The Upper Darby School District created a game attendance policy for their winter sports thanks to a fan fight at a December 17th boys basketball game that spilled out to the court injuring a security guard and leading to a few arrests.
Dr. Daniel P. McGarry, Superintendent of Schools says, “I understand that there is much upset and frustration on social media about our decision to re-evaluate our procedures and admittance process for winter sports. Our plan is to provide a safe, secure, and positive atmosphere. Members of the public can certainly attend our sporting events, but we have a new process for students and non-students.”
According to the Delaware County Daily Times, originally it was stated on the school website that events will no longer be open to the general public. The policy will continue throughout the winter season and also includes girl’s basketball, wrestling, swimming and diving, and cheerleading. Only Upper Darby School District students with school-issued IDs and who are eligible to attend school events will be allowed to purchase a ticket at the event. All Upper Darby students must sit in the identified student section. Prior to each sporting event, the Upper Darby School District team and the visiting team will have to submit a list of invited parents and family members who will then be able to buy a ticket at the gate. Students from the visiting team must show photo ID in order to buy a ticket. The visiting team is required to submit a list or have an administrator at the gate to approve the entry of each person. Students or adults who are not affiliate by either school will not be permitted to attend sporting events.
They tweaked the policy a bit to allow youth groups with parent supervision and holders of athletic passes to attend, and they’ll admit some spectators not on the preapproved list at the discretion of Upper Darby personnel.
For some, it sounds like overkill. For others, particularly those responsible for the safety of fans, players, and others attending a sporting event, school officials struggle to devise methods to combat the increased preponderance of guests acting badly.
The Upper Darby situation is not an isolated incident. In November, a 10-year old child was accidently shot and killed by a fan as a result of a dispute at a Camden, NJ high school football game. That tragedy alone should have sparked every school in the area to dust off their attendance and security policies. Most schools probably believe it couldn’t happen at their school but when it does, are they prepared to make the necessary adjustments?
Clearly, there is no one fix every school can employ to ensure safety, but the Upper Darby attendance policy could be the blueprint other schools should be ready to put in action despite the blowback they are bound to receive from the community.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Friday night football games for safety reasons. The schools that participate obviously have well lit football fields but usually the walk to the parking lots, and the parking lots themselves are rarely adequately lit for me to feel safe. I’ve written many times about the exterior of Chester High School being poorly lit which creates the perfect environment for bad things to happen when fans leave basketball games which are mostly held at night.
I did a quick Internet search of fan fights and found a link of ‘Fan Fights 2019’ which listed several dozen videos of fans acting badly at professional sporting events, college and high school games, international soccer matches, and even a world cup cricket game between India and Pakistan. Obviously, fan fights are at an epidemic level and event hosts are befuddled how to control a very unpredictable scourge that can erupt at a moment’s notice.
Let’s not be so critical of Upper Darby’s fan attendance policy but rather help them come up with solutions to keep everyone safe at what is supposed to be an entertaining sporting contest.
Attendance lists, student IDs, metal detectors, portable outdoor lighting, uniformed security, cameras and breathalyzers are just a few of the elements that could be coming to sporting events in the near future. It’s not cheap and it’s not popular, but no one wants to get hurt or catch a bullet like the little boy in Camden when we take the time to support youth or school sports.
Times have changed and we can’t get upset when those responsible for our protection do what they have to do to protect us.