It has been an interesting 12 weeks for the powers that be at AFL House.
Just weeks ago we were lauding the MCC and Victoria Police for making a stand against crowd violence and physical intimidation. We want football to be a safe place. A place we can go, barrack, express ourselves, our passion and love for a team and the game.
We each have standards to uphold when it comes to common decency and ensuring that we are behaving in the right way. We see the posters displaying the antisocial behaviour number and messages around every stadium and are encouraged to report it in a bid to keep the footy a safe space for patrons.
But in the past three weeks, it would seem that the AFL is taking this a little bit too far and risk picking a fight that they simply cannot afford to lose.
Three incidences of fans being reprimanded for saying or doing things that are pretty much viewed as regular football supporter behaviour. Maybe calling an umpire a “green maggot” or a “bald headed flog” is small touch over the top but the one that’s really fired up and ticked off football supporters was hearing of the Collingwood supporter who was reprimanded by security for “barracking too loud”.
AFL Fans Association Gerry Eeman said that incidents of the past few weeks have clearly shown that the goalposts have shifted when it comes to fan behaviour this season. Not so, according to the AFL. “For over 100 years, the footy has been a place to come together, barrack, cheer and share in the experience in whichever way you chose” the statement read in part.
“There has been no directive from the AFL to change this.”
“The theatre of matchday is one of the great sporting experiences, a place to be excessive and passionate about your team and the game, it always has been, it always will be.”
“In season 2019 there has been no change to the expectations of the behaviour of everyone at games.”
While Eeman has said that he does not condone abusing umpires, there seems to have been a big overreaction to tackling the problem which is leaving fans confused as to what is and isn’t acceptable.
Where do we draw the line with umpire abuse? (Joshua Elliott/The Roar)
“We’re seeing several incidents where fans are being removed from stadiums for which they wouldn’t have been removed last season or the 100 years before that,” he said.
So now what? Where does that leave us the football goer? What can we say, do, how are we meant to act at the football that won’t find ourselves in the hands of the authorities?
Everyone is angry and unsure about what is and isn’t appropriate and acceptable behaviour at the football now in 2019.
While I’m usually not the type of person to blow up over this whole “political correctness gone mad” episode and overload, I can’t help but feel that it’s turning into a PR disaster and a situation that the AFL can ill afford to happen.
The AFL want the fans to come to football.
“We want fans to enjoy attending matches and allow other fans around them to do the same. While barracking and supporting is both strongly encouraged and is a vital part of the game, offensive or aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated” the AFL said in a statement in response to the three incidences that have been reported over the past week.
While the AFL is desperately still trying to continue the positive spin that things are OK with the game at the moment, it’s the type of statement that you would expect from a governing body under siege.
But the truth is, it offers little to no clarity to the fans the media and all the stakeholders in the game. It’s a poorly worded statement which shows that the AFL is not doing much work to change.
The number of people growing disenchanted and uninterested in the game due to its current product on the field already causes for concern for Gillion McLachlan, Steve Hocking, Richard Goyder, and co.
Consider that there are far greater problems in our game right now. The broken goal review system, rule interpretations, MRO inconsistencies, the state of local football across the country and the broader issues of gambling, mental health and racism constantly rearing its head, the code is in a position now where it needs its patrons more than ever before.
At the moment, they are doing everything they can to continue driving them away.
AFL umpires (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)
Joffa Corfe, the frontman of the Collingwood cheer squad and probably the most well known and visible footy fan across the country has already vowed not to go to the football again until Gillon and the powers that be take action and apologise to the fans.
His contention is that he is doing this because he is sick and tired of how the fans are being treated at the football. “I’m sticking up for all my fellow supporters around Australia and I want an apology from Gil because I think we deserve one with the way that we’ve been spoken about, the way that we’ve been portrayed,” he said.
“I’m not going to another game until Gil McLachlan apologises to supporters right across Australia because we are hurting. We are hurting so bad, this is not funny.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a footballing code in this country has experienced a fan walkout and boycott. Cast your mind back four years ago, a standard A-League game at Etihad Stadium between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United.
Half an hour into the game, there was a mass walkout leaving masses of empty seats in the grandstands, sending a bold message to the FFA.
While the differences between the situation which unfolded in the A-League are notable, they did show an instance of fan power.
It would be calamitous for the AFL if it got to the stage where fans walked out mid-match or just boycotted out of protest. In a period where there are so much angst and outrage directed towards the game, this is a battle that the AFL simply cannot afford to lose.
Football, it goes without saying, can be an emotional game. For many, it’s an outlet from the stresses of a working week and a good way to let off steam.
Provided the snarky comments and the banter dished out from the terraces don’t fall into the territory of racist, misogynistic or homophobic abuse, we have the right to say what we want.
That’s the way it should be.
If this is the way the AFL intends to change attitudes, does it intend to draw the line?
If umpires can react to public insults with consequences as severe as having spectators ejected and banned from games for comments which might be insulting but don’t breach accepted public standards of decency, what’s to stop a player from pursuing a similar course.
Imagine the size of the floodgates that would open?
Respect is a two-way street. While fans in the stand need to know that it is inappropriate to abuse umpires and lose control of themselves at the football, you need to provide them with some form of explanation to its constituents as to what is and isn’t acceptable in 2019.
If it keeps going down the path it’s going down now, the AFL will be facing even more of an uphill battle than they are already facing. They can’t afford to lose the people.
- LA Times Op-Ed Claims LGBT Republicans Are ‘Fighting a Losing Battle,’ Must Leave GOP
- Bill Maher: Trump ‘Loves to Pick Fights With Black People’
- The Chase fans blast ‘arrogant’ contestant who picks fight with The Sinnerman chaser Paul Sinha
- Roy Moore Tries to Pick Fight With Jimmy Kimmel on Twitter
- Sen. Durbin Picks Fight With Fox And Bret Baier For ‘Harping On’ Removal Of ‘God’ From DNC Platform
- Spends Segment Picking Fights With Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore And Mika Brzezinski
- The Chase viewers shocked as The Governess loses after getting a question on Enid Blyton wrong
- A Texas Federal Judge Ruled That The Affordable Care Act is Unconstitutional
- Love Island’s Megan Barton Hanson set to lose thousands after cancelling all her nightclub appearances
- BMD Picks: Our Favorite PREDATOR Throw-Downs