There has been a lot in the news lately about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour while attending an AFL game.
The AFL even bought in “Behavioural Awareness Officers” to ensure supporters are not being in any way offensive towards players and umpires. What an absolute joke. You want to see supporters really being offensive towards players and umpires? Just pop down to your local footy club on a Saturday afternoon.
You don’t know verbal abuse until you have sat behind the goals with 20 drunken ressies players. Whether it’s in the back of Utes at a country footy match or just leaning against the fence at a suburban football match, the goal is always the same. To make the oppositions senior full backs life a living hell.
At AFL grounds the individual comments are drowned out by the cheering of tens of thousands of other supporters. No such luck at grass roots level. Players can hear every personal remark as each Ressie player tries to outdo the other. None of them would have the balls to even make eye contact with the full back normally but there is something about standing with 20 mates, can in hand, behind a fence, that makes them feel bullet proof. The full back who is not getting paid a cent to play, just has to stand there and take it. He always puts on a brave face but inside he is falling apart and dreaming of the thousands of places he would rather be.
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I remember once in a 2’s game only a few years back pulling out of a contest in front of the grandstand where the majority of the supporters were located. Because it was the 7th time it had happened that day, and we were only halfway through the first quarter, the crowd really let me have it. This continued throughout the day. “Gutless”, “Weak as piss”, I could hear every venomous word that was sent my way and it didn’t end at the final siren.
Even back in the rooms after the game insults were sent my way and by this time, they had become even more abusive and personal. Probably the thing that hurt most was that all of these comments were coming from my parents and three sisters who had come down to watch my 50th game. Although I realise that this is all part of playing local sport, when the abuse continued the next day from mum via Facetime, I thought she had crossed the line.
The only person that cops more abuse than the local footy full back is a local football umpire. The AFL recently ejected fans for calling an umpire a “Green maggot” and a “Bald headed flog”. Suburban football umpires fantasise about being called these things. I don’t think even their own partners speak to them that nicely. What local football umpires get called on a daily basis certainly can’t be repeated here and with just a hand full of supporters in the crowd, they hear every word of it.
At the end of the game at AFL level, the umpires get to disappear down the race into the safety of the rooms. They have security lead them the whole way and their car is secretly escorted from the ground to ensure their upmost safety. This luxury certainly doesn’t exist at local level. They must walk through the crowd at the end of the game and are even forced to go into the clubrooms for beer once they have showered. I am sure the umpires must really love mingling with the same people that for the past 2 hours have threatened to physically harm them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that at AFL level they have become soft. They have forgotten what is really important about our great game and that isn’t the high mark or freakish goal. It’s a supporter’s right to have a skin full and let their week’s frustrations out at a poor, unsuspecting stranger. If you are an AFL fan and you’re are feeling frustrated with how you are being treated and that you can’t barrack like you used to, just pop down to your local footy ground where crowd abuse is alive and well.