The balance between security and spectator enjoyment: a case study of the rugby world cup 2003

Por: Kristine Toohey e Tracy Taylor.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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To date, the study of sport violence has primarily focused on either fan or spectator behavior. Little work has been carried out on violence that may be associated with sporting practices and cultures, but not directly prompted by action on the playing field, such as terrorism¹. The most substantial exception to this are the analyses of the Munich massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games.

The threat of terrorism is greater at prestigious sporting events. Thus, the Olympic Games and other mega sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup, have historically been considered to be prime targets, especially since the late 1960s, when technological advances to the media, through the use of satellites, enabled these events to be broadcast worldwide. This allowed protestors a global real-time audience to publicize their message.

The issue of terrorism is currently in the minds of many Australians and still regularly captures headlines in the Australian media, more than two years after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (911). The plane hijackings and attacks were on the other side of the globe, yet it is estimated that 15 Australian nationals died as a result. More recently, three bomb blasts in Bali killed 88 Australians and injured over 100 more. As a consequence, Australian sport event organizers are now obliged to invest substantially more in security measures due to the threat of terrorism. At the same time they also have to ensure that the people traveling to watch and participate in sport event are not overwhelmed by the heightened security to the extent that it detracts from their experience.
This study investigates the relationship between sport and terrorism in reference to one of 2003’s biggest sporting events, the Rugby World Cup 2003 (RWC), held in Australia. The tournament ran for 44 days, and its 48 matches involved 20 national teams, initially divided into four competition pools of five teams each. The top two teams from each pool advanced to the quarter-finals. The winners of these matches progressed to the semi-finals and the winners, of these, Australia and England, played in the final on November 22 2003 in Sydney.


A convenience based sample of over 500 World Cup spectators from the three New South Wales cities hosting matches (Sydney, Gosford and Wollongong) were surveyed to determine: the extent to which terrorism changed these sport tourists’ motivations to attend the event; how safe they felt during the World Cup; and how risk management measures taken by the event organizers impacted on their level of enjoyment. Items on fan identification were included along with demographic questions. The findings are discussed in the context of risk management, concluding with consequences for the future organization of sports events.


The respondents were: primarily casual fans, from Australia, attended an average of 2 matches, came in a group (mean size 4), male (65/35) and aged 30-40 years. The most significant reasons for attending were: 1. a once in a lifetime opportunity; 2. the social experience; and 3. to cheer /support their team. Very few attendees had considered not going to games because of security concerns, and nearly everyone felt very safe while at RWC. Most felt neutral about the impact of the security on their level of enjoyment of the tournament.

As a result of the findings an empirically based taxonomy of risk and safety management practices in relation to customer enjoyment was developed. An agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis technique was applied to the survey data which identified three homogeneous categories of fans. An iterative process was used to balance the incongruous factors of the number of groups and group homogeneity. The first group was younger casual fans, who attended 1-2 games, felt the social experience was most important, commented that safety measures enhanced their experience and spent less than $100. The second group were 25-35 years, casual or avid fans, considered watching the rugby and supporting their team, along with the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ as very important and were relatively neutral about safety and security. The third group were avid, mainly male fans, who came to watch the rugby, were regular attendees at other rugby competitions, and were strident in their comments that terrorism threats did not matter, and that sport and terrorism did not mix.


  1. Atkinson M and Young K. (2000) Olympika: the International Journal of Olympic Studies 9, 53-78.



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