NRL needs an octagon for fans

The Bulldogs have a nasty history of ugly grand stand altercations between their fans and just about anyone unlucky enough to be viewing the same game of rugby league. The time has come for the NRL to do something to alleviate this continuing and seemingly unsolvable problem.

In Round 2 of the 2017 NRL season there were nasty scenes high in the stands at Allianz Stadium, Sydney, as the Roosters fought back to take the lead against the Bulldogs on a cool Thursday night. Footage captured on phones showed a rolling brawl in the member’s section between Bulldogs and Roosters fans. Police estimate at least 20 people were involved, while an official Roosters statement put the number at 2,478.

The two teams have a history of animosity, with some of the NRL’s ugliest crowd violence moments being recorded while these two teams did battle on the field. The Bulldogs have been issued with countless warnings to bring their fans under control or risk further official sanctions including fines and loss of competition points. The way the Bulldogs are currently performing, the threat of removing competition points is a hollow one.

The NRL have to face up to the fact that this issue is a cultural one, and cultures have to be nurtured, not beaten into submission. Some people simply can’t be riled up without resorting to a bit of knuckle. Instead of trying to identify the bad apples, the NRL should create an outlet for them, one that is safe, controlled and away from those just hoping to catch the action happening on the field.

The answer is to build a MMA octagonal ring at one end of the ground during Bulldogs home matches and those played against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium. The one thing Bulldogs games have, particularly when playing the Roosters, is vacant space in the grand stands. There is certainly enough cross-over between the Bulldogs fan base and those who can’t get enough of UFC.


Fans’ octagon at ANZ Stadium
(Artist’s impression).

Any fan feeling particularly aggrieved by the taunts of a rival fan, could simply point towards the end of the ground, signalling a meeting of minds in the octagon. The two combatants would calmly make their way to the structure, take a ticket and wait their turn. If they are still fired up when their number is called, they can climb into the cage and slug it out in supervised safety.

The NRL could even consider charging participants a nominal fee to cover the costs of erecting the structure and to pay the referee. It is a simple solution to this ongoing issue, which the NRL have obviously overlooked.

The only problem with the whole plan is the need for Bulldogs fans to have all their mates involved in each fight. How many people fit in one of those cages?

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