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March 10, 2013

Fans

What's with killjoy security guards?

Paul Ford
The system against fun - New Zealand fans haven't had it easy of late  © Getty Images
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It's fair to say the occupiers of Beige Brigade HQ have had their fair share of run-ins with security at cricketing grounds around the world.

We've had megaphones confiscated (Basin Reserve), lost a man for innocently jumping the fence to take a photo (Gabba), remonstrated as our 'Chris Cairns in his Skants' poster was sliced in half with a knife (Cake Tin, Wellington), been reprimanded for singing loudly at Monty Panesar (Old Trafford), and been condemned for the offensiveness of the beige lycra suit (various).

In our experience, swathes of the people charged with protecting public safety at international cricket matches are bereft of common-sense and lack even a vague appreciation for the events unfolding on the paddock in front of them. How often have you witnessed a hiatus in play as a security guard wanders lackadaisically past the sightscreen? All too often they have heavy hands, lack charisma and thrive on the enforcement of rules that are pedantic, preposterous and unworkable.

However, Taleb's Black Swan Theory does apply even here. There have been occasions when we've been massively impressed by a fluoro-vested diamond in the rough. Our stellar security experience was at the Edrich Stand at Lord's where a cracking Irish bloke by the name of Adam looked after us.

Of course, at Lord's one is not a security guard, one is a steward. A lovely little deviation in nomenclature that instantly conjures up an expectation of being looked after. As we meandered into the upper deck of the stand, the resplendently green-blazered Adam came and greeted us and reminded us of the rules on his patch. These included sensible things like making sure we only brought in one bottle of wine each, limited our walkabouts to in-between overs, and didn't curse too loudly when New Zealand lost a wicket (often in a bundle). He finished with the line: "And if there's anything I can do to help you out today, please don't hesitate to pop up and see me."

My favourite was poor old Northland-based Englishman Tony Edwards who had his broomstick flag confiscated at Eden Park, even though he'd travelled the globe with it for 15 years and nobody had ever lost an eye

Unfortunately the Lord's approach to security and stewardship does not seem to have reached the Kiwi corner of the cricketing globe. Witness the embarrassing stories that have emerged during the current England tour that demonstrate dumb rules being imposed by pedantic zealots on fans' peaceful enjoyment.

My favourite was poor old Northland-based Englishman Tony Edwards who had his broomstick flag confiscated at Eden Park, even though he'd travelled the globe with it for 15 years and nobody had ever lost an eye. As the retired trouble-maker noted to the Northern Advocate: "I'm 64 and my days as a hooligan are well and truly behind me." (He's just lucky he wasn't on his skateboard* or his inner hooligan may have been coaxed out.)

New Zealand Cricket's Owen Harrison's comments about "drawing a line" in the interests of public safety sounded reasonable, but did not reflect the reality of punters being ejected for standing up and yelling, attempting dart-flying distance world records with sponsor-supplied origami kits, and tapping inflatable beach balls around. It doesn't stack up as any other than fun killing.

This approach is short-sighted and it sets a frustrating tone for spectators who now expect confrontation with security personnel as part of a day at the cricket: that is a bad place to be for everyone who walks through the turnstiles. In the interests of being constructive, I took the liberty of looking into how experts might expect public order to be maintained at a sporting fixture. Police Chief Magazine told me that:

Unless necessary, police and security officials should avoid adversarial approaches to spectators, demonstrators, and celebrants, which often causes situations to escalate. Rather, stewards and law enforcement personnel should take a friendly and cooperative approach to fans while remaining vigilant for early signs of trouble.

The aim of this approach is to work with spectators and fans, not against them. Positive interaction between fans and security personnel will promote good behaviour and facilitate the identification and management of problems before they intensify. A safe, effective, and non-confrontational approach to crowd management also encourages a sense of responsibility among fans, improving their behaviour and decreasing the likelihood of trouble.

I'm pretty sure a beach ball has never incited a riot at a cricketing fixture - but the removal of a beach ball probably has. Australian allrounder Lee Carseldine had the right idea when he rescued this one from an official's spike and fired it back into the crowd at the MCG.

Those charged with manning our boundary perimeters in high-viz jackets and anticipating pitch invasions of Christmas Island crab proportions should take some inspiration from the words of the MCC head steward David Juchau. In his steward letter to the potential Adams of the world he writes: "We are looking for bright, enthusiastic people to join our stewarding and customer care team for the 2013 season. Our aim is to provide spectators with an unrivalled experience in a safe and secure environment."

In other words, Juchau's primary motivation is for pound-paying fans to have a stonkingly good time, not just adhere to the rules. There's a surfeit of common sense right there, and it's a crying shame it appears to be non-transferable down to our neck of the woods.

* Contains strong language and some physical violence

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Posted by   on (March 11, 2013, 9:25 GMT)

I agree with this post, in one of the last games played in Christchurch against Pakistan before the earthquake (no games since except the Canterbury vs SA T20 intro game) we had the most abnoxious security guards who systematicly threw out people from where we were sitting almost every 10 mins!Most of these people were not drunk but just chanting and having a good time as anyone would at a rugby game or other sporting event. By the time the first innings was over over half the seats around us that were full were empty! So we left in disgust and I have not been to a live game since (after the quake I moved to Wellington). I just watch cricket on television/cricinfo now.

Posted by Simoc on (March 11, 2013, 8:36 GMT)

I've gotta say I've given up test cricket except at the MCG after poor experiences here in Oz. My last was those beside me yelling Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie and the respondents Oy, Oy, Oy, all day long. The chanters were two Maori boys from Auckland, NZ and the respondent Oy, Oy, Oy crowd all Indian. They enjoyed it.

Posted by   on (March 11, 2013, 7:29 GMT)

Mate, not sure if you have ever been to a ground in India to watch international cricket. What you have described is paradise compared to the purgatory what any indian fan is subjected to

Posted by   on (March 10, 2013, 18:55 GMT)

Go on Adam, carrying the flag for Ireland :)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Ford
Paul Ford (aka Paul Holden) is a co-founder of the beloved Beige Brigade, the patriotic and long suffering Kiwi supporters' cult that is a bastion of things brown, tan, tongue-in-cheek and tenuously cricket-related. Paul lives in Wellington, somewhere between the Basin Reserve and Karori Park, and his favourite shot is the front-foot pull. @beigebrigade

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