The West

WA sport crowds have poor behaviour record
WA sport crowds have poor behaviour record

For the sake of sensible discussion, let's set the club versus club, State versus State, even sport versus sport debates to one side.

This is about right versus wrong. WA spectators have, in a variety of sports, soiled the State's reputation for sportsmanship over three decades now.

In 1982, Terry Alderman was injured tackling a spectator on the field at the WACA Ground during a Test match. The incident sparked the worst crowd riot seen at a major sporting event in this State. In 1993, Melbourne Tigers father-son combination Lindsay and Andrew Gaze were booed on the victory dais after their team had beaten the Perth Wildcats in the NBL decider at the Perth Entertainment Centre.

In 2006, Fremantle fans watched their team win one of the greatest western derbies, then booed Chris Judd because he was awarded the Ross Glendinning Medal. The next year West Coast fans returned the favour before Docker Josh Carr won the medal, when an idiot hurled a drinks container over the fence at him during the match.

Two weeks ago Eagles fans booed Jonathan Brown for having his head in the way when Darren Glass got a marking contest wrong. And on Friday night a few abusive Eagles fans did their club no favours when they targeted Geelong officials and injured star Tom Hawkins while he was being carried off after being knocked out. Their idiocy ruined the work of the majority who were doing the respectful thing and clapping Hawkins and the medicos attending to him.

On ABC talkback radio on Saturday there was enough anecdotal evidence that crowd behaviour in Perth is an issue that goes beyond club lines - a case of a few idiots spoiling the reputation of the many and hurting the sport. Some parents said they had stopped taking their kids to the footy.

The same issue reached flashpoint in Melbourne 20 years ago and the AFL addressed it because it was affecting their business. When mums stop going to the footy it affects attendances. When they stop taking their kids it affects the game for a generation. Games were shifted to better stadiums, crowd control went to a new level.

One spectator was banned this season for racist remarks aimed at Gold Coast player Joel Wilkinson. Crowd control has improved in Melbourne and it is time to move on it here.

It is wrong to abuse injured players. It is wrong to hurl abuse at opposition team officials on the boundary line. It is wrong to use language that offends or intimidates spectators, including women and children, in what is supposed to be a family environment.

It is right for spectators who witness this behaviour to report the offenders and get them thrown out of games. It is right for our clubs and football commission to lead on this issue and make it clear they neither condone nor will tolerate loutish behaviour. <div class="endnote">

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The West Australian

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