MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Football League (AFL) boss Gillon McLachlan has apologised to fans after a huge backlash against a security crackdown at recent games which has seen spectators warned by stadium staff for being too loud.
Security has been in the spotlight in the Australian Rules top flight following a number of violent incidents in match-day crowds but fans and pundits have condemned the league for its response.
Melbourne’s Docklands stadium, which is owned by the AFL, employed “behavioural awareness officers” to patrol the terraces during matches over the weekend, prompting pundits to describe them as “thought police”.
One fan was ejected from a match for yelling at an umpire last week, while others have reported being told to “calm down” for being “too loud” in their cheering.
AFLCEO McLachlan said he was appalled at the situation and that the governing body would take action.
“I’m sorry they are feeling intimidated. If people are feeling threatened we obviously will listen,” McLachlan told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper.
“It hurts me to hear our administration is not looking after the fans.”
McLachlan met with Docklands stadium chief Michael Green on Monday regarding the issue, which has dominated social media and talkback radio.
Green on Sunday told a local radio station that the stadium had bungled its security arrangements and would scale back patrols of its behavioural awareness officers.
Indigenous football code Australian Rules is hugely popular in the country’s southern states and AFL games often draw crowds of over 70,000.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)