When the NSW Police Commissioner proposes
sending 150 riot squad police to a rugby league match it’s not just rugby league
that has a problem, society has a problem.

Some may argue the response is over the
top, but the frightening stories coming out of last weekend’s Bulldogs v Tigers
match at Telstra Stadium demand not only a strong police response, but one from
the Bulldogs and the NRL as well.

The response that has so far come from the
Bulldogs management has been inadequate. One gets the impression the Bulldogs CEO ended last weekend
hoping the issue would just blow away. It didn’t, and it won’t.

Some will argue the Bulldogs have
contributed to the problem by encouraging certain ethnic groups to follow the
team. That is a cop out – the great majority of ethnic followers of the
Bulldogs are as law abiding and as decent as non-ethnic followers of the
Bulldogs or any other club.

But one gets the impression the club
slackened off when trouble during the 2005 season was not as bad as it was in
2004. And the police may have done so as well.

Sure the Bulldogs must do more, and the NRL
must require them to do so. But it’s a problem for the whole
community as well, and I for one fear that thugs responsible don’t give a “fig”
about the community – or the Bulldogs, or rugby league.

If the massive, and costly, police response
does not fix the problem, then the Bulldogs might be confronted by financial
ruin. (And there are more than a few rugby league fans hoping and praying for
that day).

Judging by the callers to open line
programs in Sydney and Brisbane in the last week, the Bulldogs claim to be the
“family club” is looking very shaky. But not as shaky as the club’s finances
will be if a small band of thugs and hoons continue to behave anywhere near as
badly as they did seven days ago.

The one blessing is that the Bulldogs
aren’t scheduled to play the Cronulla Sharks until Round 11 in mid-May.

Peter Fray

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