Darn crazy Aussie rule of the week
Last Friday we went to Lang Park to a watch a friendly between Liverpool FC and Brisbane Roar.
I bought the tickets ages ago. As the day got nearer, I felt odder, even a bit apprehensive. In the UK, Liverpool is our team's most loathed foe. It seemed a good idea back in February: we are so deprived of Premier League football because we won't subscribe to anything Murdoch.
I felt as if I was in enemy territory, even though we were supporting The Roar in Brisbane, where we live. The stadium was an ocean of red: it was hard to spot orange.
It was bitterly cold. I wore my United scarf. Not an obvious one, which would have been red, like the enemy's, but the one from the 1999 European Champions League final, in which United beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in Barcelona to win 'The Treble' – Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League – in one season. The scarf is black and grey but has a large Manchester United badge at one end, which is unmistakeable. I folded the scarf, of course, so that the badge was visible. A Liverpool fan sitting next to me spotted it immediately. I must have spoiled his evening because he didn't come back to his seat for the second half. This can't have helped.
Unfortunately, that scoreline didn't last. Liverpool eventually won 2-1, but The Roar played better than I've seen them play before, and made a good fist of it against their famous opponents.
But to get to the point… We arrived at the stadium early, checked where our seats were and went to buy a drink. We wandered back to the corner of the stadium, close to where we'd come in. It was a relatively sheltered spot, and there was a good view over 'the Kop', the stand where Australian Liverpool fans were gathering enthusiastically. I wanted to take a specific photograph (below) and this was a good vantage point. We leaned against a railing and watched the stadium filling up.
Forty-five minutes before kick-off, a steward approached and asked us to move back from the railing. We were puzzled. He couldn't explain why he'd been asked to move people away. He had been told to do it, had asked for an explanation, but was not given a reason. He'd protested that it was unreasonable to expect people to stand away with no good cause.
We speculated. Was it health and safety? The crowd need to be in their seats before kick-off, but surely not quite so long beforehand. Was it a security measure? Once the stands are filling up, you can't have people lurking about directly above them. This didn't seem plausible. People were still pouring in and stopping to take their first look at the pitch.
People don't mind rules so much if they understand why they exist. Admittedly, in this nation built on rules, many do as they're told without question, for a quiet life, to avoid penalty points, so they don't get shot, whatever. If you are the questioning sort, however, and you don't know why a particular rule is in place, and when you ask you're not told, for whatever reason, then the rule can seem unnecessary, even silly, and the temptation to flout it irresistible.
There are so many instances when I see a list of rules where I wouldn't expect it (below, in a toilet in the Magistrates Court in Brisbane); or it's so long I lose the will to live before I've finished reading; or it's accompanied by dire threats and warnings, which makes me contemptuous.
The Lang Park steward was pleasant and not at all officious. He didn't get shirty when we asked why. He was as confused by the order as we were. We stood away from the railing compliantly, and then, for the next 15 minutes or so watched many others do as we had done. Nothing happened to them, and no one appeared to tell them not to. Maybe, by subtle body language, non-conformists attract enforcers.