A junior AFL club in Queensland has taken the “drastic step” of banning parents from the sidelines after a spate of clashes between spectators, teenage umpires and volunteers.
- The club president says the move is to protect players after rising tensions between teams
- Some parents believe the problem is not widespread and the ban disadvantages children
- Another club says it imposed a similar ban after a directive from AFL Queensland
Nick Mallen, the president of the Gold Coast’s Burleigh Bombers AFC, told the ABC that “non-essential people” would be removed from the oval during junior matches, including at break times.
That means parents are no longer allowed within the boundary of the oval during junior games at Burleigh, where players as young as six play smaller games in a grid formation.
Spectators are also being asked not to enter the oval during half-time for older juniors games, where they play a full field.
Those from other clubs are expected to follow the rules while at Burleigh’s home games and Mr Mallen has asked Bombers members to follow the same rules when the side is playing elsewhere on the Gold Coast.
Second club imposes ban
The Broadbeach Cats Junior AFC alerted their members to a similar ban via their Facebook page on Thursday night.
The ban goes one step further than AFL Queensland’s own Footy4Fun competition rules, which allow spectators to watch games from the boundary line.
Burleigh’s ban comes after an altercation between two Gold Coast clubs last weekend, where a spectator allegedly entered the field and play could not continue in an under-10s game between Burleigh and the Broadbeach.
It is understood a coach and another adult got into an altercation following the person entering the playing arena.
Other examples of unruly behaviour include the intimidation of marshals and spectators disagreeing with decisions by umpires.
Mr Marshall said poor sportsmanship had increased during the 2021 season, making some players reluctant to get on the field.
AFL Queensland said it was aware of an incident and was “working with both clubs to gather information and speaking with officials involved in the game”.
Mr Mallen said the move to ban spectators from the sideline at home games and when Burleigh was playing away was “not made light-heartedly”.
“It’s a league-wide issue we’ve seen slowly escalate this year compared to previous and it’s for the health and safety for our players,” he said.
“[It’s designed] to take the immediate threat away and put some distance between the field of play and spectators.”
Mr Mallen said umpires in the Footy4Fun competition were often aged between 12 and 14, but some had still been abused and intimidated at games.
“They will make the wrong decisions a lot and that’s part of the learning process as well,” he said.
“It’s got nothing to do with rivalry.
“This is more about letting our club know what we stand for and what we expect from our members and in our community.
In a video posted to the Bombers Facebook page on Thursday night, Mr Mallen conceded the decision was a “drastic step” that was made to protect the members of the club.
Spectators slam ban
The move has been met with disbelief from some junior AFL parents, who say the trouble is coming from a minority.
One parent told the ABC the ban would damage the sense of community.
“It’s like the police saying we caught some people for speeding on the weekend and now we’re not driving cars anymore,” they said.
“It’s the younger players that will be missing out on that experience of kicking a football with their grandparent from the sideline once the game is finished.”
The Cats said on Facebook page the directive had come from AFL Queensland, which sent out an email to all clubs reminding them of their rules on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, there has been a spate of poor behaviour across many clubs, many age groups, and through a wide range of involvement — coaches, players and spectators,” the club said.
When contacted by the ABC, club declined to comment.
An AFL Queensland spokeswoman told the ABC that it was part of “the rules of our Footy4Fun competition and to ensure the game can be safely played and enjoyed by our participants”.
“The only people allowed in the field of play are field and goal umpires, one coach by per team and those participants listed on the team sheet,” she said.
“We encourage parents and spectators to be on the marked boundary line.
“Some individual clubs have restrictions on spectators which may mean field access is restricted.