Clampdown on stadium hooliganism
Clampdown on stadium hooliganismSHARE
As South Africa reel from a number of alarming and spine-chilling incidents in recent weeks, security at stadia around the country has come under the spotlight.
Both Sharks and Stormers officials have revealed that "additional security measures" will be introduced in the wake of acts of hooliganism that rocked the sport.
The most ghastly of the incidents happened at Kings Park in Durban, where British tourist Brett Williams was killed in a fatal assault that took place three hours after the encounter between the Sharks and Rebels almost a fortnight ago.
However, the hooliganism was not restricted to Durban.
Problems started with a stand-up brawl between rival fans in the stands of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth last month, when the Southern Kings hosted the Sharks.
Then followed what must be an all-time low in crowd behaviour when Williams was killed by a group of men – four were taken into custody by police on Tuesday, while a fifth handed himself over to police on Wednesday.
This past weekend Newlands was added as the latest black mark on the sport, when a woman was hospitalised after a fight broke out in the stands between the notorious 'Cape Crusaders' (Cape Town-based supporters of the New Zealand franchise) and Stormers fans.
Even before the game the Cape Crusaders showed their true colours with behaviour that resulted in veteran Springbok Bryan Habana offering to buy them all one-way tickets to New Zealand.
However, the Durban incident continue to stand out like an ugly boil waiting to erupt.
The five men are accused of beating Williams, 29, to death.
Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said the five would appear in the Durban Magistrate's Court on Thursday on a charge of murder. They also face an additional charge of assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm.
Mdunge said this charge was related to the assault of a security guard who tried to intervene and stop the March 23 attack on Williams.
Brian van Zyl, CEO of the Sharks (Pty) Ltd, said on Wednesday that additional security measures and focus will be introduced at Kings Park from this weekend, following the tragic death of Williams.
"I wish to state again, from both a personal and organisational point of view, how sorry we are that such a senseless death happened at our facility," Van Zyl said in a statement.
"Our condolences have been conveyed to Williams's family, via the media and I wish to be clear that the Sharks are very concerned about the incident and how we can prevent such a tragedy from occurring at our facility in future.
"We have co-operated with the South African Police Services at all stages of their investigation and have provided CCTV footage to assist.
"The Sharks and our service providers have looked at how spectator security and safety for fans could be improved and will introduce some additional measures including a security hotline where spectators can report any untoward behaviour or possible volatile situations, as well as a trained civilian-clothed reaction unit, which will be on standby to address any possible incidents that may arise.
"These measures will be added to complement the 400 security personnel who are already deployed on match days.
"The hotline number will be extensively promoted during matches. ER24 will continue to be on standby at the stadium to respond to any spectator medical emergencies as they have done in the past.
"I want to be clear that we will not tolerate misbehaviour in the stadium and will remove any spectator who is provocative and aggressive immediately."
The Sharks also confirmed that in memory of Williams and the two schoolboy players who died tragically this past weekend, there will be a minute's silence which will be observed and flags will fly at half-mast at their home game against the Crusaders on Friday.
Stormers officials have also launched an investigation and promised to clamp down on any spectators that make it unpleasant for other spectators and even players with acts of hooliganism.
WP Rugby, the parent body of the Stormers, said in a statement that they will never condone bad behaviour from anyone in the crowd at Newlands and is committed to ensuring that the stadium remains an enjoyable rugby venue for all members of the rugby-watching public.
This follows the incidents in which the Cape Crusaders hurled abuse at the Stormers players and a fight later broke out in the stands resulting in a woman being hospitalised.
Veteran Stormers and Springbok wing Bryan Habana took to the social network Twitter to slam the spectators.
"I highly doubt there's any place in the world where you get booed off your bus, at your home stadium, by your 'fellow' countrymen," an agitated Habana said.
He then followed that with a few more tweets.
"If I had the money I would happily buy all these 'Cape Crusaders' a one way ticket to Christchurch!!
"And yet there are so many amazing, passionate, faithful supporters at Newlands!! We really appreciate your support!!!"
Speaking to the history of incidents when the Stormers and the Crusaders play at Newlands, WP Rugby Football Union President Thelo Wakefield said: "People are of course free to support whichever team they choose, but we do expect mutual respect and decent behaviour.
"Those impacting on others enjoyment of the game will be dealt with and we absolutely will not tolerate blatant taunting, abusive language, hooliganism and general bad behaviour as experienced here this last weekend."
Wakefield continued: "At an operational level, WP Rugby has already met with key operational event role-players with regard to incidents of poor behaviour from within certain quarters of the Newlands crowd, during Saturday's Super Rugby clash between the Stormers and the Crusaders.
"WP Rugby will implement the operational recommendations tabled and will also engage with role-players like the broadcaster and SANZAR as to other recommendations for any future Stormers versus Crusaders fixtures at Newlands.
"At a more strategic level, the WPRFU will carefully investigate and consider options around the hosting of any future Stormers versus Crusaders fixtures at Newlands.
"We have one of the most passionate, loyal and knowledgeable supporter bases in rugby union and we will not let any group ruin that. We will ensure that Newlands retains its positioning as one of the most special international grounds to watch rugby."
Wakefield also told the Cape Times in a separate interview that the behaviour of the Cape Crusaders is one of the reasons why the South African Rugby Union is reluctant to stage Tests between the Springboks and All Blacks at Newlands.
Wakefield said the WPRFU had received a letter from SARU stating "enough is enough".
Wakefield confirmed to the newspaper that "he knows" SARU has not scheduled a Test between the Boks and All Blacks at Newlands since 2008 due to the hostile environment between the respective groups of supporters.
"It makes it tougher and tougher to get the All Blacks to play in Cape Town," he told the newspaper.
"I am losing the battle at SARU to convince the executive to play the All Blacks Test in Cape Town. I think all these incidents at Stormers-Crusaders games are the major reason why SARU takes the All Blacks rather to Port Elizabeth or up north," Wakefield was quoted as saying.
Wakefield added that Newlands was fast becoming "Boolands" with fans booing while visiting kickers took aim at goal as well as when teams arrived by bus at the stadium.
Reports also emerged in the media that a Cape Town psychologist, who spoke to one of the Cape Crusaders at half time, was told: "F*k jou, jou wit n**i! [F**k you, you white c**t!]"
The Crusaders supporter reportedly continued: "You white f****ers abused us for decades. Now, those black f***ers are doing the same."
The shaken psychologist told the Cape Argus: "I couldn't believe it. I asked them with a genuine light-hearted curiosity. I didn't think that I would offend them."