Police and officials at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium confirmed Monday that the number of arrests and confrontations with rowdy fans at Sunday's Chargers game was the highest of the year and said security is being doubled for this weekend's game with the Los Angeles Raiders.
In almost every case, alcohol was blamed as the primary culprit in the many fistfights that broke out in the stadium. Most confrontations occurred during the second half of San Diego's 20-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Consequently, officials moved quickly Monday to, in the words of Stadium Manager Bill Wilson, "beef up substantially" the security and police detail for this Sunday's game between the Chargers and the Raiders, their longtime rivals. The manager of a security firm hired by the Chargers to work the games said he is doubling his contingent and advising its members to "think tough."
Lt. Bill Hoover of the San Diego Police Department said 10 people were arrested and ejected from Sunday's game, but he noted that those were only the most serious violators. He said police alone were involved in 55 total "contacts," meaning there were that many showdowns and fights that required police intervention. Hoover said none of those arrested was sent to County Jail because all the violations were misdemeanors.
Willie O'Ree, operations manager for Strategic Security, said his firm ejected five fans, but both O'Ree and Hoover said the number of contacts with drunk or disorderly fans was uncommonly high and most of the fights occurred in Sections 42 to 45 on the plaza level, near the scoreboard. Tickets in those sections are often sold to the fans of the visiting team.
"I would say alcohol was involved in virtually 100% of the cases we had anything to do with," Hoover said. "So I'm dreading the Raiders game. Inch for inch and pound for pound, we have more problems with Raiders fans than any other kind."
Hoover said that, in addition to arrests, police also issued 19 citations, most of which involved traffic- or alcohol-related offenses in the parking lot before the game, which drew a crowd of 47,019.
Hoover said that four sergeants and 27 officers worked Sunday's game but that he is increasing the force for the Raiders game to five sergeants and 45 officers.
O'Ree said his firm will "have about 100 officers" staffing the game, twice the size of Sunday's crew for the Philadelphia game. He said a crew of about 50 is normal for a Chargers game.
Wilson said his arena is not alone in fighting rowdiness and that "the fan mentality" of such teams as the Eagles and Raiders contributes to security problems in stadiums throughout the National Football League.
"I'm not putting their fans down," Wilson said, "but the mind set is that, 'We're the rough, tough, can't-beat-our-guys' type of fan. I find that depressing, and I know it worries our security and police personnel.
"It's starting to be a real problem. You have this whole mystique of the rough, tough Buddy Ryan Eagles," he said, referring to the Eagles' head coach. "The Raiders' fans have been a problem for a long time, and now we're starting to see problems with Cleveland's fans. Since Cleveland is called the 'Dogtown,' their fans are starting to throw dog bones. It's very trendy the way these fans are behaving, but for us, it's more than a small concern whenever the Chargers have to play any of this bunch."
Wilson conceded that television plays a huge role in giving such fans a voice, a platform and an identity complete with costumes whenever their heroes take the field. He said many of the Eagles fans who attended last Sunday's game painted their faces green and silver, the team colors. They hoisted banners and signs, and he said most, if not all, of the fights involved a drunken Charger fan and a drunken Eagle fan "just hauling off and going after one another."
At one point in the third quarter, a man and a woman in Section 45 on the plaza level got into a nasty fistfight that lasted several minutes before security guards stopped it and ejected both of them.
O'Ree said such a pairing was hardly unusual.
"I've had to separate two women pulling each other's hair and swinging at each other like crazy," O'Ree said. "I've seen all kinds of things at these games."
Chargers spokesman Jack Teele pointed out that Sunday's game may have been the team's finest hour in 1989--an exciting three-point victory won in the last minute of play against one of the NFL's best teams. Teele said he was concerned that some people "might get the wrong idea" about Chargers games and stay away, when "it's only a few" who are dabbling in unsavory behavior.
Nevertheless, he's concerned about the Raiders game and said, "If we err at all, we want to err on the side of additional security."
Teele said the Chargers' contract with the stadium calls for one police or security officer for every 1,500 fans, "but we generally exceed that." He said that 53,000 tickets have been distributed for the Raiders' game, which is close to being a sellout. The game will be nationally televised on the ESPN cable network, with a starting time of 5 p.m.
All of those ingredients concern police Lt. Hoover, who said fans will have "most of the day on Sunday to get drunk" before taking a seat in the stadium.
"The start time of Sunday's game, and the match-up involved, work against us, but, of course, we'll do our best," Hoover said. "We'll double up in the sections near the scoreboard, where Raider fans are sitting."
Despite the role that alcohol plays in security problems, Teele said the Chargers have not considered banning the sale of alcohol at any point during the game. Wilson, the stadium manager, noted that the Padres refuse to sell alcohol beyond the seventh inning and that the San Diego State University Aztecs stop selling it during the third quarter of their football games.
"But I think the concessionaire would object if you tried to do that during a Chargers game," Wilson said.