I am the Sydney FC member who was evicted from the A-League semi-final last night against Melbourne Victory, for allegedly inciting the crowd after being harassed by police and stadium security officials. I was there with my two daughters and one of my daughter’s friends.
What started off as a joyous occasion for my daughters and their friend, after halftime our evening turned into one to forget.
Unfortunately, instead of the media reflecting on the fantastic performance of Sydney FC – of which I have been a supporter and member for 14 years – to win the semi-final 6-1, this has become their focus.
On Sydney radio today, Assistant Commissioner of the NSW Police Mark Walton said that I was trying to access an area for Melbourne Victory fans to get full strength beer.
I reject this out of hand.
For a start, I was not drinking alcohol but Coca-Cola, not least because I was in charge of three young children.
Second, if they really thought I was drinking alcohol, why didn’t they ask me to undertake a drink-driving test when I left the stadium with the children? They didn’t because they knew I wasn’t drinking.
Third, here is what happened.
The original issue arose because I anticipated my special needs daughter would require the bathroom facilities in the second half. As is prudent, I went to quickly check the disabled bathroom first to ensure this was in a clean state. Security officials tried to physically stop me from doing so, placing a hand on my arm. Even though this was physically threatening to me, I ignored them and proceeded to check the bathroom.
When I returned to my seat, I was surrounded by armed police and stadium security officials.
One particular police officer screamed at me in front of the children. When I calmly asked a question about why we could not use that particular toilet, he said I was being argumentative. A stadium security official then ordered me to leave as, in his view, I was supposedly inciting the crowd.
I was doing no such thing, but merely trying to ascertain the basis on which I was being evicted. I had taken a photo of the small throng of police and security and this agitated them.
Because I had sole care of the three children, I told them to get ready to leave. At this point, a police officer actually suggested that I should leave the children at the stadium by themselves, which appeared to me to be a total disregard for their welfare.
Today, the police have attempted to characterise this as me being evicted from the game, but not the children, yet I should leave the children by themselves for the remainder of the game.
Once we left the stadium, we drove to the nearby McDonalds restaurant where we stopped for ice cream and soft drink. As I exited my vehicle, a Riot Squad vehicle parked directly behind me. I found it strange as it is a long car park and it was largely empty.
All three children were traumatised by this intimidation, but particularly my special needs daughter.
While this is a horrid experience for my family and I, sadly too many football fans experience similar for no good reason.
It is an issue in our game that too often there is over-zealous policing and security gets things horribly wrong when it comes to our sport. These matters need to be addressed by Football Federation Australia, the A-League clubs, their contracted security firms and police authorities as, more than anything, it is turning good, loyal supporters away from our sport.
I am a responsible family man who approached yesterday’s game with my daughters and their friend with great anticipation, joy, and pride to see our team play so well.
I intend making no