Leaders must condemn bad behaviour at sports events
Although sport has always been considered one of the unifying activities in Bermuda, much has changed in recent years, with incidents of poor conduct not only from spectators.
Some participants have also fallen short of what should be expected from those who should be setting a good example for the next generation.
Some may argue that things are not the way they used to be 60 or 70 years ago, and those days can never return.
However, the problem of poor behaviour that has been getting worse over the years has not been fully addressed by all sports clubs, even though they have made efforts to improve a situation that continues to disturb most Bermudians.
Unruly and disrespectful conduct, on or off the sports field, has been a talking point for years with no major change. I have spoken to many football fans who would rather stay at home than be subjected to foul language with little regard for others by some, who have little respect for players, officials, or spectators.
Usually after an incident, there are questions raised about security or more police presence at various sporting venues. While that could be helpful, the root problem really lies in what the Bermuda public is willing to accept when it comes to behaviour that should never be tolerated.
Football violence has been a grave concern for many countries over the years, and many lives have been lost over rival fans exploding with a vicious display of anger, turning a sporting event into a bloodbath.
I recall hearing of a referee in one country, who actually purchased an old army tank, which he kept close to the field, where he would quickly seek refuge from angry fans after a crucial decision.
Thankfully such conduct is not a part of our environment here in Bermuda. Many of our seniors can recall matches played at what was the sports arena on St John’s Road, Pembroke, on a Sunday afternoon back in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
A major clash would usually involve the Key West Rangers and the Pembroke Juniors. People from all across the island would attend these hard-fought matches with many of Bermuda’s football stars of the time.
Supporters of both teams were full of enthusiasm. When a goal was scored a roar could often be heard from a couple of miles away.
It was a different period in our history, when many of the spectators were still attired in what they had worn to church.
With little vehicular traffic during those days, there were always long lines of fans on foot, heading home, swapping stories about who did what in making the event something to remember.
It should also be pointed out that it may have been the age of discipline at home, school, or on the playing field, that was a key element in our social infrastructure.
Yes, there were problems of behaviour back then, but not on the scale we see these days.
A recent incident when a referee was subjected to racial slurs from some hostile spectators, should be a yellow card for all sports clubs to take firm action to deal with any fans who feel such conduct is just a part of today’s world.
Should such conduct not be treated with absolute urgency, as a threat to our society, then football itself in Bermuda could be setting itself up for a red card.
The point here, is that the public has a right to expect higher standards in behaviour at all sporting events.
This situation will not fade away because people find it unpleasant to talk about.
Bermuda must do better, and our leaders need to be out front in helping by example, in stressing that being respectful to others, whether it is on the playing field, at work or in any community activity, is the only way to move to the higher ground of a good and growing society for all.