Australian football has cleaned up its act and does not have a major hooliganism problem any more, a leading sports historian said.
A recent spate of minor incidents in pre-season trials involving A-League clubs has sparked indignation from sections of Australia's print and electronic media.
The common theme was that football was still an embattled sport that is unable to solve its problem of ethnic-related violence that has hindered its progress for decades.
Andrew Howe, a respected historian and statistician, has strongly disputed such claims.
"When football in Australia has made the progress it has over the past few decades, it's hard to believe there are still those who take the 'ethnic turf wars' line to bag the game," Howe said.
"As a long-time statistician of football in Australia I can unequivocally say that the number of reported violent incidents around matches at the top level in Australia has declined substantially over the past 30 years.
"It's true that national league football has seen some disturbing incidents in the past.
"The sometimes thin line between passionate support and gross stupidity was crossed several times in the old National Soccer League, like when referee Doug Yelland was bashed unconscious while officiating a Fitzroy home match at Melbourne's Middle Park in 1979.
"Or when in 1985, a pitch invasion by hundreds of Sydney Olympic fans during a match against Sydney City resulted in the game being abandoned.
"Ethnic-based violence at NSL games, fuelled by traditional supporters of teams with historical enmities, is also a thing of the past.
"There's no doubt that tension between Balkan communities played its part in a Footscray club president and player having their houses firebombed in 1989, or mass brawls in the stands at several games between Preston and South Melbourne and others between Sydney Olympic and Heidelberg from 1987 to 1993.
"But it's testament to the game - the administrators, clubs and fans - that it has cleaned itself up considerably over this time."
Howe said A-League fans had absolutely no reason to feel unsafe because present-day club football was fan-friendly and family-friendly and played in top class venues.
"Despite an increase in average crowds since the A-league kicked off in 2005, the frequency and ferocity of such incidents has plummeted," he said.
"As a football statistician, I can't find any evidence of 'endemic' violence in the A-League and as a football fan, I haven't really seen it either.
"It’s a huge and oblivious injustice to those who have helped create new and passionate rivalries, to lump any incident at any game involving A-League teams nowadays as 'ethnic-based'.
"And it’s an ignorant cheap shot to say that 'soccer here is on the brink of ruin because the power bases … remain with those who think soccer is as good a place to continue wars'.
"This statement is a xenophobic slap in the face to anyone with a non Anglo-Saxon surname who helps run a club in Australia.
"Historically, the most successful clubs have been those run by migrants with ties to Italy, Greece and the former Yugoslav republics.
"And if you need any evidence to what these clubs have brought to Australian football, then you only need to know which clubs our most successful Socceroos over the past few decades have come from."
Howe said the vitriolic element within Australia's media should do its homework before engaging in its malicious campaign to denigrate football.
"Stats, facts and evidence can help prove a lot of things," he said.
"The truth can also be bent a little, to assist in telling a story.
"But it's hard to find any evidence whatsoever that football in Australia is in such a bad way today - on and off the field - as some people with obvious agendas would like to think."
Dual-championship winning A-League manager Ernie Merrick was appointed coach of Wellington Phoenix on a two-year deal, with an option to sign on for a third.