Off the Wall

These days State of Origin matches seem have an "85-15" ratio when it comes to who attends.

That is 85 per cent attend to watch the game and take in the atmosphere - and the other 15 per cent basically go to get totally tanked!

And if you are in the 85 per cent - as I am - then it is very much luck of the draw whether or not your enjoyment of the game is disrupted, if not destroyed, by the 15 per cent.

Well Wednesday night's Origin match at Lang Park was, for second year running, a case of back luck for yours truly!

Sitting in seats which cost us $120 each, and admittedly in one of the best positions in the stadium, we unfortunately had a row of drunks in front of us and a row of them behind us.

And quite frankly, it makes watching even a dominant and historic Maroons victory less than enjoyable.

The mob behind us were Blues supporters - and a couple of them spent much of the game hurling abuse at Greg Inglis and Israel Folau - who would not have heard a word of it.

But it was the row of Maroons supporters - male and female - in front of us who were pests of the highest order. In the period between say 7.15 and half time in the Origin match they got up no less than eight times to go to the nearby liquor bar, returning with trays of beer and spirits. Yes, eight times in two and a half hours.

By the time half time came they were as full as state school hat racks. They announced my guests, and everyone around them. So they could flout so called limits on how much one person can be served - what a joke they are - three of them went to the bar each visit. And the fuller they got the longer it took them to stagger in and out of their seats.

As a result, I guess I had to watch around a quarter of the game on the ground screens - which are significantly inferior to what you see at other major venues.

But this is not about my inconvenience -my concerns is for the thousands of genuine, committed fans (including young fans) who have to run the risk of putting up with this nonsense, not just at Origin games, but at any match at Lang Park and other major venues.

The stadium authorities and the police will doubtless claim that few people were evicted - but that is not the point. What they won't reveal, because they either don't know and don't want to know, is that hundreds if not thousands, of paying spectators are inconvenienced at major games by drunks who take advantage of responsible service of alcohol laws that are not enforced, and by a "you can drink anywhere" policy.

Frankly, after Wednesday night I long for a return to better times - the old Lang Park where you got drenched when it rained, but where NO alcohol was allowed into the grandstand, and drinking in what was called the "outer" was confined to one clearly defined area.

Rugby league - especially at Origin games - cannot possibly be so desperate for crowd numbers that it has to put up with a minority who just go to the game to get totally drunk, and are often half tanked before they even go through the turnstiles.

It is time for the officials running the ARL, NSWRL, QRL, and the NRL to stand up for genuine fans and tell the stadium owners and managers that it is time fans who go to the football to enjoy the game and not get tanked get a fair go.

They will claim that it is none of their responsibility because they just hire the venue, they don't run it. Nonsense - their job is to make rugby league a game that is as "family friendly" as possible.

If that means banning drinking alcohol in the seating areas then so be it. But the current policy is a disgrace - and it is high time the custodians of the greatest game of all force governments, and stadium operators, to look after the genuine fans first and foremost.

Looking around the stands on Wednesday night it was apparent my group were not the only ones inconvenienced by drunks. And those inconvenienced included a number of parents accompanied by school age children.

Some clubs who manage their own grounds have more family friendly policies when it comes to limiting drinking. And some major stadiums do. But we need a family friendly policy that is consistent for all venues.

Rugby league is a great spectator sport, arguably the greatest spectator sport of all. It is time genuine spectators reclaimed it - and force the drunken minority to watch it elsewhere!

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