Why the AFL should be embarrassed with its year so far

Seeing beefed-up, cross-armed security guards prowling the Marvel Stadium concourse on the hunt for overzealous spectators might just have been the lowest point in what's been an utterly embarrassing year for the AFL.

Throughout Round 13, the fan bays at Docklands almost resembled a prison yard -- at least from what Hollywood films have led us to believe -- with the AFL's newly-introduced 'behavioural awareness officers' pacing up and down the aisles while casting an eye over seated spectators who were supporting their respective teams.

Not only were the hi-vis wearing personnel eyeballing vocal fans and eagerly awaiting what's now considered inappropriate comments, they were also telling them how to properly barrack and behave at the football.

It was intimidating. It was intrusive. It was unnecessary. And it was an appalling look for the AFL.

Picture this: you head into the supermarket on your day off to do a weekly grocery run, only to be followed down the aisles and stared at by a security guard as if you'd done something wrong. Could you just imagine how uncomfortable you'd feel? Can football fans not go about their lives without being treated with contempt?

Of course the AFL should be doing everything it can to combat racism, abuse and crowd violence at games, but this measure is way over the top and all it has done is humiliate the very people that keep this sport running: the fans.

The only thing more embarrassing than the plethora of security guards circling patrons was AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and his bumbling attempt of an apology to fans on Tuesday.

"There is a view in the last week or so the measures that have been taken are too dramatic," McLachlan said. "I don't want to apportion blame.

"It's devastating to think that our fans think something has changed to limit their enjoyment at the footy. Our supporters should never feel that security staff are there for any other reason than to ensure a safe day at the footy."

His comments come just days after claiming the AFL had not looked to strengthen security at any venue.

"There's been no crackdown or change in policy about what's acceptable fan behavior at games," McLachlan said. "It's the same as it's been for 100 years or 100-plus years."

Sorry, but unless Gil's memory of the AFL and its history is vastly different to everyone else's, then this is completely inaccurate. Even if the crackdown has come from the police or the stadium itself, the AFL would not have been kept in the dark. It's a real concern when a sporting league can't admit what's plain and obvious.

But it shouldn't surprise us. After all, the implementation of these controversial 'fun police' at Marvel Stadium is just the latest chapter in what's been a disappointing year for those at AFL House.

It seems that just about every week we're left baffled and scratching our heads with the AFL's fundamentally-flawed score review system.

The low-quality cameras in operation, the inability to quickly attain vision, the confusion about what is actually being reviewed and the fact we don't have trained umpires making the final call means the outcome can sometimes feel like a lottery.

Earlier in the season, in the space of six days, we saw three consecutive clear-cut review errors. This is completely unacceptable.

And then there's the baffling work of Match Review Officer Michael Christian.

A series of frustratingly inconsistent verdicts to on-field indiscretions has seen Christian and the AFL come under fire in 2019 and, like the score review system, fans and players are never quite sure what to expect.

In Round 8, Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe amazingly avoided a ban for an elbow to the head of Richmond's Tom Lynch, yet in Round 2, Collingwood big man Mason Cox was hit with a week for what looked like a harmless basketball screen on Richmond defender Dylan Grimes. It just doesn't make sense.

Throw in some of the downright bizarre fixturing as well as the persistent turf troubles at Marvel Stadium, Optus Stadium and the Sydney Cricket Ground and it's pretty clear that season 2019, which is still just 13 rounds old, is shaping as one to forget for the AFL - despite McLachlan's repeated statements on Tuesday of the game being in "good shape" due to record crowds and TV ratings.

Another major worry is the fact the AFL is so reticent to admit any wrongdoing, instead backing every decision it makes as the correct one, until the evidence is too overwhelming to spin.

We can all deal with mistakes from time to time, but the AFL's behaviour shows a lack of respect for the people the game is built on - the fans.

Dear AFL, if your aim at the beginning of the year was to frustrate, ridicule and upset your fans, then bravo, you've succeeded.