The ugly side to sport

Officials have downplayed three blow-ups that happened on the sidelines during weekend soccer matches. 

Players were abused and spectators harassed and threatened at Guyra Recreation Ground, Rologas Playing Fields and Phil Wheaton Oval. 

But Northern Inland Football secretary Jamie Campbell said officials had not reported any “negative comments” from the weekend. 

“The clubs involved this week are not on our frequent offenders list and are usually right on top of unsporting behaviour,” she said. 

In the first instance, in a reserve grade match between South Armidale and Tamworth FC, onlookers alleged one of the visiting first grade players was hurling expletives towards opposing team members and match officials before a spectator asked him to “tone down his behaviour as there were kids present.” 

The offender then re-directed his abuse toward the spectator and a group of bystanders. 

At the same time in a first division match between Guyra and Norths United, a witness claimed an injured player was subjected to a barrage of insults from the opposing team’s supporters. 

Less than two hours later, at the first grade game between Norths United and Oxley Vale Attunga, a supporter was bullied and reduced to tears by a fellow onlooker. 

Ground officials were quick to deal with the offender, the matter was resolved and NIF was notified. 

Campbell said these types of incidences are not unfamiliar in the sport. 

“I’m sure you can appreciate this is a very passionate sport, particularly at this level,” she said. 

“As I was not there on the weekend I cannot make a formal comment but I have been told that the incidents were no more or less than they ever have been in the past and were not seen as a major concern by match officials, or teams involved.”

NIF’s policy to deal with offenders who breach their code of conduct includes fines and suspensions to clubs, players or coaches.

The most recent regulation policy for the organisation states that “a club is responsible and liable for the conduct and behaviour of its supporters, whether at home or away matches.”

Campbell said she is “yet to hear about the other incidents” from the weekend but without a formal complaint, the organisation cannot act and penalise the culprits. 

Campbell said the organisation has “requested once again that all clubs have ground officials available on the day of their games.” 

“The club can’t control every spectator but can take action when breaches occur,” she said. 

“Most grounds we use are council owned and therefore public space so it is even harder to manage breaches of code of conduct.”