Forum Sevens:
When Crowds go bad

The issue of crowd behaviour is much-debated topic. In the best interests of league, the NRL wishes to hand the game back to its fans and attract families back to the games, but is this possible nowadays? The Answer…Yes.

During the past few seasons, it has been well publicised that crowd behaviour is somewhat out-of-control. Last season there were many public outcries with regards to abusive behaviour at games. On one occasion at a Bulldogs game there was evidence of abuse during the game, but what's worse, after on public transport.

Abuse such as swearing, and other vulgar behaviour was demonstrated last year by teams “fans”, but what are they supporting? In my view, these people just go to games, start fights, drink and then think of the consequences later on. What's worse, the NRL lets it happen.

Already this season, this type of vulgar behaviour has been displayed at the World Sevens. During the course of the competition, there was evidence of brawling, swearing and other activities that aren't in the nature of the sport. On the first, there was a most prominent display of vulgar activity, between the Parramatta and Bulldogs Armies. This duel went on all day, to the extent that police had to set a human barrier to stop the two sides meeting, these fans may call it passion, but I call it stupidity.

On finals day, what was shown was one of the worst displays I have ever seen. In the Bays to my left, Bay's 31-33, I could not go five minutes without a fight breaking out between rival fans and security being called to take action. It seemed that by the end of the day, I was not concentrating on the football, just having a bet with the guy behind me, as to when the next fight was to break out, is this what the NRL wants the game to be like?

That night, listening to talkback, the time was not dominated by the game, as it should have been, but by the crowd's behaviour with one listener describing it “totally and utterly disgusting”. The one comment that stuck in my head from that day was the common response to the question posed by Ray Hadley “Do you feel safe at the footy and would you bring your family again?”, the common answer was “no”, what does this say about the NRL and how they are containing this very important issue.

There may have been many excuses for these activities, but the most prominent would have been excessive alcohol consumption. During the course of the competition there was an inestimatable amount of alcohol consumed. Alcohol in any one persons system affects their brain activities, thereby making it easier to react when something is said, and then react violently, whereas when not drinking they may react normally, not resorting to violence.

There is a simple solution to this problem of alcohol consumption, which is extreme, but would work. The NRL has allowed beer producers to hold stands at their grounds, to provide fans with beverages at an inflated price, but what the NRL has failed to do, is put in measures in place to say “hey you've had enough!”. My proposal would be to ban alcohol at all NRL fixtures. This action would bring back families, and remove the hooligans. Although footy is an traditional Aussie sport and a traditional Aussie like beer while watching sport, do it at home, not in public. If the NRL wishes to send out a promotion with fans getting drunk and passing that off as the type of people that support league, then be my guest, but I can guarantee the crowd numbers will just keep falling.

The vital issue of crowd behaviour is one the NRL doesn't wish to tap on as it could put them at loss. If they ban alcohol then their funding from the alcohol producers erases, as do their drunken supporters. If they ban alcohol, however, it will attract families back to the footy, increasing crowds.

League is a family game, a place where you take your kids and watch a game of footy, it's about time the NRL revived this. The pivotal decision lies with the NRL, but all I know is, that likely, nothing will be done about this issue, because it will help the NRL's bottom line.

Is this what we really want our league to be? I'll leave that choice up to you.

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