The Western Sydney Wanderers football team have been fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia for “bringing the game into disrepute” after fans of the team displayed a banner deemed to be homophobic during a match last weekend.
The explicit banner depicted a likeness of rival team Sydney FC’s manager Graham Arnold engaging in oral sex, and at last Saturday’s A-League game in Sydney it was displayed in front of the crowd for several minutes before being confiscated by security.
Fourteen members of the Wanderers’ active suppporter group, named the Red and Black Bloc, were caught on security camera sneaking the banner into the match.
The FFA said the banner was “offensive to any reasonable member of the public” and issued the Wanderers with a show-cause notice.
And on Thursday, the FFA said in a statement the Wanderers had been fined and the team had imposed 18-month suspensions on the members involved. They’ll also be required to “undertake a recognised social inclusion program” before they’re allowed in to future matches.
“The actions of the Western Sydney Wanderers spectators responsible for displaying the banner and the ensuing celebration of the banner on social media were completely unacceptable,” A-League boss Greg O’Rourke said.
“While we have noted and were pleased with the positive proactive measures undertaken by the Western Sydney Wanderers, the fine reflects the fact clubs are responsible for the actions of their spectators and managing the approval of the game-day banners and activities of their active fan groups.”
After the match, the Red and Black Bloc members proudly celebrated the banner, posting photos and videos of the banner to their social media accounts and slamming the authorities’ actions as “dictatorial”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Wanderers CEO John Tsatsimas said the club “does not in any capacity welcome, authorise or condone the display of imagery depicted” in the banner.
“It is an affront to many on a multitude of levels and is completely unacceptable,” he said.
“As a club made up of the most diverse and inclusive cross-section of members and fans in Australian sport we are committed to working with FFA and our stadiums to ensure our matches remain a positive family friendly environment.”
Joseph Roppolo, president of gay and inclusive soccer team the Sydney Rangers, said earlier this week the banner “sent out a message that it’s okay to mock people based on sexuality” and urged the FFA to impose bans on the members.
The FFA said the Wanderers also made a commitment to monitor future behaviour of their supporters at matches and on social media platforms.
(Top photo via Instagram)