Tennis- AusOpen : Beer sales could fall victim to Australian Open disruptions

Society Materials 17 January 2008 06:01 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Full-strength beer could go the way of the now- eliminated public betting shop by 2009, as desperate Australian Open officials try to curb a run of violence at the Grand Slam event.

Substituting low-alcohol brew for full-strength beer with is one of the options on the table after Tuesday's ugly incident, in which police gassed a group of rowdy Greek spectators in a mid-match confrontation at the Margaret Court arena.

Officials said that three people were banned from the event, and 10 people in the that area of the stands were treated for effects of pepper spray.

For a second straight day, local news reports were filled Thursday with witness accounts of how police went to the attack, with video footage showing a female officer spraying directly into one man's face before quickly retreating.

Police Commissioner Christine Nixon called the gas-and-run tactic a standard procedure.

Greek fans from the Hellas club who were involved Tuesday are weighing legal options to sue the Victoria police, who continue to defend their actions.

"Our members are not punching bags," said Constable John Cooke. "We are not there to be the sport of spectators who want to be unruly or cause trouble."

The unprecedented police charge during a match between 2007 finalist Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and Greek qualifier Konstantinos Economidis was the second violent incident in as many year at the event, once described by Roger Federer as "the happy Slam."

In an opening-day riot in 2007 between Serbian and Croatian supporters, about 150 brawlers were evicted from the grounds. That was the only major trouble in memory at a Grand Slam prior to this week.

Tournament director Craig Tiley said that banning strong beer - already done at cricket matches at the nearby Melbourne cricket ground - was an option under consideration.

"We don't rule anything out," said Tiley , responsible for the eviction of a longtime betting shop and an ATP-inspired crackdown on suspected match-fixing, which has included blocking online bettor sites in the player lounge and prohibiting laptop computers in spectator stands.