Sport AFL This is what it’s like to be sledged by a footy crowd
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This is what it’s like to be sledged by a footy crowd

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Gary Ablett in a heated exchange with fans on the Gold Coast last year. Photo: Getty
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Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver issued a public apology this week after clashing with a Carlton fan mid-game last weekend. Why did the incident happen?

Jordan Bannister played 67 AFL matches for Essendon and Carlton before turning his hand to umpiring, meaning he was a target for vocal abuse from fans long after his playing days had finished.

Here he reveals that late in his career he heard the same sledge every week, but still kept his cool. 

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When I saw Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver react to a Carlton fan over the fence last weekend, I thought it was an ugly sight.

It’s never good to see a supporter right in a player’s face.

If a player comes near the fence, remember that it’s his workplace out there, so just have a little respect for him in that environment.

In saying that, I know fans do get passionate, and they’ve paid their money to come in so they can yell out, but I don’t think there should be one iota of aggression.

I don’t mind fans yelling out ‘holding the ball’ or booing someone to put him off a set shot, but when you’re over the fence and in the space where a player can hear you, you have to be able to control yourself.

If you’re swearing and calling him soft and things like that, a player is a human being and they all get affected.

Watch the video below

Coaches want players in a very controlled aggressive state, so they’re certainly not in the same headspace as someone going for a walk along The Tan in Melbourne on a Saturday.

Sometimes when you hear something you might be down on confidence or you haven’t had a kick or you’ve just had a big tackle, you’re fired up, your heart rate’s going … so I think we have to understand Clayton’s mindset.

Still, he definitely shouldn’t have reacted to a fan. It’s not a good look and he knows that.

What the players and umpires actually hear

At AFL level, you only really hear anything specific from the crowd when you’re going down the race at half-time and after the game, or if you’re right up against the fence.

As an umpire, we were always just basically called cheats.

And we’d always get the OPSM line about us needing glasses [the glasses company have sponsored AFL umpires since 2010].

I always got “you couldn’t play and you can’t umpire”.

Every time I heard it, I think the person yelling it out thought they were the first one to think of it. But I heard it every single week.

Generally, AFL crowds are really good. I think we’re fairly well-behaved, and we’ve come a long way.

I remember going to Victoria Park with my dad, who’s a huge Collingwood supporter, and if I hadn’t been a Collingwood supporter I would have felt pretty unsafe at Vic Park, back in those days.

The Magpies fans were very hostile toward opposition supporters, there was a lot of alcohol consumed, a lot of swearing, and a lot of aggression.

jordanbannisterumpire
Bannister is one of the few ex-AFL players to have moved into umpiring. Photo: Getty

It’s chalk and cheese now when you go to Etihad Stadium and sit in the stands.

All AFL grounds now have the mobile service where you can text about a fan if they are behaving poorly or using bad language.

The AFL really wants women and kids to come to games and feel safe.

I think it’s trickling down as well. The VAFA probably do it the best. You can’t drink alcohol while you’re watching any of their games and players get sent off for bad language.

A lot of other leagues are following suit to create a good environment.

An incident like this one with Clayton and the Carlton fan just reinforces standards of behaviour, which happens with a lot of things in our game.

People going to the footy this week who are near the fence will probably just hang back more if a player comes close.

And I think players will do the same.

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