Rugby abuse 'ruining it for next generation'

By Sophie Ryan

Jerome Kaino makes a break during the test match at Eden Park in the weekend. Photo / Getty Images
Jerome Kaino makes a break during the test match at Eden Park in the weekend. Photo / Getty Images

Fans behaving badly have ruined the experience of live rugby, say people who don't like the bad language and booze associated with the sport.

In response to Judy Craig's harrowing story from Eden Park on Saturday, APNZ received around 50 emails from other rugby supporters, the majority of whom had similar experiences at various rugby games.

Dominic Hitchen said he took his young daughters to their first All Blacks test, against South Africa at Eden Park in September last year.

Mr Hitchen and his "really excited" 5- and 8-year-old daughters were seated in front of an unruly bunch of All Blacks supporters who were swearing and drinking.

When Mr Hitchen asked them to use other, less colourful words, they turned their swearing on the young family.

"After repeatedly asking the fans to mind their language, they replied with 'who brings their kids to the f*****g rugby?'

"One of them actually offered my five-year-old alcohol."

Mr Hitchen said about 10 minutes after half time he felt they couldn't stay any longer and they left the stadium.

"The behaviour was completely unacceptable," he said.

His daughters haven't been keen to go back to any live rugby, he said, which is a shame.

"They were really scared," he said.

"It's ruining it for the next generation of fans."

Judi Craig said she listened to comments from All Blacks supporters at Eden Park on Saturday that were "downright racist and sexist" remarks to opposition supporters.

Her husband was called a "f***ing whinging Pom" and they left the ground feeling heartbroken by the experience.

"It was unbelievable and it was so sad," she said.

Her husband was wearing an England shirt and hat, and was subjected to a torrent of abuse she described as "feral racism" filled with swear-words from All Blacks supporters.

One man's night was ruined on Saturday in a similar way to Ms Craig's.

He said a group of rowdy and intoxicated All Blacks supporters swearing at English players ruined his night.

"The unpleasantness began at the start of the game with one of the individuals shouting and swearing at the English players and using both the 'F' and 'C' words," he said.

The man, who didn't want to be named, said he had attended many tests at Eden Park, but this particular experience was "frustrating but isolated".

"I go to Eden Park a lot, and I go to a lot of games, and this is the only time I've felt like this.

"Normally security are too over-zealous. But I couldn't see any stewards or find anyone to talk to," he said.

"I wouldn't have accepted it if I had my family there, or if I had my wife there."

The man said it was a case of two or three trouble-makers surrounded by friends who were condoning their behaviour.

A spokeswoman for Eden Park Trust said the safety of patrons at the stadium was important.

"We are mindful during the game to manage crowd behaviour to ensure everyone has a good time,"she said.

People can seek assistance from security guards, community volunteers, a text number, and police if they need to at games, she said.

"We would always encourage patrons to speak out if they feel uncomfortable."

New Zealand Rugby's Nigel Cass is responsible for the delivery of test matches and described the atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday as "fantastic."

He said the more than 47,000 fans in the stands were generally well-behaved.

"What's disappointing is the behaviour of a few fans."

Mr Cass said New Zealand Rugby's Applaud campaign was making a difference to sideline behaviour.

"We will remain vigilant and continue to work with all stadia operators to create the best possible atmosphere for all fans to enjoy a test experience."

"It puts you off"

Canadian Benji Potvin and Kiwi friend Brett Barker were dressed in ice hockey gear to support Canada at a test against the All Blacks in 2008 at Waikato Stadium. Mr Potvin said he was hit on the head twice by bottles thrown by All Blacks supporters, and he had his glasses knocked off his face.

Mr Potvin, who lives in New Zealand, was told to "f**k off back to Canada". He said if he was a tourist and had experienced that kind of abuse at a game he would have had a terrible impression of New Zealand.

"We were disappointed," he said.

"We were chanting and having good times. It's a bit weird when Canada lost 90 to 20 or something, so it wasn't exactly a tough competition."

"It certainly puts you off," he said.

Not all bad

A man emailed to say he was "astounded" to read of Ms Craig's experience at the test on Saturday.

He had been out with an English friend and had an entirely opposite experience.

"I was proud to show this Englishman the genuine hospitality and friendliness of my fellow New Zealanders.

"It's fair to say that the weekend was made all the more enjoyable because of the time we spent with the All Black supporters."

- APNZ

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