Party crackdown pays off

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 PM ET

The tailgate parties have been muted, but so has the unruly behaviour that was becoming increasingly prevalent at Stampeders games.

Coincidence?

We think not.

While it’s a shame the age-old tailgate tradition at McMahon Stadium has been quashed by an increased police presence, the beefed up security has also resulted in a calmer, gentler crowd, say stadium officials.

Despite the emergence of another ugly YouTube video from the recent Roughriders visit showing cops being hit with beer cans as they forcefully removed two lads, officials feel the atmosphere has improved dramatically over the last few years.

“It was getting to the point where people did not want to work the games and that included the Calgary Police Service,” said stadium manager John Haverstock.

“That situation — the whole environment — has improved and staff feel more comfortable staffing the games.”

Theoretically, fans should feel more at ease too, including those hoping to bring their young families.

The crackdown on alcohol in the parking lot — while widely unpopular with thousands of season ticket holders who continually threaten to cancel their seats — has had plenty to do with the progress. So too has the larger number of cops working the games.

But despite the fact 300 uniformed police officers were there for the Riders game, a handful of inevitable incidents like the one captured on YouTube came about due to three factors, according to Haverstock.

“To me, the biggest factor is the score the game,” said Haverstock of the Stamps 40-20 win. “We didn’t have any problems until 10 p.m. when the game got out of hand and then people focus on other stuff.

“I think weather is a factor — the hotter, the worse it is for us. Thirdly, the time of game. Afternoon games are better than night games. I think all those combined and we had all in one — a hot night and a blowout — not a good recipe for us. But at the same time, we’ve developed a different kind of response and program than a few years ago.”

With stadium video cameras watching the crowd at all times, potential trouble spots are dealt with quickly. And, occasionally, forcefully.

As they should be.

Roughriders games have long been a source of great consternation for stadium officials who brace for the worst every time half the stadium fills up with Gang Green.

Saturday’s game against Winnipeg was a relative breeze not only because there are few Blue Bombers fans in existence but because it was also a close game.

Tailgaters are convinced the crackdown on their pre-game parties the last few years came as a directive from the Stamps, who wanted to see less beer consumed amongst the hibachi’s and Hondas and more purchased inside the stadium.

Fact is, it has always been illegal to consume alcohol in a parking lot and when the increased number of police officers were dispatched to keep an eye on things inside the stadium they also had an obligation to do the same outside it.

When asked about the No.-1 issue facing the Stamps, most diehard fans won’t mention the team. Instead, they’ll moan about the loss of a great Calgary tradition that preceded every home game.

Tailgating barbecues and gatherings still go on — and the Stamps encourage it — but without alcohol involved many have soured on the setup.

And while the overzealous crackdown on booze annoys 95% of tailgaters who have never caused problems, it has indeed cut down on the small number of problem drinkers whose issues needed to be dealt with by police.

In the end, the desired result is being achieved, say the people in charge of policing the games.

And that’s good news for a franchise and a league hoping to lure another generation of fans.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


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