AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan has apologized to AFL fans following outrage at the weekend with overzealous security guards including “Behavioural Awareness Officers” patrolling Marvel Stadium games on Friday and Saturday night policing fan behaviour.
Many fans had phoned talkback stations to express their discomfort over the increased security presence feeling that they could not express their emotions throughout the game and with reports of security staff telling fans off for cheering too loudly.
The increased policing of fans behaviour at games had come into the spotlight the previous weekend when a fan was ejected from Marvel Stadium for allegedly calling an umpire a”bald-headed flog”.
High profile Collingwood cheer squad member and Melbourne icon Jeff ‘Joffa’ Corfe had said he was boycotting attending games until Gillon McLachlan issued an apology to AFL fans for recent mistreatment.
Gillon McLachlan had previous stated their was no increased crackdown on fan behaviour and their policy had remained the same. But that is not what fans experienced at Marvel Stadium on the weekend.
However this week with talk of fan boycotts increasing McLachlan has acknowledged fans grievances telling Herald Sun’s chief football writer Mark Robinson “It hurts me that our fans are feeling intimidated at our games. I’m sorry they are feeling intimidated. If people are feeling threatened we obviously will listen … I’m appalled”.
Hawthorn Club President Jeff Kennett told Radio 3AW he believed the immigrant background of security staff who don’t understand the culture of AFL and the passion of its fans who appeared to be “new arrivals” had made the situation worse “when I saw some of the footage, the people who are making judgments while they wear these authoritative coats, are not people who appear to have a great knowledge of our game”.
Kennett said the recent overzealous policing of fans was part of the overall desire of the AFL to be a “social benchmark” of society as demonstrated by their virtue signalling of social justice issues “Whether it is same sex marriage, whether it is racism, whether it is crowd behaviour. That’s not their job.”
At a press conference at AFL House Gillon McLachlan said while he wasn’t apologizing for making the game safe and family friendly said that he did not want a situation where the fans’ passion was subdued or they couldn’t come to the football and be themselves. He said the AFL along with their venues and local police needed to get the balance right.
McLachlan stated his personal opposition to the “Behavioural Awareness Officers” indicating they were likely to go. He also condemned one security guard at Blundstone Arena in Tasmania who tried to intervene in an on field frackers.
McLachlan said he did not agree with Jeff Kennett’s remarks on security guards being “new arrivals”. Despite Kennett saying this morning he would not back down from his comments McLachlan said this afternoon he had spoken with Jeff and he had withdrawn the remarks.
McLachlan defended his response to the fan crisis arguing that it had only been brought to his attention this weekend. AFL games this year have been marred by many ugly fan physical altercations, but certainly telling people off for cheering too loudly was not the response that was being demanded.
We will see if McLachlan words and apology are implemented at grounds this weekend and if what he termed a security “overcorrection” has been properly dealt with.