champions League. But at this rate, that won’t happen in my lifetime.
We want our Sydney back.