The theme of it was 'Who do we sing for?'. The other speakers included Lyall Gorman, Executive Chairman of Western Sydney Wanderers; Shane Harmon, Deputy CEO of the Asian Cup Organising Committee; and Bonita Mersiades.
The presentations were varied and interesting. Lyall spoke about what he had done to create Western Sydney Wanderers and Central Coast Mariners. Shane gave an overview of how the Organising Committee intends getting bums on seats for the 2015 Asian Cup; and Bonita gave a very thoughtful presentation which set out a strategic framework for fans and mapped that against attendance at Socceroos games over the past 7 years and also pointed to what it may mean for the Asian Cup.
I talked about how I've seen the relationship with fans evolve over the 30 years I've been involved in the game professionally by giving some case studies and anecdotes from my experience. It ranged from 1985 to the present day with the case studies including:
- the famous (or infamous?) Pratten Park 'riot' at Sydney Olympic v Sydney City. Incidentally, Terry Antonis' dad took part in that incident!
- oranges being thrown at us (Socceroos) in Tel Aviv
- the dart that was meant for me at a match for Club Brugge, but instead got the goalkeeper of the opposing team (who happened to be the Belgian goalkeeper)
- Brisbane Strikers - good example of fan engagement, especially for its day - a 'multicultural' club in the NSL
- the dead fish in the Danube in Budapest being smuggled into the ground and then thrown at us (Socceroos) in 2000 - worth asking Arnie about this one
- the experience we had in Montevideo in 2001, in the days when there was no money to deal with some of the things thrown at us. I did a SWOT analysis and report on this campaign and I'm pleased to say all my recommendations were picked up and implemented for 2005 which helped the guys enormously
- the current day and my biggest 'on again/off again' fan at Sydney FC.
My main point was that fans have evolved, as has fan engagement, but fans have always made the experience. I said in my book years ago that you can have a poor quality game but a great match because of the atmosphere and the experience, and that counts for players as well as fans. Here's my presentation here if you're interested in taking a look with links to two films (including one already on this site at my Gallery).
Looking forward to another great Sydney Derby experience on Saturday night. For those fortunate enough to have tickets, see you there. For others, watch it on FOX Sports.
And go Sydney FC! :)