Newcastle Jets’ fan group The Squadron have followed in the footsteps of the North Terrace and ceased involvement with active support at matches.
The Squadron’s decision comes after struggling for numbers with the group’s voluntary move to the southern end of McDonald Jones Stadium, which was financially supported by the Jets, unable to reinvigorate it.
The decision comes barely six months after Melbourne Victory’s prominent active support group North Terrace ceased the co-ordination of organised support.
The North Terrace criticised the “current culture and environment” imposed on fans by the FFA.
In a statement, The Squadron similarly blamed the FFA’s mandated restrictions and conditions which “have had a devastating impact on the levels of active support growth at Jets’ fixtures”.
Despite that the circumstances of the two groups’ demises are vastly different, with The Squadron struggling for numbers while the North Terrace remained popular.
Both the Jets and the FFA acknowledged the decision was unfortunate and based around a range of factors.
Newcastle’s failure to make the finals in seven years had not helped numbers, while it’s understood the enthusiasm of The Squadron’s leaders has waned.
The Newcastle City Legionaries (NCL) have grown as well, situated in the General Admission Bay 1 area and avoiding FFA’s conditions due to not being an official active supporter group.
Despite the differing circumstances, their respective demises are significant given active support was trumpeted by the FFA in the A-League’s fledgling years as a major drawcard for fans to attend games.
An FFA spokesperson told FourFourTwo: “Active support is an important part of the match day experience at Hyundai A-League matches.
“FFA will continue to work with the clubs and their members and fans to ensure that these active supporter areas continue to thrive in the future.”
A-League restrictions and conditions on active supporter groups have tightened in recent years, with both Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers fined for fan anti-social behaviour, including flares and more recently a homophobic banner at the Sydney derby.
The Squadron pointed to the challenges of the current conditions, but are hopeful that a new group will organically take the reins as active supporters at Newcastle.
“We have persevered to make things work within the rules for years, moved locations twice to try to rebuild numbers and have worked with the club on different initiatives," The Squadron said in a statement.
“We were informed that being the “official active support group” meant we had to abide by the FFA mandated conditions or lose status and active support privileges.
“It’s hoped that by standing aside as an official active support group, an organic growth of unaffiliated groups such as the NCL can continue so that matchday atmosphere is what we had always envisaged – loud and parochial."
The Squadron will continue as a supporters’ club with non-matchday activities such as organising away tours, tifo displays and financially supporting fan media.
It’s understood, the Jets invested approximately $10,000 in accommodating The Squadron’s move to the southern end of McDonald Jones Stadium, for costs such as security and barriers.
The Jets told FourFourTwo: “The Jets were in consistent dialogue with representatives of The Squadron throughout the Hyundai A-League 2016/17 season, and earlier, and recognise that numerous factors have contributed to the decision.
“The club supported the group’s move to behind the goals at the southern end of McDonald Jones Stadium via significant investment in infrastructure for the 2016/17 campaign in the shared hope that it would help reignite Active Support at home fixtures.
“Overall the club commends The Squadron’s commitment to supporting Newcastle Jets and the Hyundai A-League both on and off the field over the first 12 seasons of the competition. The group has helped create and share in many magnificent memories at home and away since 2005.
“The club is open to working with new or existing Jets Members/Supporters regarding fresh Active Support models or initiatives leading into season 13 of the Hyundai A-League.”