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Get a grip

The secret formula to getting local football covered by the mainstream media seems to have been unearthed.  In recent days the NRFL has made headlines for the wrong reasons – those being two fights, one in South Auckland and one on the North Shore. At least the diverse locations show that, despite what some might unfortunately think, socioeconomics and race are not a causal factor in such incidents. Silver linings and all that…

Some have either implicitly or explicitly blamed the officials for either alleged bad calls that led to tempers fraying or the old chestnut of a referee “losing control of the match”. I find this weak to say the least. It shouldn’t be the referee’s job to have control of people’s emotions. People need to take responsibility for their own nonsense. Players and spectators alike.

There were common factors in both of the high profile incidents. They both involved supporters clashing with players. In both cases it wasn’t the first incident of its kind in recent weeks that at least two of the clubs had been involved in. Another incident between a supporter and a referee at Manukau a few weeks ago is reasonably common knowledge and I was told by a club official in Hamilton last Sunday that there have been issues at FHM age group games in recent weeks as well.

The other common factor is men’s football. That you just don’t get incidents like this in the women’s game should tell you something about the nature of the problem.

We can’t just file this away as a Three Kings problem, or a Manukau United problem, or a Forrest Hill Milford problem or a North Shore United problem. Nor can we dismiss it as an issue of a few individuals. “Nothing to see here, not my problem” It IS a problem for everyone and we have to take responsibility and try to stop it from happening or it will keep happening. Burying our heads won’t solve anything.

I can’t pretend I have all the solutions but one thing I have thought for a while is we shouldn’t sanction clubs for these incidents – either financially or through points deductions. That might seem counter intuitive, but I have too often observed that when these things happen, instead of addressing the issue, clubs move into ass covering mode and deny that there is anything they can do.

Surely having the club’s name in the paper as a place where violence has occurred is incentive enough to clean this up. And if clubs are not facing harsh sanctions they are more likely to share footage and work with authorities and experts instead of ducking for cover.

There should, however, be harsh sanctions for individuals and I wouldn’t start with violent conduct I would start with the gateway drugs – foul and abusive language directed at players and match officials. A message needs to be sent that this is not tolerated.

Call me a PC wowser but I don’t think you need to be effing and blinding, or worse, throwing homophobic or racist slurs around, at players and officials or other spectators, to have a good time at the football. All you are really achieving is ruining other people’s enjoyment of the game. If you can’t control yourself you should be asked to leave and not come back. The game doesn’t want you or need you.

Maybe if people don’t feel a sense of entitlement to verbally abuse other people they won’t feel any entitlement to physically assault them either.

And even if that doesn’t stop the violence it will at least make football grounds much nicer and more inclusive places. That can’t hurt can it?

Categories: Other Football Topics

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

3 replies

  1. Enzo, your first statement is right on the mark – middle of the World Cup, we have an incident which we deal with and let our teams know the typical punishment – next thing, Herald, NewstalkZB, RadioLive, Stuff, et al……same question from all “do you have a violence and Referee abuse problem”…..didn’t want to know about the competition, the charity stuff, the history……..

  2. The most important bit for me from your blog is the irrefutable fact that every individual needs to take responsibility for exercising self-restraint. Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – justifies verbal abuse (i.e. name calling, racist or homophobic taunts, threats of physical violence etc. – all of which I have personally been subjected to on the side lines over the past few years across very different levels of the game from youth games to National Summer League; #metoo) let alone physical attacks.


    Hopefully – once the finger- pointing-aftermath has run its natural course – there is a way for all clubs – maybe with involvement of NRFL/AFF/NFF – to develop initiatives that may help preventing such undignified scenes in the future.

    It is impossible to unpack the complex web of factors at work in situations like these in a few sentences. We need to acknowledge that these three incidents have the commonality of absolutely unacceptable behaviours while also representing three very different specific scenarios at the same time.

    Then it is important to acknowledge that football matches take place in a wider societal context that I would summarise as the “Fu$$ You” mentality that appears to permeate many areas of life – not just football and not just locally in NZ. The degree of contempt for each other, as frequently expressed, for example, on a local anonymous internet forum, is truly disturbing to me and contributes to an environment in which aggression seems to be tolerated and even glorified by a minority proportion of the population that, however, seems big enough to set the tone, as it were.

    The availability of alcohol – not known to enhance anyone’s ability to regulate their own emotions or behaviours – and the idea that being sloshed is the best way to “enjoy” anything is another potentially significant facet.

    In the arena of sports, there seems to be a significant amount of fondness for the concept of “gamesmanship” (as opposed to “sportsmanship”) amongst coaches and athletes and such easily observable cynical actions on the field also contribute significantly to the deterioration of relationships between players and supporters – as well as officials. I probably publish something on that difference between games- vs sportsmanship soon – interesting food for thought, maybe.

    A lot of work needs to be done on many levels and by everyone if we are to prevent incidents like the most recent ones in the future.

    Your blog is such a step in the right direction!

  3. Fantastic comments Dieter. Bravo.

    A big problem is it is hard for club(s) to credibly come down hard on spectators for language & abuse of each other, players & /or officials when the players are hurling swear words and abuse at each other, opponents, officials & even spectators.

    All of this needs to change, & one thing that can help is for people to start calling it out.

    “Excuse me, could you please cut out the swearing & abuse? It’s offensive, it’s a bad example for the kids, & it’s impacting my enjoyment of the game.”

    If we are not prepared to call it out & say it is unacceptable we are part of the problem.

    I was very unimpressed by the verbal abuse hurled at the officials by the Onehunga Sports supporters, particularly the members on the balcony, but also several fans next to the Onehunga bench in the #ONEVWES SChathamCup quarterfinal.




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