Television journalist and football fan George Negus has urged sections of Australia's mainstream media to “show a bit of perspective” after its coverage of the incidents that marred a trial match in western Sydney.
A man and a child were injured after a fight between 20 fans broke out during the trial match between Sydney FC and Macarthur Rams in Campbelltown on Tuesday night.
Fans of the new A-League club Western Sydney Wanderers were involved, forcing both professional clubs to hold a joint press conference on Wednesday to declare war on the thugs.
The conference attracted a big turnout from the mainstream media.
”There is no way that sort of stupid, mindless and potentially dangerous behaviour could be condoned wherever it happens – at a football match or at pubs on a Friday or Saturday night all over this country,” Negus said.
”And as a person who has seen real trouble and real violence I'd ask reporters to stop and ask themselves if in the overall scheme of things the incident was as serious as some of them made out.
”Why these things happen are often more important than the actual event itself and maybe that is what the media needs to be asking.
”The media too often takes the easy option and on this occasion it should have asked itself if this was just a silly incident that should never have happened or a classic beat-up - a great 'violence in sport' story at the expense of the round-ball game.
”As we've seen so often in the past, what happened in Campbelltown was another opportunity to put violence and soccer in the same headline.
”Perspective would not be a bad idea … how bad was it?
”Could I be so bold as to suggest that ramming one's shoulder in somebody's face happens on a football field with a different ball every weekend.
”Let's be blunt, the oblong-shaped games are pretty much based on physical dominance over other human beings.
”But we soccer people are not supposed to say these things because it's sour grapes.”
Negus said that knocking the game of football is almost a national sport in its own right within sections of mainstream media.
”There is no doubt that soccer officialdom needs to get its act together to ensure that these sorts of incidents don't happen again otherwise they will remain a soft target for football's detractors in the other codes,” he said.
Negus said he feared there was a current obsession within the Australian media where almost any form of public unrest is turned into violence.
”This might have something to do with the age of some journalists who have grown up in a largely apolitical era where social issues like violence in public and civil unrest are not regarded as social problems but merely good stories,” he said.
”If you believe the tabloid media and the shock jocks, urban violence is alive in Australia.”
Negus said if we compare what went on at the Campbelltown game with the human suffering in places ike Syria the incident would become “pretty close to totally insignificant”.
”Surely we are way past the stupidity of regarding football as wogball,” he said.
”The ethnic origins of the game in this country are no longer relevant.
”Most people would not know what you're talking about when you mention the 'ethnic' factor in Australia football.
”Some journalists pathologically oppose football and when you throw in journalistic ambition and silliness then you get all the headlines for the wrong reasons.
”There are not many Mother Theresas in the media, there are some pretty ordinary people in the profession.
”Having said that, we don't seem to get the same sort of coverage of more than a handful of drunks who get tossed out at all rugby league games every weekend.
”That's not mob violence but people behaving badly.”
Negus, one of Australia's most respected and famous journalists, said the media industry was at the crossroads as it tries to compete with the considerable advances of the social media and the internet.
”The media is going through a very strange stage,” he said.
”In their panic, maybe we are seeing a resurgence of the beat-up.”
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan, defender Pedj Bojic and midfielder Oliver Bozanic look to have played their last games for Central Coast Mariners as the A-League champion faces a raft of departures.