McLachlan says AFL fans unease is new

AFL boss Gillon McLaughlan admits a security crackdown has alienated some fans.
AFL boss Gillon McLaughlan admits a security crackdown has alienated some fans.

Gillon McLachlan has refused to lay blame for the security stuff-up at AFL venues, adding he only became aware of the problem in the last week.

The AFL chief executive was contrite on Tuesday, promising that the league would listen to fan concerns, but would not accept responsibility for the problem.

He said his personal preference is that the much-maligned 'Behavioural Awareness Officer' vests that have started appearing at venues do not continue.

After a number of conversations between McLachlan and Jeff Kennett on Tuesday, the Hawthorn president also apologised for his much-derided comments about the ethnic origin of security staff at venues.

McLachlan held a media conference on Tuesday afternoon in the wake of a widespread supporter backlash about the environment at AFL venues.

Fans have complained that they have felt intimidated by increased security.

McLachlan said the league is listening to those concerns, but added they are trying to strike a balance between fan enjoyment and fan safety.

The added security this season follows a number of crowd brawls, most recently during Saturday night's Carlton-Western Bulldogs match at Marvel Stadium.

"There has been no edict, no discussions - I have not had one discussion about cracking down on fan behaviour," McLachlan said.

"The venues make their own decisions about policing."

McLachlan said he also met with Victoria Police on Tuesday about fan safety at venues.

"I want to be clear about this - our philosophy on this has not changed," he said.

"No-one at the AFL is trying to stop our crowd being passionate, our fans barracking - no-one.

"It is devastating to think that our fans believe that something has changed, that is trying to limit their enjoyment at the footy.

"I won't apologise for making footy a safe place, but we need to ensure we get the balance right."

McLachlan was asked why he is apologising.

"I'm apologising for people who are going along to the football ... they feel that they haven't been able to do that," he said.

McLachlan agreed with fans that the vests being worn by some security staff should not continue.

"My personal view is they're not right, they should go," he said.

Kennett also apologised on Tuesday for his earlier comments about security staff and their ethnic origin.

"Jeff is wrong ... I know Jeff regrets his comments," McLachlan said..

"I'm very disappointed, it's just unacceptable."

McLachlan said that overall, the game is in good shape and pointed to strong crowd figures and TV ratings.

He added that until the last week or so, his conversations with fans had been about safety, not overbearing security staff.

"I want people to come along this weekend, knowing we are listening," he said.

"If there's been an over-correction by security, it's being dealt with, because it is the people's game.

"It appals me to think that people can't come and be themselves.

"If that's happening, it will stop, I promise you that. But we will still have security out there to make sure it's done in a safe way."

Australian Associated Press