An “hysterical” reaction has forced Brisbane to clarify plans to parade a live lion at their home games next AFL season.
Be careful what you wish for Brisbane Lions fans.
After members voted to restore the original Brisbane lion design to their jumper from next season, the AFL club’s powerbrokers thought they would go one better and provide supporters the real thing at home games in 2015.
In a move the Brisbane hierarchy believed would be a “fantastic way to attract kids to the game”, the club have pitched parading a live king of the jungle at the Gabba before matches.
A huge social media response forced Brisbane to clarify their leaked plans on Thursday.
“There has been a fair amount of hysteria today around the idea of having a real lion at our home games next season,” Lions CEO Greg Swann said.
“Let me be clear in saying it is an idea and only that.
“It is one of a number of initiatives we have discussed as part of planning for the 2015 season, and it has found its way into the media.
“Animal welfare would always be the overwhelming priority in any such idea, but let me stress we are only at a conceptual stage at the moment.”
Swann insisted that the lion would be presented at the Gabba in an enclosure if they went with their bold idea.
Still, the live animal pitch brought back memories of North Melbourne’s ill-fated 1979 stunt featuring a startled elephant.
Advertising a circus during halftime at Arden Street, the elephant was startled by the crowd and jogged towards the stands, prompting hysterical scenes.
The Lions want to answer the AFL’s call for clubs to ramp up their home entertainment but may go back to the drawing board after Thursday’s reaction.
“With the lion set to feature prominently as part of our 2015 marketing campaign, and with the old lion returning to the guernsey next season, we simply asked ourselves whether we might be able to add the ‘real thing’ to a match day experience,” Swann said.
“Given the reaction today, we are mindful that people have strong views and we will take that into consideration as we continue to plan for next season.”
Apart from a social media backlash, the RSPCA office in Brisbane claimed they had received many angry complaints in response to the club’s idea.
And an activist group Generation Alpha told News Corp they would “harass and humiliate” Lions board members at public events if the club went through with their entertainment plans.
Australia Zoo’s owners the Irwin family are club ambassadors.
“In relation to animal rights we would never do anything to harm a lion – Australia Zoo is one of our partners and a match day sponsor this year,” a Lions spokesman tweeted on Thursday.