We have just played three games this season, and there is many things the Football Association of Sarawak (FAS) needs to improve.
Indeed, it has been yet again assured, over and over again that FAS would be working hard to bring more improvements in light of Sarawak’s recent success in football, but not many improvements seem to come well with the fans.
A good example is the introduction of online ticketing, which was much welcomed by fans, until the exorbitant service and handling charges tarnished the efforts made. Despite that, we have to admit that the chaotic ticketing scenes which happened last season was avoided due to this.
Nonetheless, with higher ticket prices, now known to be probably one of the highest ever charged for a league game in Malaysia, Sarawak fans are expecting to be treated better by FAS.
While fans know that FAS can’t do much to improve conditions in Stadium Negeri, many were expecting FAS to improve some other things for the fans, which includes security and handling of the fans when they are in the stadium, or when they attend an away game.
But the game against Kelantan which was played at Stadium Negeri showed something otherwise with home fans whom payed a hefty RM25 for a seat at the Covered Terrace B area being treated like ‘second class’ citizens in their own home.
The incident saw an unknown person, who claimed to be an FAS officer (person in red in the photo above), asking the away fans (Kelantan fans) to move to a better viewing section of the Covered Terrace, while at the same time asking the already seated home fans to move to the further end of the section.
Annoyed, the home fans refused to moved as they claim that they had been seated since 6PM, and it was unfair for them to be moved, especially since they would be getting a poor view of the pitch from the new suggested seats.
Voices were raised, and the some of the Sarawak fans suggested that the Kelantan fans remained seated at the far end of the covered terrace where the away fans were always seated. Unfortunately, the officer again cited that the safety of the Kelantan fans were a concern, while he rudely replied one fan to ‘use his head’ after the fan suggested that the Kelantan fans should be shifted to the VIP area since they ‘were so special’.
As the incident went on, a few Kelantan fans made claims that they were actually comfortable at the further end of the covered terrace, but moved because they were instructed by officials.
The number of the Kelantan fans swelled as the clock moved to 7:30PM, and many of them were left standing with no seats available. It did not take long after that to hear Sarawak fans asking the officials to move the Kelantan fans to the more expensive grandstand at no charge as their number was indeed too many to be seated at the covered terrace.
However, nothing happened as they officer in charge just smiled from the running track with the chaotic scene left unattended. We saw Sarawak head coach Robert Alberts talking to the security personnel about the situation, as his hand gesture suggested that he wanted the away fans to be moved away from where they were currently seated.
It is our belief that Roberts was concerned since the away fans were now way too close to the Sarawak dressing room entry path, and this could cause the players to be affected when the opposing fans hurl demoralizing words as the players make their way to the dressing room.
Nonetheless, no action was taken and the Kelantan fans remained standing until kick-off, with police and RELA personnel sent in to wade of any possible trouble makers.
The incident made us wonder why ‘away fans’ were treated in such a special way by FAS when our own fans are mistreated when visiting away venues.
Last year, hundreds of our travelling fans (some flew all the way from Kuching) were left to watch the Pahang vs Sarawak Malaysia Cup tie outside the doors of the Darul Makmur Stadium after Pahang FA decided to cancel hundreds of the tickets allocated to the Sarawak fans.
In Singapore, the game against Lions XII saw our fans being given the far end of the stadium, with extra security provided to ensure nothing uneventful would happen.
If safety was a concerned, then why not employ more security personnel to protect the away fans?
In fact, if the away fans are so special, we would humbly suggest to FAS to allocate the grandstand tickets (priced at RM35) to them, because their presence would require more security, and hence more money would be needed to ensure their safety. After all, those seats at the Grandstand are the least occupied this season, so it would make sense to put them there although we would prefer if FAS, together with Perbadanan Stadium, erected a special ‘open terrace’ space for the away fans at the end of the stadium.
For us, it was indeed a very poor decision by FAS to put the away fans with the local fans, and what more to ask the already seated home fans to give their better viewing seats to the away fans. Such move could trigger more chaos, and create a very hostile atmosphere for both set of fans.
It is our hope that FAS and their officials, would put themselves in the shoes of the Sarawak fans when making decisions regarding to the welfare of the fans because lately, it does seem that their decisions are ‘shooting themselves in the foot’, and alienating themselves from the loving home fans.
We are afraid that if the Sarawak fans feel that FAS is not appreciating them enough, a football revolt created by the fans would occur, similar to what its parent body, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) is experiencing.