Soccer: Morgan comments could turn fans away

By Paul Harper

Phoenix fans cheer on their side during an A-League clash earlier in the season. Photo / Getty Images
Phoenix fans cheer on their side during an A-League clash earlier in the season. Photo / Getty Images

Wellington Phoenix supporters are concerned comments from one of the club's owners will deter casual fans from attending games.

In an interview with Radio Sport, Gareth Morgan labelled the attitude of some fans of the A-League club "pathetic'' and said they know nothing about football.

Wellington currently languish on the bottom of the table and are looking increasing unlikely of claiming a top-six finish.

Morgan has been criticised following poor performances from the Phoenix after he called for the team to play a more exciting brand of football, however last week he called for fans to be "a little more sophisticated in their interpretation'' of what the club are trying to achieve.

"Fans are a cross section of the public. A lot of them don't know much about the game anyway and they certainly, in my view, think only of themselves and not the future of the club," he told Radio Sport's Tony Veitch.

"The bigger picture is far more important than the short term. I'm actually finding the short term really exciting as we see this change coming through. They're not getting it together totally, and if you look at the difference between 10th and sixth it's not much anyway so the cost hasn't been that big. It's just some people, all they've got to do is just read the league tables and that's all there is to the game - it's pathetic, really.'"

Morgan's comments were made before last weekend's 7-1 loss to Sydney FC, which left the side languishing at the bottom of the table.

On Twitter and on the Phoenix supporter's club Yellow Fever's online forum fans voiced their anger at the comments, but also pledged their support for the struggling team.

Co-founder of Yellow Fever, Guy Smith, labelled Morgan's comments "disappointing".

"He may well have a point about patience for the sake of long term success, but he probably needs to be a little bit more respectful to the long-suffering fans who have put a solid amount of their own money to going and supporting his business every week. He keeps saying it is a business and it is probably no way to treat your customers," Smith said.

"You don't have to look any further than our forums to see people genuinely offended, that are genuinely upset. There are even people claiming they have put a greater proportion of their wealth into the Phoenix than Gareth Morgan has. Whether that's true or not - that's their perception, I think it is going to be a bit destructive for a few people.

"But I think most of us support the football club and the players in the football club first, and I think they will keep turning up. I'm certainly going to be there on the weekend and I'll keep on being there no matter how much Gareth Morgan insults me ... we'll still be there."

Smith was concerned the comments would deter casual fans from attending the team's home games. The Phoenix take on the Newcastle Jets in Wellington on Sunday night.

"What incentive is there to come and support the team when the team is not performing and fans are getting an ear-bashing from the owner?" he said.

"There are 6,000 people who will turn up just about no matter what. But those casual fans are probably the ones that have been labelled pathetic today and they are the ones we need to come."

Another Yellow Fever co-founder, David Cross, told Radio Sport the die-hard fans will continue to support the team regardless of Morgan's comments, however he agreed casual fans may have second thoughts about attending games.

"For a man who pretty much admits he knew nothing about football 12 months ago to suddenly telling people how they should support a football team is amusing at best,'' Cross said.

- nzherald.co.nz

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