Call for hard line to tackle streakers

Westpac Stadium boss wants tougher law and more prosecutions to deter blight on family-oriented sport events.

The boss of one of New Zealand's biggest sport stadiums wants tougher penalties for streakers.

The pitch invaders have struck plenty of high-profile New Zealand rugby and cricket fixtures this year, including ones broadcast around the world.

The last two weeks have seen four incidents alone, including the 2016 Super Rugby opener between the Blues and Highlanders at Eden Park. It has emerged one of the Eden Park streakers has laid a complaint against a security guard, alleging he was punched out of public view.

February's NRL Nines at Eden Park was also interrupted, while Wellington's Westpac Stadium has been targeted too, including a 2013 NRL incident which saw one man charged with offensive and obscene behaviour.

But sporting streakers have told the Veitchy on Sport radio show that while they have been evicted from grounds for their nude antics, they have not faced any police charges.

A dedicated "pitch invasion squad" of six security staff has operated during major events at Westpac Stadium since September 2014. That stadium's chief executive, Shane Harmon, said there had been no incident since but he still wanted a new law to increase the deterrent.

"We do need to look at legislation, similar to what Australia has in place where individuals can be fined up to A$5500 [$6000]," Harmon told the Herald on Sunday.

"They've had a lot of issues with cricket and that legislation has been a big disincentive to do this.

"If they were doing this in the park, the library or a shopping centre, I don't think people would think it was funny.

"There's not been a great deal of consistency in how these individuals have been treated by police in the past: some have been charged, some have not."

The Major Events Management Act was introduced in 2007 to punish pitch invaders and ticket scalping, but that legislation only kicks in for big-scale tournaments, such as a Rugby World Cup or Cricket World Cup.

Those convicted can face a jail term of up to three months or a fine of up to $5000.

Outside those events, streakers can be charged with indecent exposure, obscene behaviour or offensive behaviour.

A conviction for indecent exposure carries a maximum penalty of three months in prison or a fine of up to $2000, while the harshest punishment for offensive or obscene behaviour is $1000.

Harmon said streakers at his venue are trespassed for two years. The invasion staff were there to "protect these idiots from themselves" as well as ensure the safety of athletes.

Police said they could not provide statistics on how many people have been charged for streaking. "Not all streaking matters at sports events come to attention of police - they may just be dealt with by venue security."

Streakers upstage the much-hyped opening match in 2016 Super Rugby at Eden Park. Photo / JASON OXENHAM
Streakers upstage the much-hyped opening match in 2016 Super Rugby at Eden Park. Photo / JASON OXENHAM

Talking on Tony Veitch's Newstalk ZB show, one streaker said he managed to get all the way across the Basin Reserve during a test between the Black Caps and Australia in 2010 and said social media had glamourised the act.

"In today's age of social media, it's glorified streaking a little bit more, rather than being a casual thing that most people see at sporting events these days.

"I was told by police to not go in the papers or on radio or they'd make an example of me with the [2011] World Cup coming up. If you're going to do it you've got to be prepared for the backlash."

Another streaker said fans and players enjoyed the spectacle - with Black Caps signing his shirt after he invaded a cricket game.

"I took a long, hard look at the crowd as I was slowly running past and all I saw was joy and laughter on their faces. I didn't see anyone upset. They certainly appreciate it." What do you think of streakers at games?

Email - letters@hos.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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