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