April 08, 2011
Katharine M. Nohr, Esq.
Nohr Sports Risk Management LLC
Combine passionate fans, alcohol and football, the equation for spectator unruliness, and your university may have a crowd control problem to contend with. It is not unusual for stadium and event management to engage in a public relations campaign in an effort to prevent anticipated rowdy behavior or address safety concerns before a big game. As you can well imagine, underdog University of Hawaii Warriors football team elicited a tsunami of fan excitement leading up to its Sugar Bowl berth. After a home game against Fresno State, some visitors complained about fan conduct in Aloha Stadium. In response, and before its remaining games against Boise State and Washington leading to an undefeated season, Coach June Jones made television public service announcements and advertisements were placed in electronic and print media to curb potential fan violence. His ‘good sportsmanship’ message urged the fans to show their ‘aloha spirit’, and specifically asked “for the safety of players, please refrain from throwing paper or other objects on the field.” Security was significantly beefed up for subsequent games and there was no repeat of the problems reported at the Fresno State game.