Marvel Stadium management will review security procedures after the AFLvenue’s chief executive Michael Green conceded some fans felt intimidated by the more-visible security presence.
With crowd behaviour in the spotlight in recent weeks, stadium management have beefed up patrolling of the aisles by guards but deny putting on extra security personnel as has been reported.
Either way, the move has caused a fan backlash. Supporters took to talkback radio and social media over the weekend to complain about a heavy-handed security presence at Marvel, with some reporting they were told by guards they were barracking too loudly.
Amid growing unrest, which peaked last week after a Carlton supporter was ejected from Marvel Stadium for calling an umpire a “bald-headed flog”, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan denied issuing a directive to crackdown on fan behaviour.
Green backed that assertion when he spoke to Melbourne’s SEN on Sunday, when he explained that the new measures were part of the stadium’s response to incidents of crowd violence over the past 12 months.
“We haven’t had any direction or requests to increase our security or policing at AFL events, nor have we done,” Green said. “But what we have done over the last number of weeks is increase our visual presence of our security. Clearly, from [the feedback] we’ve taken that too far.
“We don’t want our fans to feel intimidated by security. We actually want them to feel safe and secure, so it’s something that we will be reviewing to make sure that we get that balance right.”
With some fans feeling like big brother is watching them, eyebrows were raised when pictures circulated via social media on Saturday showing members of the stadium security force wearing “behavioural awareness officer” bibs.
Green said the officers had been in place all season and explained they are guards who have received extra training in identifying and diffusing problems in the crowd.
He said the new security measures had helped quickly quell an ugly confrontation between fans after the final siren of Saturday night’s clash between the Western Bulldogs and Carlton.
The AFL Fans Association continued its campaign for greater clarity from the AFL on the issue in a statement released on Sunday.
“Violence, umpire abuse and threatening behaviour are never OK,” AFLFA president Gerry Eeman said. “But some fans are telling us that they feel they can’t express themselves at games in the same way they did in the past.
“A balance needs to be struck between protecting patrons from the small minority who cause problems and allowing the vast majority of well-behaved fans to express their passion. There is nothing wrong with barracking loudly for your team and there is nothing wrong with being passionate.”