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Never assume ethnicity is the problem, without addressing the behaviour

The association between a violent brawl at a NPL game and Football Australia rescinding the ban on ethnic club names couldn't be further from the fact, and only helps pernicious issues within Australian sporting culture remain unchallenged.

The association between a violent brawl at a National Premier League (NPL) game and Football Australia (FA) rescinding the ban on ethnic club names couldn’t be further from the fact, and only helps pernicious issues within Australian sporting culture remain unchallenged.

The fight between spectators at a NPL game between Rockdale Ilinden and Sydney United 58 on Sunday was an alarming scene of violence. The fight began after a spectator entered the pitch and interfered with a player, which sparked a full-blown melee where objects were thrown by spectators as police were called to quell the conflict.

In the aftermath, media outlets were quick to jump to the narrative that this fight was caused by the FA’s Inclusivity Principles for Club Identity (IPCI). Previously, clubs had been banned from using names that alluded to ethnic boundaries or events at the advent of the A-league and the death of the NSL, under a National Club Identity Policy which was replaced by the IPCI. While the clubs eschewed their ethnic names and insignia during the period this policy was in place, their heritage and supporter base remained untouched.

FA CEO James Johnson was forced to defend the policy on 2GB radio, while host Ray Hadley grilled him on the incident. To argue that the IPCI caused the violence in the stands on Sunday is to ignore a history of violence in Australian sport. Hadley insinuates that this is an issue for football particularly: “It’s almost unheard of in modern-day sport in Australia. Sometimes things get out of hand at Rugby league, Rugby Union, more particularly your sport”. In his favourite sport – one that hasn’t been “captivated by PC BS” as he eloquently states – spectators are regularly charged with assault after violent clashes.

As recently as this year, Parramatta fans fought in a wild brawl with their fellow supporters at a game. The issue is present within AFL, where spectators are regularly charged with assault. In 2018 two men were hospitalised after being attacked after an AFL game in Melbourne by men wearing their club colours proudly. In 2010 at the WACA, during a one-day test between Australia and Pakistan, a spectator stormed the field and tackled a Pakistani player and was charged with assault and trespass. The problem is a cultural one, that is endemic across all of Australian sport. To blame a spectator brawl on something as irrelevant as the name and identity of the clubs involved, while turning a blind eye to a history of violence that is perpetuated throughout Australian sport is to condemn ourselves to never fixing the cause, and never finding the solution.

Even within the world of football, violence between fans is not a new phenomenon despite what critics of the IPCI would like you to think. It happened before the ban on ethnic club names, it happened during the ban, and it will continue to happen after the introduction of the IPCI. Why is this so? Because a small minority of Australian spectators, regardless of their sport, are prone to violence. Violence between spectators is a worldwide phenomenon and amazingly remains so in countries whose populations are homogeneous and don’t divide themselves into clubs based on their heritage or ethnicity.

NSW Police Detective Superintendent Anthony Cooke stated that it was only a small minority of the spectators involved in the melee on Sunday, and there was no clear link to ethnic violence. With the former National Club Identity Policy in place, football was less inclusive of those of other cultures and ethnicity with little benefit to the game, while suppressing communities that embraced the world game.

This isn’t an effort to downplay the violence in the stands on Sunday however, but to blame the IPCI however is to ignore the fact that it is a minority of people who engage in anti-social behaviour. It remains easier to direct fault towards the policy of the FA instead of addresses the cultural issues that remain within football and Australian sport as a whole.

“We need to focus on the behaviours, not the ethnicity,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson stated in his interview with Ray Hadley. To remove spectator violence from all levels of the football pyramid we need to do exactly this. To villainize supporters based on the heritage of the club they support is to ignore the very real dangers of anti-social behaviour that is fuelled by far greater animosity than the name on their badge. Hadley misses this point completely and seems to believe that if the club had an anglicised name then the spectator violence wouldn’t have happened. The evidence shows this is objectively wrong and drawing upon ethnicity is simply a media narrative that damages the clubs and the footballing industry. The NSL, the precursor to the A-league, was severely damaged and ultimately destroyed by this stigma being attached by the media.

Hadley’s and 2GB’s attempted stitch-up of Johnson shouldn’t be a surprise. Football within Australia has a long history of being some sort of ethnic boogeyman, with the foreigner with the strange name being an easy target for disdain. While the FA has made it clear it won’t tolerate this behaviour from spectators, fans, and club officials, it has also taken the correct stance in deciding to punish those who do wrong based solely on their behaviour. While the violent brawl was unacceptable, and those involved need to be heavily punished with bans as Football Australia intends to do, it isn’t unheard of in the slightest. These issues aren’t self-contained to football or ethnically named clubs and are instead just a symptom of a much larger illness in Australian sporting culture. To ignore the violence that continues to permeate with Australian sport in an attempt to blame a policy that
contributes little to the issue will only allow the real causes to remain unchecked.

Diamond Valley United receive $650,000 facility upgrade boost

Clubs in Queensland will need to transition from EVA Check-In to the Queensland Government's Check In Qld app.

