Fun game just turns nasty

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By LAU­REN PRIESTLEY

An ugly brawl in a so­cial foot­ball league has thrown the is­sue of vi­o­lence on the sports field into the spot­light.

Or­gan­is­ers of the Foot­ball Fix com­pe­ti­tion have had to re­move a team that turned on an op­po­si­tion player and at­tacked him.

Wit­nesses re­ported the team of seven and its sup­port­ers chased and then punched and kicked the player as he lay on the ground.

The banned team was also vi­o­lent to­wards peo­ple who rushed in to stop the fight. The brawl hap­pened at one of Foot­ball Fix’s Tues­day night fix­tures at St Peter’s Col­lege in New­mar­ket.

In an email sent to play­ers, di­rec­tors Marc Prenty and Graeme Wal­lace de­scribed it as an un­for­tu­nate and un­ac­cept­able in­ci­dent.

Play­ers have been re­minded they should not take the law into their own hands.

‘‘Foot­ball Fix is all about a weekly, con­ve­nient, fun and well­man­aged game of so­cial foot­ball.

‘‘We ac­knowl­edge that all play­ers are in­her­ently com­pet­i­tive, pos­si­bly stressed and con­cede that cer­tainly our ref­er­ees will make mis­takes,’’ the email says.

But they ac­cept no ex­cuse for fight­ing or off-the-ball vi­o­lence.

‘‘It’s a re­ally nasty is­sue,’’ Mr Prenty told the Auck­land City Har­bour News.

‘‘We try and come down hard on peo­ple that come to our com­pe­ti­tion to get their ag­gres­sion out.’’

Vet­eran Auck­land ref­eree Stephanie Brown says some play­ers find it dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween hard but fair play and out­right vi­o­lence.

Miss Brown has been of­fi­ci­at­ing so­cial and club foot­ball for 25 years.

‘‘I have had some re­ally dread­ful ex­pe­ri­ences as a ref. On one oc­ca­sion I thought I was go­ing to be a vic­tim of an as­sault. I was lucky the op­po­si­tion stepped in. I re­ally did fear for my safety.’’

Miss Brown says ag­gres­sion can some­times come into a match if a ref­eree does not take a strong stance from the be­gin­ning.

‘‘Hav­ing some­body with a whis­tle who’s pre­pared to step in and say ‘that’s enough’ is re­ally im­por­tant.’’

Th­ese days she ref­er­ees for the Sub-foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion which is based on the premise that play­ers can’t use force to take or keep the ball.

She says there is a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence to play­ers’ at­ti­tudes com­pared with other so­cial leagues.

Bill Davies started Sub-foot­ball as an an­swer to un­nec­es­sary vi­o­lence on the field. He de­vel­oped 14 laws to gov­ern the game and reg­is­tered its trade­mark in 1998.

‘‘I cre­ated it be­cause of the vi­o­lence that was so ev­i­dent in so­cial foot­ball. There was guys turn­ing up there punch­ing and kick­ing one an­other so I said ‘ this has got to stop’,’’ he says.

Photo: BEN WAT­SON

New game: Bill Davies cre­ated Sub-foot­ball as an an­swer to ag­gres­sion on the foot­ball field.

Tough job: Stephanie Brown has been a ref­eree for 25 years.

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