Monday’s Expert

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pic by Terrazo

After experiencing a quite distasteful display of homophobia at an AFL match, football nut Rod Swift offers to be Monday’s Expert in this open letter to AFL boss Gillon McLachlan…

UPDATE: The AFL has admitted mistakes and promised to do better .

Monday 18 April 2016.

Dear Gillon:

Growing up as a huge AFL fan, one of my favourite songs was Monday’s Expert, by Weddings Parties Anything.  The lyrics describe the people who dissect the weekend’s footy matches offering their expertise — accurate or not — on the weekend’s game play:

Monday’s experts / Always know what’s best / Always tell you what you should’ve done
Monday’s experts / Always know what’s cooking / How the game was lost and how it could’ve been won

I’m now offering to be your Monday expert: the advice is free.

I experienced a horrid interaction from fans in the crowd at a game at Etihad Stadium on Sunday 17 April 2016.  These boorish louts, supporters of one of the teams, were shouting and taunting the other teams cheer squad with disgusting language that included homophobic epithets.

What made it worse was that the group of miscreants was standing next to stadium security.  What riled me up was the security guard was smiling and did not seem to intervene to stop the behaviour.  It wasn’t until I had tweeted a photo of the offenders to the opposing team’s official twitter account, the AFL and Etihad Stadium did something happen.

The stadium’s management responded on Twitter.  So too did numerous people supporting both teams — almost all of it supportive.  But nary a word from the AFL nor the club concerned.

I think this lack of response to the behaviour by the club and the AFL makes a mockery of the AFL’s recent commitment in the Pride in Sport Index, launched a month ago.  You might remember that commitment, issued in the media release at the time:

The Pride in Sport Index (PSI) – the only one of its kind in the world – will be used by the Australian Rugby Union, National Rugby League, Australian Football League, Football Federation of Australia, Cricket Australia and Water Polo Australia to regularly measure how they support their LGBTI players, staff, spectators and supporters.

But this clanger exposes a deeper problem.

It indicates that the venue’s security contractors may not know about, or understand, the AFL’s new fangled commitment on such homophobic behaviour. Would they think they have the authority to eject such louts from the venue?

The AFL’s ticketing terms and conditions — undoubtedly which would be referred to by stadium security or management suggests that only  some people are protected from such gross behaviour:

It is a condition of entry to the Venue (including all areas under owner or hirer, the “Venue”) for matches forming part of the Australian Football League’s season that patrons agree:

  1. not to engage in any conduct, act towards or speak to any player, umpire or other official or other patron in a manner which offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages or vilifies that other person on the basis of that other person’s race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin;

[Source: Conditions of Entry to an AFL Venue, afl.com.au]

Why, Gillon, has the AFL not specifically enumerated other groups that are protected by equal opportunity laws?  Would you agree that the proverbial goal posts need to be moved so you can more easily kick goals in this area?

I am sure that women or disabled people would also be similarly concerned that even sexist or ableist comments aren’t deemed an automatic breach of the terms and conditions of visiting one of your venues.

At the time of signing up for the Pride In Sport Index, the AFL joined with a number of other sporting peak bodies — Cricket Australia, National Rugby League, Australian Rugby Union, Football Federation of Australia, and Water Polo Australia — in wanting to eliminate homophobia on the sporting pitch and for the public who enjoy spectating such sport.

If you are short on ideas on how to fix your ticketing terms and conditions, you could always look at Cricket Australia for some advice:

  1. I will not engage in any conduct (whether through the use of language, gestures or otherwise) which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, threaten, disparage or vilify any other person (including any player, match official, other official or other patron) on the basis of their gender, race, religion, culture, colour, sexual orientation, descent or national or ethnic origin. If I fail to comply with this condition, I may be refused admission to, or evicted from, the Venue by any Authorised Person without refund or compensation of any kind; and I must deliver up any and all tickets that I have in my possession at the request of an Authorised Person. In addition, I acknowledge that the failure to comply with this condition may result in the imposition of other sanctions (such as being banned from the Venue in the future) and possible further action including criminal prosecution.

[Source: Cricket Australia 2015-16 Conditions of Ticket Purchase, Entry to a Venue and Attendance at a Match, cricket.com.au]

They seem to cover the field, and also reserve the right to impose sanctions.

And while you’re at it, maybe you can have a chat to some of the new head honcho mates at other codes about fixing up their ticketing: Football Federation Australia has got most of them, but not sexuality; and the NRL, who outlaw such hateful speech, but really should dump the bit where they also allow people to get permission to make hate speech.

It seems to me that the AFL has a long way to go on eliminating homophobia — maybe start by changing the ticket rules, like I’ve suggested.

Then maybe contact your stadium partners to ensure they are running your events to the standard that you expect.  Insist that they train their security contractors to take a zero tolerance approach to any unwelcome behaviour towards any group.

Because until you start empowering game day staff to make decisions to evict unruly fans for behaviour that breaches the commitments you have publicly made, then you are only paying lip service to cultural change.

Of course, I’m a Monday Expert.  You may choose to disregard my advice: that I know what’s best, and how your game could be lost and could be won.

I sincerely hope you do not.

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