Aussie Rules Football: Barracking not Allowed

“A funny creature is the snake: he spends his winters not awake. He stretches in his long, thin bed and brews up poison in his head.
The human is a different sort: he spends his winters watching sport. He gathers forth in concrete stands and empties out his poison glands”

– Michael Leunig

Many years ago, I worked in Melbourne with a newly arrived Brit. When he went to his first Aussie rules football game, he was amazed: fans of the opposing teams were allowed to mingle freely. That would never happen at a British soccer match, he said. In fact, organisers had to stagger the opening of gates after matches, so that opposing fans wouldn’t even mix on the train home.

The fact is that, despite Aussie rules fans’ propensity to empty out their poison glands (aka “barracking”), AFL crowds are remarkably well-behaved. But that’s not good enough for the AFL organisers, who apparently won’t be content until fans stay silently in their seats, occasionally clapping politely.

But the AFL’s latest gambit, “Behavioural Awareness” officers patrolling the stands like schoolmarms, is a step too far for fans.

Leading Victorian criminal defence lawyer Rob Stary…was staggered by what many feel is a security overkill given reports approximately two fans per 10,000 attending games are evicted.

“There’s more behaviour monitors and security at the Dogs v Blues game than at a terrorism trial,” he wrote on social media. “…What have they done to the game?”

They’re keeping an eye on you.

Robert Shaw, who played for Essendon and coached Fitzroy and Adelaide amid a career that has taken him from one side of the Nullarbor to the other, is flabbergasted.

“Have we really got to this? So sad if we have,” he said.


Just four fans out of 80,000 at a recent Essendon/Hawthorn match were evicted. But plenty more were feeling the pressure of being watched like naughty children. A Collingwood supporter says he was threatened with eviction from the MCG for “barracking too loud”. “I’m not at the ballet, I’m at the footy,” he said. “You want me to start fairy clapping? Are we at a cupcake contest?” Another fan noted that undercover AFL investigators were “disguising” themselves with hats and moustaches.

But, the more the AFL tries to clamp down, the more fans are likely to ark up, as Hawthorn president, former premier Jeff Kennett warns.

“If the AFL is going to be the ­adjudicators of how people are participating in the game … or there is an ‘expression force’ that is coming in to tell people what they can say, they are playing with fire…The more the AFL tells the public whether they can boo or not, the more likely they are to go the other way. We have been doing it for 150 years, for goodness sake.”

…Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien yesterday decried­ a “nanny state” mentality ­encroaching on the code.

“You know what? It’s not the opera. It’s not the ballet. People are allowed to cheer. People are ­allowed to shout. People are ­allowed to even boo occasionally,” he said.

The AFL’s efforts to get fans to dob each other in is falling flat, too. Its “anti-social behaviour hotline” received just eight text messages.

Jeff Kennett is right that fans go to the footy partly to have a good shout’n’scream – especially at umpires – not get lectured on “woke” social mores by scolding “progressive” nannies.

He said fans had been coming to the football for more than a century­ to release the “pressure-cooker valve” that comes with work and life stresses…“The AFL has tried to be the ­social umpire on every issue and that is wrong,” he said.

“That is not why the AFL was set up. They were set up to administer the code of football. One of the great strengths has been that you can participate as a fan, wave your arms and scream … as much as you like and people invariably leave in good spirits.


Left-wing killjoys have killed free speech. They’ve killed comedy. Now, they’re coming for the footy.

Some fans are making their feelings known. Image: Seven Media.