Behind the scenes at the rugby

Behind the scenes at the rugby

Rob Pope, Acting Commissioner

Last Saturday night, Wellington's Westpac Stadium was packed full with around 30,000 rugby supporters to watch the All Blacks annihilate the Aussies (NZ Herald, 20 Sept).

When you gather that many people in a confined space, add some alcohol and a few strong emotions, there's always the potential for things to go wrong.
 
In fact, rugby nights usually go very well - from a police perspective, anyway. Kiwi crowds are generally there to watch the rugby, not make trouble. Even during the post-match migration from the sports ground to town or home, the number of arrests is generally low.
 
To prepare for a big event, we work closely with organisers, venue management, city council and other relevant parties.
 
We weigh up risk around the event, decide how many officers will be required and how best to place them. We consider the type of event, where it's held, what numbers are expected and what the mood will be. A rugby crowd acts very differently to a crowd of protesters, for example.
 
For a big sports event like Saturday's game, we also work closely with the stadium's management team and security firm. They run the show, but police are on hand to deal with disorderly behaviour.
 
One of the lead officers sits in the operations box with the stadium operations manager. They can see right around the park with the camera system, and keep a look out for potential disorder. Officers get onto trouble pretty quickly.
 
Police involvement at the venue lasts about three hours, from the time fans start arriving to the time they disperse. After that, our focus shifts to usual weekend policing, particularly looking out for liquor ban breaches and disorderly behaviour around bars.
 
Saturday night's effort was small potatoes compared to the Rugby World Cup in two years' time, when we have 48 matches planned in 13 venues over six weeks.
 
We want New Zealand to demonstrate world class policing, as well as world class rugby. Planning and preparation is well underway to ensure a successful tournament. Police will do whatever it takes to smooth the World Cup's path back to its rightful home!