Chris Scott has had an eventful week. Not content with scaring Gerard Healy half to death on live television for dissing his brother, he also managed to annoy a good section of Western Australia. The West Coast supporting section in particular.
Scott claimed after the match that elements – he later clarified this to 0.1 per cent – of the Subiaco crowd were “feral” and that he wouldn’t want to bring his children to the game as it wouldn’t be safe.
It is pretty clear that Scott realised his comments were a bit over the top as he did backtrack pretty heavily – the 0.1 per cent thing – at the next possible opportunity. Though he didn’t disown them completely.
The question is then, does he have a point? Is the Subi crowd genuinely “feral” and/or unsafe? And what about other grounds and groups of supporters?
I’ve been to Subi to see North get beaten by both Freo and West Coast and neither time did I find the crowd any more feral or unsafe than any I’ve encountered in Melbourne. If anything, the vibe was tamer.
That said, the West Coast booing is rather annoying but you get the same thing playing “Big Clubs” from Victoria with a certain sense of entitlement too. Like Essendon. The song is the same, but the notes just change. Where West Coast boo every decision that doesn’t go their way, Essendon fans bleat “Baaaaaaaallll” every time one of their players approaches an opposition player who has possession of said oval leathery object.
I’ve never been to Football Park, in fact, I have no intention of ever going to South Australia for any reason, but what I can tell from the telly is that the Crows boo-brigade are far worse than the West Coast lot. You get the feeling that the West Coast people realize deep down it is still a game.
For the Crows support, it seems to run deeper. They genuinely do believe any time they don’t get a free it is actually part of some devious Victorian conspiracy. But that speaks to a deeper sense of persecution in South Australia. In WA the attitude to Victorians now is that we are spongers taking their mineral wealth. Perhaps if Olympic Dam gets up and running and South Australia is awash in mining cash, their attitude will change.
But the reality is that the true measure of a feral support – violence – is almost exclusively a Victorian affair. And it is associated with the Big Four clubs. Every time we hear of some hideous incident where someone is bashed in the car park, or assaulted at the ground, they are Carlton or Collingwood or Essendon supporters.
Now, I don’t believe that on an individual basis supporters of Big Four clubs are any worse than those who support smaller teams. Far from it. In fact, in terms of the average mug punter who turns up to Carlton or Collingwood games week in week out is no different from the average Dogs or North or Geelong supporter.
The problem comes on Big Games, usually Friday night games. The “blockbusters’ so beloved of the AFL create a sense of occasion that draws the kind of “bad theatre goer” that sees the game as but one part of a bigger night out in town: get smashed, go the footy (probably one of the only games they’ll see that season), get more smashed, head into the city, get yet more smashed and by accident or design, get in a fight.
For these people, the footy being played on the ground at a big Carlton v Essendon Friday night at the G isn’t the main attraction. It is the event itself. The reality is if you get 90,000 people in a confined space, add a load of booze and deliberately constructed sense of tension and rivalry, sheer weight of numbers means you’ll get a few imbeciles who want to punch on.
The reality is though that thankfully, even these violent incidents are relatively rare. We just don’t have a thug culture in our crowds.
Yes, parochial crowds booing the umpires is annoying. But it is also part of the game – having parochial crowds that is. And if the price of being able to go to the footy in the kind of safety and enjoyment soccer fans can only dream of is putting up with some booing when you play West Coast or Adelaide, then it is worth every decibel.