Baseball And Violence: Is It Time To Consider Seat Assignments For Opposing Fans?

on Friday, Apr. 1st

The signature sound of a ball knocking on the sweet spot of a perfectly hit line-drive is the only hitting we want to associate with baseball. Yesterday, opening day of the new Major League Baseball season got underway, and of the games included in the first round of 162 clashes, the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants began their run for a second title against their foes, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in what is arguably one of the most heated rivalries in baseball. The Giants lost, and with that commenced a stern reminder that sometimes rivalry means fan-inspired violence.

In Friday morning newspapers, reports began circulating that two LA fans assaulted three San Francisco fans in a parking lot, severely injuring a 41-year-old man who traveled from the Bay Area to Los Angeles for the game.

It is unclear whether the incident stemmed from an earlier confrontation, but random acts of violence against opposing fans isn’t new to Dodger Stadium. Which begs the question: should fans wanting to see their visiting team be offered better security here and elsewhere?

For visiting fans at British soccer stadiums, their security has become priority number one. In a report published at The Sports Journal, British soccer stadiums usually employ a tactic of “fan placement and ticketing strategies to divide opposing fans.” It’s a logical solution; keep opposing fans apart to ensure a friendlier atmosphere, or face severe consequences. At an FC Barcelona game we attended at the Camp Nou in 2004, opposing fans rooting for visiting Zaragoza were seated in a lower-level section, together, corralled by menacing looking security while being taunted by the home team’s contingent. The security force, consisting of around three dozen uniformed guards for around 300 people, kept their eyes locked not on the visitor’s side, but the home contingent. It was a stunning sight. From what we could tell, insults were hurling, but distance kept the peace.

Most recently, gay soccer fans in Poland requested a separate seating area for the Euro 2012 Championships. It’s a move influenced by the idea that it’s a right to watch a game with peace and civility in mind. It’s an extreme, and bold, step. But hooliganism in Europe has prompted these measures, and tragedies like the 1989 Hillsborough disaster remind us how horrific events can occur if security measures aren’t implemented.

There are 16 more games scheduled this year between the Giants and Dodgers, and this weekend’s games will most likely mean more security. But that’s Dodger Stadium. What happens when the fans from Los Angeles visit San Francisco for the beginning of a three-game series starting April 11? Will San Francisco fans retaliate? We can only hope the front office of AT&T Park has a plan.

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