Diamond Valley United are set to receive new female-friendly change rooms in the coming weeks, after receiving a significant amount of funding from Banyule City Council and the Victorian Government.

The local council has put $400,000 towards the upgrades at Partington Flats, whilst the Victorian Government has put forward $250,000 through their World Game Facilities Fund.

The works are set to begin in the next couple of weeks, with the upgrades to be ready for the new season in 2022.

President of Diamond Valley United, Mark O’Shea, explained the growth of the female side of the game at the club helped the cause for the eventual upgrades to the clubrooms.

“The overall push for female facilities was pretty much driven by the local Banyule Council,” O’Shea told Soccerscene.

“The team at Banyule Council came down to speak with us, and asked what we needed as a club around 3-4 years ago. At that time, new changerooms were our number one priority, alongside other facilities which needed to be upgraded.

“Four years ago, we had one female team, but now we have around seven – so I guess the growth over time on the female side of the club drove the council to take action and get the clubrooms upgraded.”

O’Shea believes the upgrades will have a huge benefit for females involved in the club, who don’t feel comfortable in using the amenities currently.

“The changerooms we have been using are about 35 years old and aren’t really female friendly at all,” he said.

“So, we are turning our changerooms from two into four.

“It allows us to have much more appropriate female friendly facilities. They are all currently old-school open showers and females can’t shower there and use the changeroom properly.

“Having the four changerooms will allow us to cope with the number of teams we have on the female side, but also they will be great spaces for everyone at our club.”

The hope is that the new facilities will create new opportunities for the club to further connect with the wider community.

“We share our club with schools and other groups, so having those female friendly facilities opens up some new avenues for us to share our facilities with new community groups and schools,” O’Shea said.

The pandemic has affected the club in recent times, like most sporting organisations across Australia, but a strong rebound is expected according to the club president.

“There’s no way we could afford to do the upgrades ourselves, COVID has had a massive effect on all sporting groups in the last two years,” he said.

“Our numbers have gone down around 30-40% when it comes to juniors, but in saying that we do expect a big bounce back from a lot of kids at the other side of the pandemic.

“I think parents are keen to get kids out of their homes and off their iPads. Having those facilities at our club will also allow us to take on another 5 or 6 more female teams, which is fantastic.”

Alongside the new clubrooms, further upgrades will look to leave Diamond Valley United in good stead in the long term.

“We’ve been working with council and we are looking to do a lighting upgrade which is due for the next financial year,” O’Shea said.

“Following that, we are getting our ground reconfigured and resurfaced. These upgrades will be great for the future of our club.”

 

 

$1.5 million in fee relief provided to Football NSW Associations and Clubs

Football NSW

To help consolidate losses related to the premature cancellation of the 2021 Winter Football season due to COVID-19, Football NSW has announced $1.5 million in fee relief for its Associations and Clubs.

The Football NSW Board identified the need to provide support to its Associations and Clubs to ensure their ongoing solvency and assist them through these challenging times.

And in spite of the difficult circumstances for all stakeholders involved in the game, Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge credited the strength of football in coming through previous Covid-enforced lockdowns.

“As we have stated previously, our player numbers can only continue to grow, and football can only remain the most popular participant sport in NSW, if there is sustained financial viability at each tier of the game,” Hodge said.

“The sustainability of a healthy Association and Club framework is fundamental to our continued development and maintaining our capacity to progress and achieve our lofty ambitions.

“With this in mind, and on the recommendation of management, the Board resolved to provide a discount on the Football NSW Capitation Fee for the 2021 Winter season.

Hodge acknowledged the hardworking efforts of each of the Associations and Clubs who have been resilient in the face of the COVID-affected season.

“I want to acknowledge the dedication of our volunteers, administrators, players, referees and coaches that enabled us to still deliver part of a football season,” he said.

“Once again, the Football NSW community has come together to support each other and keep our participants and their families safe, something I feel that’s been truly inspiring.

“Football is a vital part of the lives of our players and other participants, but also vital to our communities.

“Thank you all for your work to keep things going through this period of disruption.”

Football in NSW played a leading role in ensuring the community, and sport as a whole, did their bit in fast tracking a return to sport via the recent NSW Health initiative, ‘Super Sport Sunday’.

“Our collective commitment to a safer community was evident in our recent initiative to offer our facilities as vaccination hubs to the NSW Government,” Hodge said.

“What started as an offer of facilities quickly evolved into a request from NSW Health for football to mobilise its community in certain regions where vaccination rates were desperately needed to be increased.

“Answering the call, we led a campaign for football participants in those regions to get vaccinated and engaged other sports to join as we created a ‘Super Sport Sunday’ for vaccinations at Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA).

“We have since been briefed that the campaign helped set a new single day record of vaccinations at SOPA, with many people wearing the jerseys of their favourite football clubs.

“This is another good example of how, as a code and a football family, we are leaders in our communities and, when we work together, we can achieve great things.”

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