17/04/2024

The Bullpen with a banner during Friday night's Macarthur FC vs Melbourne City game at Campbelltown Stadium. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

Macarthur FC’s active support group, The Bullpen, had a message to send on Friday night during Macarthur’s 2-0 win over Melbourne City.

They unfurled a banner not long after kick-off which said ‘passion is not a crime’ as a response to a number of issues over the last week.

The banner was swiftly taken down by stadium security who surrounded The Bullpen in numbers, before most of them moved away after a few minutes.

During last week’s AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final, Lachie Rose put Macarthur 2-1 up at the start of extra time.

The Bullpen began to celebrate with the young forward, and made their way down to the fenceline to get around him.

Macarthur would go on to lose that game 3-2, and the impact has continued to be felt a week later.

During the celebration, the fence collapsed, and it has led to a week of statements, relocations, and overall frustration from fans of both Macarthur and the A-League Men as a whole. 

On February 26, The Bullpen released a statement, proclaiming that the reason for the fence collapse was a stadium and security issue.

A statement from The Bullpen on February 26. Credit: The Bullpen/Facebook

When asked for comment on the situation, Macarthur were contacted for comment, and the club provided a comment from CEO Sam Krslovic.

“The club is actively working with the council, stadium, security and NSW police to provide a fun family friendly environment for all members and fans attending games.

“There are meetings scheduled in the coming weeks that will review past experiences and policies and agree on those best forward. The club has put forward the position that the Bullpen should have a representation at these meetings.”

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The Bullpen issues a further statement on February 28, indicating that because of the relocation of their section within Campbelltown Stadium, they would not be sitting in it, and moving to the southern hill area instead for the game.

The Inner Sanctum also reached out to Campbelltown Council for comment on the claims by The Bullpen, particularly around the issues of stadium safety and the fence collapse.

A statement provided by a Campbelltown City spokesperson said that council is committed to working through the issues alongside Macarthur FC and other stakeholders.

“Council has not prohibited the sale of ‘Bullpen’ tickets but has asked the club to relocate the group to another bay for coming games.

“Fencing at the stadium is designed to collapse under significant load as a safety measure in order to prevent crush injuries. We are currently repairing the fence.”

It is a statement that while it provides answers, also raises more questions.

There is clearly a fractured relationship between The Bullpen and the stadium, and while The Bullpen has the support of the club, it is unclear how long it will take to repair the relationship between the stadium and the group.

After the AFC Cup game, Mile Sterjovski voiced his thoughts on the celebration for Lachie Rose’s goal.

“For me personally and our team, we make a conscious effort to entertain our fans, to make the club grow. We want to see Macarthur succeed. It’s a growing area,” Sterjovski said.

“I really do believe that with time, we’ll be a very successful club with what we’ve got in place for the future.”

Part of how Macarthur succeeds and become successful will be because of The Bullpen, who help to create an atmosphere beyond the cowbells that ring out across the stadium.

Active support is what sets our league apart from other sporting codes in Australia. It makes our league great.

It is also not the first time fences have collapsed, with a fence collapsing during a Newcastle home game in 2017, while a fence collapsed at Leichhardt Oval during a Sydney FC home game in 2019.

While fan and spectator safety is absolutely paramount, there has to be a more reasonable solution in place to ensure fans do not feel unfairly targeted for issues that are ultimately out of their control.

Without fans, we do not have a game to come and watch because the clubs and league will cease to exist, and people need to remember that.

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