Western Sydney Wanderers CEO Scott Hudson has called for bans handed to members of the Club’s active support by NSW Police at Saturday’s Sydney Derby to be overturned, and reiterated the fan’s pre-game ‘tifo’ banner had been approved by all relevant parties prior to the match.

Fourteen members of the Red and Black Bloc (RBB) were ejected and six handed banning notices at the Derby, which led to a mass walkout by the group. A subsequent NSW Police statement attributed a fight on the Commbank Stadium concourse as an instigating factor, and labelled the lighting of flares at a club-sanctioned pre-match march as a significant safety concern.

The Derby was one of a trio of incidents between football fans and police over the past seven days, with a further walkout by Brisbane’s Den on Sunday; Football Supporters Association Australia Deputy-Chair Matt Dawson believes the increase speaks to a clear recent alteration in the relationship between parties.

‘For us, there have been a number of incidents across Macarthur, Western Sydney and then up in Brisbane. All of these in such a short space of time indicated that something is definitely wrong, and there seems to be something going on with the police that is driving this crackdown.

‘One thing that has been noted by a few members online and from discussions in our community, is we’ve noticed what appears to be a very big step up in policing. I attended the (Derby) game and watched The Cove march and saw what appeared to be a huge police presence, the biggest we’ve seen.

‘In videos we’ve seen, again, a huge police presence and what appears to be a dominant one. One question we’re asking is what’s changed, why there was such a presence, and what’s instigated things to this point, when seemingly going into the stadium it had all been successful.’

Dawson believes it imperative to manage this relationship successfully, for only the slightest whiff of negativity is required for the decades-old anti-football attitudes to spring up within certain sections of the media, as seen in Channel 9’s reporting of the Wanderer’s tifo as ‘unapproved.’

The line between passion and disorder can be hard to maintain when male-dominated groups chant, march through public spaces, and occasionally light flares. Dawson admits such behaviour can ‘absolutely’ be construed as a threat to the broader populace if not conducted within the parameters of public sensibilities, and messaging tightly controlled.

‘Will (general) people be looking at this and shaking their heads? Absolutely, they will be. That’s why it’s important we celebrate some of those other supporter culture aspects that are brilliant, but are unfortunately not shared as much in the media or online.

‘The stigma around lighting flares, passionate chanting, you can acknowledge why the non-football community see those things and straight away correlate them with problems. It’s important for all of us to call out what things aren’t appropriate, but also to then set the record straight and ensure broader groups, including police and security, know what’s going on.’

Nine years on from the league-wide fan walkouts of 2015, when almost 200 fans banned by Football Federation Australia without avenue for appeal had their identities leaked to and published by News Corp, it’s tough to argue Australia’s supporter culture has ever fully recovered.

The Australian Professional Leagues are now in charge of the A-League Men’s & Women’s competitions, but the feeble leadership on the subject remains. Three days on from the Derby, nothing of substance has been heard from head office.

Instead it’s been Hudson and the Wanderers that have given football fans an overdue sense of support, calling for an ‘all of game response’ to a ‘broader issue’, and requesting immediate an meeting with NSW Police and Venues NSW.

‘As an organisation we had meetings with Danny Townsend last year, in his former role as [APL] chief executive, and he spoke about a process of sending senior police figures to see European active supporter groups and how security engage with them.

‘We need to create a mutual respect between what we see as a display of support for your team, and manage what is not escalated into displays that we’ve seen on the weekend.’