Footy Fan Fury, As Stadium Boss Admits Crowd Feels 'Intimidated'
Even the boss of Marvel Stadium now agrees with footy fans that the AFL's crackdown on crowd behaviour was over the top.
"We have consciously increased the amount of aisle patrolling we have done in the past few weeks," Marvel Stadium chief Michael Green told radio 3AW, after the Carlton vs Western Bulldogs game on Saturday night.
"Clearly we haven’t yet found the balance between providing a safe environment and not wanting people to feel intimidated."
Yep, that about sums it up.
Ordinary footy fans on the weekend could not believe that they were being patrolled like criminals by security officers emblazoned with the words: BEHAVIOURAL AWARENESS OFFICER.
It wasn't just the words on the back of the blue bibs. It was the way security staff paced through the crowd, actively policing everyone whether they were potential trouble-makers or not.
"Passionate footy fans are feeling like Big Brother is watching," 10 News First reporter Kristina Costalos said, in an apt reference to the mythical figure controlling surveillance in George Orwell's frightening, dystopian novel '1984'.
The overwhelming majority of the football-loving public understands that racial/homophobic or other slurs of a personal nature are unwelcome.
But is yelling OK? Is venting your frustration OK?
Fans have always taken these rights for granted, but everything has been called into question with the recent ejection of a man who called an umpire a "bald-headed flog" and another who called an umpire a "green maggot".
These were hardly polite insults, but were they vilification?
As prominent mental health advocate and former North Melbourne and Sydney Swans star Wayne Schwass put it: the issue is whether AFL security contractors understand the difference.
Gerry Eeman, head of the AFL Fans Association, said the weekend's security crackdown appeared to be "an over-correction in response to events earlier this year".
He was referring to a brawl between Carlton and Richmond fans in the very first game of the year back in March.
As it happened, there was also an ugly fight between fans in the stands of Marvel Stadium on the weekend.
But these, thankfully, are still isolated incidents. There were 35,479 people at the footy on Saturday night, and the vast majority of them didn't need surveillance of any sort.
As many people argued -- including leading sports administrator Paul McNamee -- the security surveillance is worse than heavy-handed now. It actually constitutes a gross invasion of privacy.
The AFL issued a Statement on Fan Behaviour last week. Part of the statement said:
For over 100 years, the footy has been a place to come together, barrack, cheer and share in the experience in whichever way you choose.
There has been no directive from the AFL to change this.
While barracking and supporting is both strongly encouraged and a vital part of the game, offensive or aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated.
The problem here is twofold.
Firstly, no one knows exactly what "offensive or aggressive behaviour" actually is, as defined by the AFL. And secondly, passionate footy fans sure don't need patrolling officers to make them feel like thugs for loving the game.