From the City of Brotherly Love’s ‘lamp-post challenge’ to Auckland’s street riots, passionate sport fans don’t always behave – so how do cities keep them in check?


Two Sundays ago, Philadelphia police district captains were granted an unusual expansion to their powers: they were allowed to smear Crisco – vegetable shortening used for cooking – on streetlights. The idea was to prevent Philadelphia Eagles fans celebrating their team’s victory in the NFC Championship Game from climbing the poles – as Eagles fans traditionally tend to do – risking injury and damage to public property. But Crisco wasn’t enough to stop them.

Some of the estimated 12,000 fans who filled the streets following the Eagles’ victory over the Minnesota Vikings scaled the greased poles anyway, achieving viral video fame in the process. There was even the suggestion that police had goaded them into trying.

“The fact that we were greasing [the streetlights] doesn’t mean we were daring people to climb them,” Sgt Eric Gripp, police spokesman, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s the exact opposite … Unfortunately it became a thing ahead of time so people thought we were daring them to topple the grease.”

Police are being more circumspect about their contingency plans for an Eagles victory against the New England Patriots at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this weekend. At a press conference on Tuesday, Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross said Crisco would not be employed again because it wasn’t slick enough, adding: “We will be doing some other things relative to keeping fans off certain objects.”

But as the Inquirer’s Stephanie Farr observed, “in a city that’s famous for rebellion and has a well-established greased-pole climbing competition, protecting Philly fans from themselves is far from a piece of cake, even if you have all the Crisco in the world”.

Philadelphia’s light pole challenge is a reminder that mayhem is as much a part of team sports as trophy presentations and parades, and one city officials dutifully prepare to manage. When the final seconds tick down at the Super Bowl, chaos from thousands of fans celebrating victory or lashing out over defeat will hit the streets not just of Minneapolis, but the homes of both teams.

The Philadelphia Eagles have never won a Super Bowl in the 52-year history of the game – they haven’t even taken part since 2005. It has only fuelled the enthusiasm of a fanbase desperate to celebrate its first championship.

If the Eagles win, city police expect the number of fans in the streets to dwarf the 12,000 of two weeks ago. They also say they’ll be ready for anything, implementing checkpoints to inspect fans for weapons and bottles. “We will be ready. We will be out there with a sizeable contingent of offices,” said commissioner Ross, refusing to give a specific number. “We will make every effort to show that we are about business, but we are also in the business of allowing people to celebrate – as long as it’s done peacefully.”

Read Full Article>>