Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.
Fan violence has arrived in the world of tennis. I hope we handle it better than we have gambling.
During the second round match between Konstantin Economidis and Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open, a group of Greek fans were so unruly that the Australian police used pepper spray to subdue them. Three Greek fans were arrested for assaulting police and resisting arrest.
That’s unusual enough, we usually see that at soccer matches, not tennis matches, but now the story has taken on a political spin. A video showing Marcos Baghdatis holding up a flare at a barbecue chanting “Turks out of Cyprus” has been posted on youtube. Baghdatis can be seen arm in arm with one of the three Greek fans arrested by police.
Baghdatis is from Cyprus and there is actually a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that is recognized only by the country of Turkey. The Cypriots view them as an illegal occupation force.
This was a drunken party, not a political rally. You can also hear the partygoers chanting “We just had a barbecue, we just had a barbecue.” Not exactly inflammatory rhetoric, is it? And anyway, I agree with the Cypriots, the Turks should leave Cyprus. What’s bothering me is that fan violence has now arrived in the tennis world and I hope we handle it better than we have gambling.
The professional tennis world reacted too slowly to the gambling problem. They should have had people monitoring betting patterns on gambling websites as soon as they learned that millions of euros were being laid down on tennis matches.
After the fact, they overreacted. Journalists can no longer take their laptops into stadiums lest they take advantage of the short lag time between on court play and internet scoring updates to lay down a bet or two. Remember, gamblers can make a bet throughout a match on gambling websites.
It’s a pretty dumb rule, though. What’s to keep you from laying down a bet using your iPhone?
The police in Australia also overreacted to the Greek fans in the stands. The pepper spray they used caused eye irritation to surrounding innocent fans. Jeez, don’t the Aussies teach their officers come-along grips? We learned them in our basic martial arts class. You bend the finger, wrist, or arm of the unruly person into an awkward position and the person has no choice but to come along with you.
I’m afraid tennis will do the same thing for security that it has for gambling: institute unnecessary and ineffective procedures. I can see it now. Tennis matches will look like airports with long security lines and various undressing requirements – shoes and belts off before entering the stadium.
Hopefully stadium security will, instead, treat fan violence as isolated incidents and step in as quickly as possible using the minimum amount of force needed. Indecent language should get a fan thrown out immediately. Quick preventive action keeps a drunken crowd from getting drunker. We’ve had violent incidents in basketball games and baseball games in the United States, but once it happened, security was increased and there have been few repeat incidents.
Keep a visible security force ready, respond quickly to fan’s complaints, and take fast action against unruly and abusive behavior. It’s not that difficult.