It’s about time.
Your community-owned football team is finally going to start acting its age.
As you know, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers turn 80 this year. But they’ve been acting like 18-year-olds when it comes to booze control at home games, too busy counting the money from beer sales to notice they’ve turned off a lot of people who don’t want to get soaked in lager or foul language when they attend a football game.
Announced Monday: a plan to add more cops, crack down on open liquor in the parking lot, even reduce the amount of beer sold to drunks.
All it took, apparently, to get team brass to take the issue seriously was a death and a few assaults on police officers, not to mention a reprimand or two from the liquor control commission.
Listening to the Bombers unveil their new policy, though, only left me wondering if they’re going far enough to curb a situation that’s gotten totally out of hand.
If you’ve sat anywhere near Section S in the last few years, you know what I’m talking about. Actually, you don’t have to sit near it to see the parade of police officers going up and down the aisles, dragging out the rowdies while fending off flying beer cups and, occasionally, flying fists.
Patrol Sgt. Dave Dalal, the game day supervisor the last two years, cites “three different incidents in which our officers got into actual physical fights with people being ejected.”
I asked a cop after one Friday night game a couple of years ago how many arrests they’d made that night, and he said about a dozen. And that was typical.
“The number of incidents seems to be going up,” Bomber president Jim Bell said. “We need to do something about that. We want our fans coming back. If those incidents continue to rise, it implies that we’re not really taking it seriously.”
The Bombers have let parts of the stadium turn into a zoo — and not the kind you want to take your kid to.
Monday, the team basically acknowledged the stadium hasn’t been family friendly.
But plans to get things under control remain a little hazy.
On increasing the police presence: “I don’t think we have been under served in terms of the police presence, but we might add a few more,” Bell said, adding the exact plan was still under discussion.
On whether staff will stop selling beer to fans who’ve already had one too many: “A very difficult one to evaluate when somebody’s at the front of the line looking to get a couple of drinks,” Bell said, although servers, he said, will get increased training.
I don’t pretend it’s easy to say no to a fan in line for beer, even if he’s wobbling.
To me, the answer lies in a zero tolerance policy toward boorish behaviour in the stands.
At a Goldeyes game, for instance, you’ll get tossed for hurling expletives. Go to a Bomber game, though, and you’re allowed to toss beer cups, then hurl all over the guy in front of you.
Asked if staff will be quicker with the eject button, Bell was noncommittal.
“We’re going to monitor that for a game or two,” he said. “There will be a learning curve... but we expect by then our fans will be on to what it is we are trying to enhance. It’s not a science. It’s not going to be easy.”
Actually, it is easy. Interfere with someone else’s enjoyment of the game, and you should be gone. Period.
Never mind a no re-entry policy. What they need is a better exit strategy.
And if that means the Bombers sell a few hundred less beers each game, so be it.