Why is misbehaviour at the horse racing and the football treated differently? How this exposes the cultural divide.
There have been many comments on social media regarding the way misbehaviour at the Spring Carnival Racing was treated so differently from the misbehaviour at A-League matches. How if football fans got drunk and unruly like many who went to the races it would have been reported with the usual ‘soccer shame’ articles.
“enjoying the atmosphere” fmd media you are a disgrace pic.twitter.com/5pROgbrfyi
— Lou Skunt (@T_XVII) November 2, 2016
Melb Cup crowd: 97479
1 in 1108
Melb Derby crowd: 43188
1 in 2540
but the #aleague is unsafe
— Dale Roots (@dale_roots) November 2, 2016
However the equivalence is not there. Going to the races and getting blind drunk (or even at the cricket in some way) it is not ‘acceptable’ but falls within what is a behavour that is within the norm in Australia. Even at the start of European colonisation alcohol was a feature, as Rob Moodie wrote in The Conversation.
There’s little doubt that alcohol is an important part of Australian culture. According to the author of The Rum State, Milton Lewis, heavy drinking was an established cultural norm transported to Australia at the time of colonisation…..
It was the norm in Britain to drink heavily and gin epidemics were devastating entire communities at the time. Lewis says that alcohol in Europe had long served as a food and source of nutrition as the diets of the time were very restricted and there wasn’t a lot else to choose from.
For a time, spirits were used in barter and convicts were part-paid in rum. In this way, rum became a currency of the colony – hence the term “a rum state”. The control of alcohol gave enormous political power. And alcohol was reportedly involved in the only military coup in Australia – the Rum rebellion in 1808.
So, while it is nothing to be proud of, alcohol consumption even to excess has been part of Australian white culture from the start.
So when it happens at an event such as the Spring Carnival, at an AFL match or at the cricket incidents tend to be sporadic, isolated to individuals which the police can handle quite easily.
With active fans police is confronted with something quite different. An organised large group of (mainly) young men who jump and chant in unison. I think this creates a different mindset. When police have to deal with crowd behaviour, they are not dealing with a few drunken yobbos but they see a whole large group of people as a unit. No wonder why in certain cases they bring out the riot squad because they believe that if there are any issues they may have to take a large group of excited fans on, rather than pick one or two individuals.
As I said before this type of policing is counterproductive. But it demonstrates the perception that a few too many and falling down stairs or trying to hump a garbage bin is ‘just a few people being worse for wear’ while football support is seen still outside the Australian cultural mainstream and therefore problematic, dangerous and foreign.