Sport AFL AFL Big Sticks: A review of the security crackdown that wasn’t

AFL Big Sticks: A review of the security crackdown that wasn’t

A Marvel Stadium security officer speaks to a fan on Saturday night. Photo: Getty
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The sight of Marvel Stadium security types stalking the terraces on Friday and Saturday night may have sent a signal that the AFL is serious about policing crowd behaviour, but it also may be over before it was even officially a thing.

AFL venues chief executive Michael Green conceded some fans felt intimidated by the more-visible security presence, although the league still maintained that there had been no crackdown on footy fans.

With some fans removed from the ground and others complaining on social media about being warned for barracking too loudly, it seems there’s more work to be done to explain what the AFL is trying to achieve.

Given some high-profile fights in the crowd both in and outside AFL grounds in recent times there’s no doubt the league is right to stop thugs and loudmouths causing trouble that leads to violence.

A police officer steps between sparring fans after a dispute broke out after the final siren of the Dogs v Blues match. Photo: Getty 

But Green stretched credulity when he told Melbourne’s SEN radio on Sunday that there had been no new emphasis on quieting the crowd.

“We haven’t had any direction or requests to increase our security or policing at AFL events, nor have we done,” Green said.

“But what we have done over the last number of weeks is increase our visual presence of our security.

“Clearly, from (the feedback) we’ve taken that too far. We don’t want our fans to feel intimidated by security.

We actually want them to feel safe and secure, so it’s something that we will be reviewing to make sure that we get that balance right.’’

With some Marvel Stadium staff wearing ‘behavioural awareness officer’ vests there had been little explanation about what training these employees have had to designate their role.

A photo tweeted on Friday purporting to show AFL ‘Behavioural Awareness Officers’ at Marvel Stadium. Photo: Twitter

Green explained on SEN that the officers had been in place all season and claimed they were guards who have received extra training in identifying and defusing problems.

All very Marvel. Perhaps the capes come next?

The AFL Fans Association continued its campaign for greater clarity from the AFL on the issue in a statement released on Sunday.

“Violence, umpire abuse and threatening behaviour are never ok,” AFLFA president Gerry Eeman said.

“But some fans are telling us that they feel they can’t express themselves at games in the same way they did in the past.

“A balance needs to be struck between protecting patrons from the small minority who cause problems and allowing the vast majority of well-behaved fans to express their passion.”

Busy Tuesday for tribunal

North Melbourne’s winning streak under Rhyce Shaw came to an end with a 23-point loss to Greater Western Sydney, but the Roos also have some MRO worries with Ben Brown and potentially Jack Ziebell in the spotlight.

Forward Brown was reported for striking Giant Matt Buntine with a raised elbow, while Ziebell appeared to bump Toby Greene high.

The tribunal will sit on Tuesday night, with Hawthorn skipper Ben Stratton referred directly by match review officer Michael Christian for pinching Orazio Fantasia and stomping on Shaun McKernan in the match against Essendon.

Capping a dirty Friday night for Stratton, he was also fined $1000 for making an obscene gesture.

Stratton was widely condemned for employing the pinching tactics against Fantasia during the loss to the Bombers at Marvel Stadium, with even the Hawks’ chief executive Justin Reeve’s saying it was not good enough.

“Ben is a very respected figure at our football club, but his actions on Friday night let himself and the club down, ” said Reeves on the club website.

“His behaviour was certainly not reflective of how Hawthorn play and as our captain we expect more from him.

The back of Fantasia’s upper left arm was covered in bruises by the end of the game prompting AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder to describe it on ABC Grandstand as “a bad look” that would “hopefully get dealt with properly”.  

Stratton expressed remorse when he spoke to Channel Seven on Saturday.

“My actions probably weren’t a great look for the game and it’s probably not something you want to be known for,” Stratton said.

“As captain I’ve got to be better and setting the example for not only the Hawthorn club but also any kids out there.”

Liberatore dodges another knee reconstruction

Having missed all of the 2015 season with a knee injury, Western Bulldogs’ Tom Liberatore got some good news on Sunday when scans confirmed he had not ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament.

Liberatore was hurt in the second quarter of the Dogs’ three-point win over Carlton at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night after jarring his right knee while chasing Kade Simpson.

He was unable to return, raising fears he could need a third knee reconstruction.

But while he avoided the worst-case scenario, the 27-year-old is set for a period on the sidelines as he will undergo exploratory surgery to determine the extent of cartilage damage sustained in the incident.

-with AAP

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