Police officers question a fan. Picture: David Caird
Police officers question a fan. Picture: David Caird

Feral AFL fans on hit list in footy bogan crackdown

DOZENS of feral footy fans have been put on a police hit list as the force cracks down on crowd violence.

Thirty supporters have been placed on a "persons of interest" register after regular run-ins with the law this season.

Another 27 have been slapped with year-long bans, while more than 100 people have been given 24-hour eviction orders.

Each match, photographs and the offending history of "persons of interest" and barred fans are distributed to police on the lookout for trouble.

Commander Tim Hansen, of the North West Metro Region, said while the majority of fans were well behaved there were "regulars that cause trouble".

"We are working with a small number of fans to address aggressive or violent behaviours to enhance the safety of all patrons," he said.

Police officers surround a man after his eviction from the ground. Picture: David Caird
Police officers surround a man after his eviction from the ground. Picture: David Caird

"This method is common practice across major events and used in policing the broader Victorian community every day."

Police make house calls to the most prolific offenders in the lead-up to games.

Anger management, drug and alcohol abuse support is offered to those on the police register, which is reviewed weekly.

Booze-fuelled brawls and spectator violence have marred AFL matches over recent seasons.

And as tensions builds for the upcoming AFL grand final, police have revealed new tactics to clamp down on crowd violence.

The force has adopted a new UK-model of policing, which includes officers shepherding fans to and from the venue to gauge the "vibe" of spectators.

More police are also based at train station and at surrounding areas, including Yarra Park.

Commander Hansen said for the first time post-match intelligence reports were sent to police in the CBD and Richmond to warn where a large or unruly crowd might be heading.

A fan in cuffs. Picture: David Caird
A fan in cuffs. Picture: David Caird

"We monitor trouble hot spots and track the flow of people after the game," he said.

"Previously we would shut down the football operation after the game and weren't integrating with our policing plan across the city."

Pre and post-match, officers from Operation Tennyson patrol booze hot spots in Richmond and Collingwood for intoxicated or violent patrons.

Officers patrol the aisles for trouble during the Richmond and Collingwood clash. Picture: David Caird
Officers patrol the aisles for trouble during the Richmond and Collingwood clash. Picture: David Caird

Inspector Yarra Local Area Commander Anne Rudd said "pre-game loading" was a big issue.

"We also talk to venue licensees about the expectations for the night ahead. It's good to make inroads early," she said.

Within the MCG, police, stadium security and the AFL work together to maximise security.

A specialist team of security experts monitor a network of more than 500 CCTV cameras that can hone in on problem hot spots or suspects in seconds.

Police on the ground are immediately alerted to an incident so they can quickly apprehend offenders and speak to witnesses.

Police officers arrest a man outside the MCG. Picture: David Caird
Police officers arrest a man outside the MCG. Picture: David Caird

Spectators can also anonymously dob in foul fans using a text messaging service, which alerts authorities to violence as it unfolds.

The AFL can issue banning notices of up to five years.

Most evictions are for people who smuggle in alcohol or possessing drugs or weapons.

Commander Hansen said violence in the stands, including toward police, has become more severe.

However the number of incidents had remained stable over previous seasons.

Last Saturday a mother-of-three claimed she was pushed to the ground and repeatedly kicked by a man after her daughter was verbally assaulted following St Kilda's win over Melbourne at Marvel Stadium.

Weeks earlier a large group of rival fans exchanged blows and poured beer on each other during an ugly clash after the final siren of the Carlton v Western Bulldogs game.

Inside the MCG intelligence control centre

It's a sophisticated surveillance network that captures spectators' almost every move.

More than 500 high-definition cameras located in and around the venue can hone in on anyone or anything within seconds.

This hi-tech tool is crucial in identifying and stopping threats as they unfold.

Last Friday week the Herald Sun was given an inside look at the MCG police and security operation during the blockbuster clash between Richmond and Collingwood.

Well before the 79,000 fans hits the stands, the huge security operation was already under way.

More than 100 police had gathered in a large room below the stands to discuss the challenges for the night ahead.

Commander Tim Hansen relays information to the officers on the ground in the Crowd Management Observation Room. Picture: David Caird
Commander Tim Hansen relays information to the officers on the ground in the Crowd Management Observation Room. Picture: David Caird

They were told, "Don't be a punching bag for fools" by senior police, who noted recent cases of violent spectators assaulting or spitting on police.

Officers were deployed to Richmond and Jolimont train station to monitor the waves of crowds as they made their way to the 'G.

They were told to keep an eye out for "pre-loading" and cut-off anyone who was too drunk.

Several floors up, a contingent of security experts were already scanning cameras for potential threats in and around the venue.

They were hooked into computers linked to the ground's anti-social behaviour hotline to communicate with spectators who are witnessing any poor conduct or violence as it erupts.

They flick between hundreds of CCTV monitors to locate the incident.

And as police rush to intervene on the ground, the security specialists are pausing and rewinding vision of the incident to determine what action should be taken.

Twenty-three people were evicted for bad behaviour at the MCG at the Collingwood-Richmond game.

A senior sergeant addresses officers in the briefing room under the MCG. Picture: David Caird
A senior sergeant addresses officers in the briefing room under the MCG. Picture: David Caird

Police also issued 14 penalty notices, including five for intoxication, four for possessing alcohol, one for underage possession of alcohol, three for behavioural offences and one for attempting to re-enter the ground once evicted.

One male was seen on camera exposing himself to police and security after being denied entry to the venue.

Another man was evicted from the venue for being drunk and aggressive.

As police searched him, they pulled out several bottles of Italian grappa hidden beneath his clothing.

He was loaded into the back of a police brawler van after spitting on police.

Violent footy fans are taken by police to the Melbourne Custody Centre to be processed.

Some can face 12-month bans for bad behaviour.

Outside the 'G, a dedicated team of police hit the streets in Richmond.

Police load a fan into a divvy van. Picture: David Caird
Police load a fan into a divvy van. Picture: David Caird

More than 80 pubs, bars and clubs were inspected by officers from Operation Tennyson to ensure crowds weren't getting out of hand.

One Punt Rd venue was reported for being 'over capacity'.

The operation is activated for high-risk games throughout the season and all Melbourne finals.

aneeka.simonis@news.com.au

@AneekaSimonis

News Corp Australia


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