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Clarkson feared for his safety

Giulio Di Giorgio   April 26, 2015 3:17 PM

Alastair Clarkson feared for his safety during an altercation outside the club's hotel on Saturday night.

Alastair Clarkson feared for his safety during an altercation outside the club's hotel on Saturday night.

HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson feared for his safety before a physical altercation with a Port Adelaide fan outside the team hotel in Adelaide on Saturday night.

Vision supplied to Channel Seven showed Clarkson being provoked by a young man after the Hawks' eight-point loss to Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.

In the footage, the man asked Clarkson: "Hey 'Clarko', how was the win, mate? How was the win, brother?"

The man, who was accompanied by two of his friends, then edged closer to Clarkson and shouted, "Go the Power!", prompting the coach to forcefully push the man away with an open hand.

Clarkson said he reacted in that way because he was concerned for his safety.

"(I'm) disappointed that I've been involved in it but (we were) fearful for our safety, in a sense, with gentlemen that we didn't know," Clarkson told Channel Seven.

"We knew that they'd been drinking, didn’t know really what their intentions were, we were very, very aware by the dialogue that they were Port Adelaide supporters and just didn't know where it was going to go.

"We were deeply concerned, particularly as we neared the entrance to the building that they were going to do everything they possibly could to make sure that we stopped."

Clarkson said Hawthorn CEO Stuart Fox and several members of the public witnessed the incident from inside the hotel.

"It was in front of many people in the bar area of the hotel, who all came out following the incident," he said.

"They could see it unfolding and could do nothing about it because they were behind the glass.

"Fox and (assistant coach) Adem Yze and several others from our football club witnessed it from inside the building but couldn’t do anything to stop it because they were behind the glass."

When asked whether he could have approached the situation differently, Clarkson said: "Hindsight's a great thing, to say, 'Let's just keep walking', well, for 40m I did do that.

"On three separate occasions, (I) asked the gentleman to refrain but when he actually stepped in front of me and then made body contact with me, I just didn't know where it was going to go unless I actually put a bit of space between myself and him with a push that allowed me to get in the door.

"To the vast majority, the supporters are fantastic and it's just unfortunate that little incidents like this can mean that security has to beefed up."

Earlier on Sunday, Fox defended Clarkson's reaction.

"Alastair was walking back to the hotel with our general manager of football Chris Fagan and (they) came across some intoxicated boys, and Clarko was certainly harassed," Fox told Channel Nine.

"He politely declined to be photographed and (filmed) and the boys just got in his face.

"We tried to get Clarko into the hotel and it was one of those issues that just got a bit ugly."

It was unknown whether the man at the centre of the incident was a Power supporter, Fox said. 

"They had no Port Adelaide gear on, they just looked like punters on the street to me," he said.

"I wouldn't have even known whether they'd been at the football or at the pub, so it was hard to tell."

Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas said those responsible would be dealt with if they were found to be club members.

"If it is a Port Adelaide member … we'll be acting pretty aggressively about that," Thomas told Fox Sports on Sunday.

"It's just not acceptable, it's not what we're about."

In a tweet on Sunday afternoon, Fagan said Clarkson was "innocent", having been provoked by "three rowdy drunks" who "wouldn't take no for an answer" as he walked back to the team hotel.

"Clarko and I didn't feel safe.They were out of control and unpredictable young men who were harassing us and in our faces," he added in a second tweet. 

Fox said the club had contacted the AFL to seek clarification on post-game security procedures in the wake of the confrontation and to prevent any future security concerns.

"One of the issues is just getting back to the hotel safely," he said.

Fox said a bus took the playing group and staff to the club's hotel room, but Clarkson had chosen to walk.

"He probably should've jumped on the bus, but that's Clarko, and they felt like a walk home," he said.

"Most of the crowd had dissipated from the stadium, and that's quite common at Adelaide now, to walk across the bridge and just go straight to the hotel.

"It's something we'll have to look at into the future."

Thomas said there were inadequate security measures in place to protect Clarkson.

"For a senior coach like Clarko, to be put in a situation like that, it was really unfortunate and we need to be thinking about the protection of these guys quite seriously," he said.

"We have to keep reminding ourselves that these are coaches and senior executives … and they shouldn’t be subjected to drunken behaviour from anyone.

"I'd don't think there was adequate protection in place for Clarko and as an industry, we have to be thinking about that."

AFL Coaches' Association chairman John Worsfold agreed that the lack of security around Clarkson was a concern.

"Whatever the reaction was, [while] we don't want to see it the coach shouldn't have someone obviously intimidating him and in his face like that," Worsfold told Channel Seven.

The AFL said the League was gathering all the relevant information on the incident before deciding on its response in a statement issued on Sunday afternoon.