A-League active support dying is no laughing matter

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The Melburnians aren't the first and sadly won't be the last active support group to bite the dust in the A-League

After Melbourne City's active support group the Melburnians revealed their intention to retire on Sunday, the reaction was a mixture of jokes and not so subtle digs at a club that's always struggled in the stands. 

While the Melburnians themselves admitted a lack of numbers led to their decision to stop, dwindling fans and the death of any active support group in the A-League is no laughing matter.

If fans are the lifeblood of the game, then active support is the heart that keeps it all pumping and when it comes to a club like City, theirs could be viewed as life support.

Despite their best efforts to conjure up support for a club that's failed to win fans over, the Melburnians can't be blamed for pulling the plug, but it's an action that points to a much broader issue facing the competition right now.  

In a country where football faces an uphill battle to get a foothold against other established sporting codes, active support remains a distinct point of difference which can give the A-League an attractive leg to stand on.

From the eye-catching banners and tifos, to the sheer sound a tightly-knit group of fans can generate, active support can be the A-League's greatest advertisement.

Yet instead, groups like the Melburnians and many more before them have been ostracized and sanctioned to, in some circumstances, extinction.

As the Melburnians pointed out, they faced roadblocks at every turn as they attempted to rejuvenate City's support.

"Due to ongoing issues and restrictions with the club, FFA, VicPol, stadium security, and though it is the topic of jokes by rival clubs, the very obvious lack of numbers and participation makes life very difficult for those trying to run a terrace," they wrote on social media.

Active support frustrations have reached a boiling point a number of times in recent years with Western Sydney Wanderers group the RBB boycotting matches last season after the entire group was banned for lighting flares during a Sydney derby. 

"We have taken the decision to not attend games for the rest of the season," an RBB statement issued at the time said.

"It's through these increasing restrictions that active support is suffering and nearing non existence."

While flares are a separate issue, there's no denying active support has been strangled at times when it really needs to be embraced.

Melbourne Victory's now disbanded North Terrace is a prime example of this, with the group describing their situation as 'untenable and unsustainable' back in 2016.

"The current restrictions imposed on the North Terrace, together with the unrealistic expectations of the club and possibly the wider fan base, make effective leadership at best an unenviable task, at worst an impossible one," the supporter group wrote at the time.

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"Marches have been banned, group and message banners restricted, approved and paid-for tifos and choreographies refused and cancelled at the last minute, flags and standards have been limited in distribution. Not to mention, provocative security and police who almost always chose the ‘take-down’ over a peaceful, restorative solution and ongoing surveillance and blacklisting by a private and unaccountable counter-terrorism consultancy firm with a vested interest in trouble at the football.

"This is not a protest or a boycott or a strike. For the North Terrace to continue as its traditional self in this climate, is a battle we cannot win." 

Two years on and another active supporter group has bitten the dust and that's something we should be worried about - not laughing at. 

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