Time for home and away stands?

Sport24 columnist Ant Sims (File)
Sport24 columnist Ant Sims (File)
Every time the Stormers play the Crusaders there is a big, old kerfuffle over the notorious "Cape Crusaders". 

Article: Newlands fans slammed

Those all loved up by their roots insist that the only way to watch rugby is to support the team from where you are born while even rugby players outrage about being booed off their own bus.

Of course, patriotism is largely manufactured and if sponsors had their way, countries would probably be franchised and people would care less about supporting the place they were from.

Similarly for supporting the province you were born in.

It’s sport; everybody has the free will to pick a team and stick with them for whatever reason they choose, whether those reasons are political or because some folks prefer to be behind a side who is constantly winning stuff.

The same thing goes for booing other teams. Spectators have for decades tried their best to emulate cows during matches and the Newlands faithful are notorious for their booing when the opposition tries to kick towards the poles. It’s nasty and disrespectful, but it’s still free choice.

The problem, though, comes when the choice of support is based on little else other than to instigate and rile up others. Saturday night at Newlands was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. There were pockets of people deliberately looking to cause disharmony and some who seemed to get a thrill out of getting under the skin of Stormers supporters.

The atmosphere at Newlands was hostile while there are people in Crusaders shirts equally happy to mix among their mates in their Province jerseys, there were also those looking for trouble, be it by yapping in the ears of those in Stormers jerseys around them or standing up, arms outstretched, displaying their All Blacks jerseys for all to see when the Crusaders scored.

That kind of arms aloft, twirling in the air, inviting insult behaviour is enough to make your skin crawl.

A few rows in front of me, a man in a New Zealand shirt had his ear bent by the man next to him in a Province shirt. It was all good banter. The man in his All Blacks shirt eventually decided he’d had enough of the other person’s insistence that he support the Stormers and got up and left. It was simple and there was no animosity, as it should be when it comes to supporters of two opposing teams meeting in such a hostile environment.

Banter and rivalry is all part and parcel of sport, it’s one of the things that often enhances the experience. But with an increasing culture of violence festering in sport these days, those who are trying to instigate are a simmering pot being left on a high-heat stove.

What once was, and still could be, a means of valid political protest has now become a blemish on what could be a flourishing multicultural society. 

Sport and in particular rugby, as Hollywood would make you believe, has the ability to unite those divided, but now the only option left seems to be to divide, in order to prevent tensions bubbling over into potential tragedy.

A simple solution of setting up an away support stand for games with the potential to get explosive could be one solution. This is not to ostracise anyone, it’s simply a matter of safety, similar to the rules followed by football.

FIFA, for instance, insist that the fans from two opposing teams be kept as far apart from each other as possible and partitions separating them are implemented with the away fans having their own entry point. The route to this entry point should cross as few of the routes used by other spectators as possible.

To police it would be difficult and it would have to be incorporated for all matches in order to prevent the feeling of segregation, but as tensions continue to brew in the stands of mixed supporters, it seems to be one of the few options left. It might seem harsh, but it’s commonplace in many other sports and if nothing else, at least it will nullify growing tensions and eventually eradicate those who are so desperately seeking attention through antagonising others.

Ant Sims is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

HAVE YOUR SAY: For safety's sake, has the time come for home and away stands at rugby matches, much like is the case at soccer matches? Send your thoughts to Sport24.
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