Angered: Sydney FC fans hold up a sign in protest of team management during the match between Sydney FC and Adelaide United. Photo: Getty Images
The head of Sydney FC’s official supporters group The Cove will hand back his membership on Monday morning in protest at the current administration and said an apology from the chief executive and chairman issued on Sunday may not be enough to repair the fractured relationship between supporters and the club.
Relations between Sydney FC and The Cove hit rock bottom on Sunday after fans revolted during Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to Adelaide, a result which means Sydney have now taken four points from a possible 24 in their last eight games.
After fans unveiled banners calling for the removal of coach Frank Farina, CEO Tony Pignata and chairman Scott Barlow at kick-off, some were ejected from the ground by security, prompting an exodus of home supporters, who staged an impromptu protest outside the ground.
Senior Cove figures vowed not to attend games until a new administration is brought in. ”I will not go back to the stadium, not with the current management,” said Brendan Slowey, leader or ”capo” of The Cove. ”I’ve been the capo for around five or six years and I will go to away games, but I will not put another dollar into [the owner’s] pocket.”
It is understood that Sydney FC’s football operations manager acted alone in instructing stadium security to remove banners calling on owner David Traktovenko to sack the trio, though the club said they had no say in the ejection of a fan.
Cove member Ania Konopka, who is married to Slowey, was forcibly removed from the ground for taking part in displaying the banner and alleges that stadium security told her they were following instructions to eject her.
”They basically said it was from upper management and not from security down there. They were asking over the walkie-talkie to take down my details,” Konopka said. ”The security that was taking me out said it was ridiculous, even they didn’t understand … They just said I was the most identifiable of everyone. Security was really apologetic, they didn’t want to do it.”
Hundreds of fans from within The Cove responded to Konopka’s ejection by vacating the ground, leaving the normally vibrant and vocal northern stand eerily quiet for the remainder of the match.
Before the end of the match, Barlow and Pignata used social media to deny they had instructed security to take down the banners
or remove fans from the stadium. SCG Trust security were unavailable for comment on Sunday but the club issued a statement apologising for the treatment of their supporters.
It reiterated that directors had no knowledge of the club’s actions against the fans on the night and that security ejected fans of their own accord as the club cannot influence match-day security.
”Late last night, after the game, both of us [Pignata and Barlow] were made aware that a staff member of Sydney FC who was located at pitch level during the game did request that a number of banners in The Cove supporters’ area be taken down,” Barlow and Pignata said in the statement.
”The direction did not come from us or any other Sydney FC Board members and we were unaware it had been made at the time. On behalf of Sydney FC, we wish to apologise to the fan affected by the events on the night. The club has met with stadium security today and informed them that we believe they acted without appropriate authority.”
Club leaders said they were willing to meet with the Cove in the coming days in hope of repairing their relationship.