NRL: Locals fear Nines madness

By Steve Deane

League event planners insist revelling will remain civilised but residents unconvinced.

The prospect of a booze-fuelled Wellington Sevens-style crowd marauding around Mt Eden and Sandringham hasn't gone down well with the Eden Park Residents' Association, however NRL Nines promotor Dean Lonergan insists locals have nothing to fear from an event that is aiming to attract 96,000 spectators over two days each February.

Association president Mark Donnelly said the combination of access to cheap alcohol outside the ground, the length of the event - which will run from 12.00pm to 7.00pm each day - and the residential location of the ground had a history of creating crowd trouble.

"Two full days would create a number of issues," Mr Donnelly said. "We've seen the problems in the past with alcohol consumption over long periods of time, both with one-day cricket and double-header league.

"It is a very difficult venue to control alcohol. And if somebody has been in a licensed premise for seven or eight hours, releasing them into a local neighbourhood raises issues. We see that even with shorter 20/20 cricket games there is a high chance of crowd behaviour problems as they leave the ground."

Mr Lonergan insisted the family-friendly nature of the event, the superior on-field entertainment, cheap food and water options and a hard line on excessive alcohol consumption would ensure crowd behaviour issues were minimised.

"We are very mindful of the Eden Park ratepayers and very mindful of the surrounding areas," Mr Lonergan said.

"We have been thinking about this for a year and a half and we will do what is appropriate to make sure that everyone who comes in here has a really good time and doesn't have to put up with drunk people.

"It is not in anyone's interest to have drunk people floating around and we'll be doing our utmost to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We always want people to have fun but don't tell me for one second that getting pissed as a rat is having fun. You end up with a hangover the next day and people end up doing things that they regret. Moderation is going to be the overwhelming message."

If Mr Lonergan was really intent on making it a family-friendly event he could ban alcohol consumption altogether, Mr Donnelly said.

"Maybe he'd like to consider making it a dry event. That is the option. If he wants to attract families he should consider not applying for a liquor licence."

Mr Donnelly also took issue with an assertion from major sponsor Ateed that security operations at the redeveloped Eden Park had improved.

"What we've seen is Ateed try to save money and reduce the effectiveness of the traffic management plan. And you can't compare current events to something that is going to be the equivalent of the [Wellington Sevens]. They are kidding themselves if they think they can.

"This is a private promoter that is going to come in with no experience of running events at Eden Park. It's a first-off event. There is no history to it. We saw the issues with the double header league - [organisers] didn't anticipate them and didn't deal with them."

NRL Nines

* Two-day tournament to run February 15 and 16.
* All 16 NRL clubs to compete at Eden Park.
* Organisers hoping 96,000 fans will attend.
* Games held between noon and 7pm each day.
* Auckland ratepayers to contribute $9 million in sponsorship over five years and up to $3 million in additional spending.

- NZ Herald

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