Some Irish rugby fans have reacted angrily to criticism by a Christchurch police sergeant, who told a local newspaper that the behaviour of some Irish fans at Saturday’s test game was “disappointing”.
Speaking after the clash at Addington, Senior Sgt Scott Banfield, head of Christchurch’s team policing unit, sparked outrage among those in the Irish camp when he compared the drinking tendencies of fans from both countries.
“We don’t drink to a point where we fall over so much in our country,” he told The Press, in reference to the behaviour of Irish fans.
“We’ve got our own drinking culture in New Zealand which we’re trying to sort out, and if that’s a representation of what they do in their own country, they’ve got big problems over there.”
The Press quoted the sergeant saying that most of the troublemakers were Irish supporters.
Sgt Banfield was unavailable for further comment on the issue yesterday.
A spokesperson for Christchurch police confirmed that during the test match there were five arrests, 16 people were evicted from the stadium and approximately 30 people were prevented from entering the stadium.
The spokesperson could not offer a definitive breakdown as to which supporters were involved in the incidents.
“The predominant issue here, it wasn’t an issue of nationality, it was more an issue of the drinking behaviour at the game and afterwards,” the officer said.
“Clearly it was fans from both sides that were involved in those offences. It’s some two years since there’s been an international match in Christchurch so it’s hard to provide a comparison with previous years,” they added.
Irish People Living in New Zealand, a Facebook page for the Irish community living on both islands, was among the first to react to the comments.
The group wants Sgt Banfield, and The Press newspaper, to issue an apology for what it believes is stereotyping of the Irish.
Eoin Darby, an administrator of the page, says that there is a lot of anger amongst Irish expats in the wake of the comments.
“This attack on the Irish, generalising our culture is a disgrace and has upset a lot of Irish people living in this fantastic country.
“We are here to work, live and enjoy what New Zealand has to offer.
“Cast your mind back to September and October last year when all we got was praise for how the Irish games and atmosphere were so important and enjoyable to both Kiwis and Irish during the World Cup,” he added.
Meanwhile, Christchurch Irish Society president Natasha Taylor does not believe the incident will have an impact on Saturday’s final clash between Ireland and the All Blacks in Hamilton.
“I think you’ll have a whole different set of supporters at the next game. I think the supporters have mainly been coming from the cities that they’re living in,” said Ms Taylor:
“The police may be a wee bit more diligent though,” she added.
Ms Taylor said the Christchurch Irish Society regularly hosts events locally and said they have not had any issues with drunken behaviour.