If Cricket Australia officials saw Saturday night’s Australian v Great Britain rugby league match as a “dry run” for the first Ashes Test on Thursday, they will probably have left Lang Park well pleased.

But the public façade of a largely well-behaved crowd of over 44,000, including a fair smattering of the “Barmy Army”, masks what actually happened in the stands – certainly the $45-a-head seats behind the goal posts where I was sitting.

Drunken, rude and crude home grown spectators – though numbering probably no more than 50 in the area where I sat – spoilt the night for me and must have been deeply embarrassing for the parents of the children who had to put up with foul language, and beer, and even worse, coke, being tipped over them in the aftermath of the dreaded “Mexican wave”.

One group called out incessantly “Pommie footballers take it up the ….” and “Adrian Morley is a w-nker”. Charming!

At Lang Park the players are so close to the stands that every player would have heard every word. What’s worse is that the abundance of security guards in the stands did absolutely nothing about it.

The Barmy Army and other Lions supporters behaved impeccably in the face of grubby, boorish provocation. But they only had to put up with the nonsense for about three hours on a cool night – how will it be after three hot days at the Gabba?

Drunken spectators are the “elephant in the grandstand” at all major sporting events – and at the Melbourne Cup Carnival, many were underaged elephants!

The language on Saturday night would not be tolerated in the Queen Street Mall, or the Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne, or in the Sydney CBD, so why is it blatantly allowed in front of young families at the football?

Sadly, the alcohol industry, led by the breweries, has the nation’s major sports, and venues, under the thumb. Restrictions on the number of alcoholic drinks each customer can take away are a total farce. “Jack” gets four schooners, and as soon as he sits down “Bill” goes and gets four more – stumbling over other spectators in the same row in the process.

One group sitting right in front of me went to the bar to “top up” SIX times during the game. That’s just over an hour and a half!

The police figures from Saturday night will probably show only two or three spectators being “evicted”. 95% of the spectators – including the Barmy Army –were well behaved.

The drunken, boring and pathetic 4-5% who were not, and their ilk, could derail the enjoyment of the Ashes series for the silent majority.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey