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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.

Funding for female changerooms a top priority for NSW Government

The NSW Government has made female changerooms a top priority for funding in Round Four of its Stronger Country Communities Fund.

The NSW Government has made female changerooms a top priority for funding when $100 million is spread across regional NSW in Round Four of its Stronger Country Communities Fund.

Football has applauded the move, allowing female sporting teams in regional NSW to benefit from new and improved facilities, with 50% of the fund devoted towards female changeroom facilities and programs.

“We are delighted the NSW Government has chosen to invest in female sporting programs and facilities at such a vital time for football. The hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ has sparked an even greater surge of demand for football facilities – many of which are already bursting at the seams. Investment in our facilities is vital to keep up with demand,” Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge said.

Northern NSW Football CEO David Eland says the announcement aligns perfectly with football’s needs, following the release of a state-wide Infrastructure Strategy in March 2020. This highlighted the requirement for significant investment in facilities, especially for female football over the next decade, as there’s a projected increase in female participation.

“As the state’s largest sport, football is experiencing unprecedented increase in female football. The number of women and girls playing football has risen by 11% in the past year alone,” he said.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson highlights Football Australia’s intention of having 50/50 female participation by 2027, helped massively by the hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 and it’s Legacy ‘23 Plan.

“Our Legacy ’23 Plan is a long-term project extending far beyond the final match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023TM and we are determined to elevate the women’s game to even greater heights – ultimately for Australia to become the centre of women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“To do this we have identified several time critical initiatives to kick-start Legacy ‘23 which are aligned to our XI Principles and focus on facilities and infrastructure, high performance, participation, and international engagement.

“Building and upgrading community facilities and infrastructure forms part of a key pillar of the Legacy ’23 plan, to help address the existing facilities gap we are experiencing around Australia, and also plan for the influx of 400,000 women and girls we are expecting to be playing the sport of football by 2027.

“Currently of our 2,500 football clubs in Australia, only one in five of these facilities are female friendly.

“Football is committed to working with Clubs, Local Councils and stakeholders to secure funding for the sport. It is integral for football that we ensure existing venues can be used at full capacity, with inclusive facilities, through proper planning for future growth via partnerships with government at all levels and industry partners.”

Facts on Female Football Facilities across New South Wales:

  • 24% of venues DO NOT have change facilities (248 venue)
  • 76% of venues have change room facilities (766 venues). Of these venues:
    • 76% are NOT female friendly
    • 60% have open showers and are not suitable for males or females in the 21st century
    • 48% of change rooms are in either moderate or poor condition
  • 62% of venues in NSW do NOT have a referee’s room
  • Only 36% of venues have a referee’s room
    • 73% of referee rooms are NOT female friendly
    • 44% of referee rooms are in moderate or poor condition
    • 51% of showers in referee rooms are either unlockable or open

Round 4 applications for the Stronger Country Communities Fund opened on May 1, 2021 and you can find it here.

Rangers Coaches Convention to give unique access

Rangers Football Club have announced a week-long online Coaches Convention with unique access, set to begin on May 24, 2021.

Rangers Football Club have announced a week-long online Coaches Convention, set to begin on May 24, 2021.

The recently crowned Scottish Premiership title winners for 2020-21 will hold the convention that’s led by the renowned Rangers Soccer Academies team, as well as keynote speakers – Rangers manager and assistant manager Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister respectively, first-team coach Michael Beale, and Sporting Director Ross Wilson.

This unique offering provides greater access to Rangers, bringing together the expertise of coaches and senior members of staff from across the club.

Taking place every evening from Monday to Friday, from 17:00 to 21:00 (BST/UTC+1), attendees are recognised with a 12-month premium subscription to the Rangers Online Academy. The first 500 registered will receive an exclusive welcome pack in the post.

The convention will contribute towards the Scottish FA and Irish FA CPD hours, with early bird offers on sale for £120 ($215) per individual.

An outline on speakers and subjects are below:

  • Ross Wilson – Football Department Strategy
  • Craig Mulholland – Academy Overview
  • Graeme Murty – Game Model and Curriculum
  • David McCallum – Professional Development Phase
  • Mark Spalding – Youth Development Phase
  • Alan Boyd – Foundation Phase
  • Graeme Smith – Academy Goalkeeping
  • Creag Robertson and Arlene Sinclair – Player Care Provision
  • Jamie Ramsden – The Academy Performance Strategy
  • Chris Milne & Olivier Materne – Academy Medical Provision
  • David Stevenson & Andy Scoulding – Scouting and Recruitment
  • Amy McDonald – Women’s and Girl’s Department Overview
  • Malcolm Thomson and Kevin Murphy – Women’s First Team and Girls’ Academy
  • Dr Victoria Campbell, Olivier Materne & Emma Traynor – ‘The Female Athlete’
  • Michael Beale
  • George Brown – Performance Analysis
  • Guest Session with former Rangers player(s)
  • Live panel discussion with members of Academy Management Team
  • Steven Gerrard & Gary McAllister – Three Year Journey and 55 Title Win.

“We are thrilled to announce the inaugural Rangers Coaches Convention on the back of the club winning our 55th title and as we enter into our 150th anniversary year,” Head of Soccer Academies and International Relations, Gary Gibson said.

“As we continue to expand our partnerships across the globe, the Coaches Convention will become part of our international strategy to give coaches and fans an opportunity to access the inner workings and showcase the work within the football department.

“For the first time ever, you will be able to interact with senior staff from the men’s first team, women’s team, academy and club legends and we will cover specific areas such as goalkeeping, sports science, medicine, match analysis, scouting and recruitment, and educational programmes through the player care team. It is a truly unique opportunity!

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming coaches from all over the world which will include our official partner clubs Bengaluru FC (India), Orange County Soccer Club (United States) and Hamburg SV (Germany).

“I would like to thank all the staff across the commercial and football departments which has allowed us to create the Coaches Convention, further highlighting the one-club ethos that has now been implemented.”

Details on how to register can be found here.

Football Queensland announces Schools Referee Program

Football Queensland Ref

In an effort to boost referee numbers across the state, Football Queensland has announced a brand-new innovative Schools Referee Program in order to educate students about becoming match officials.

Refereeing is undoubtedly a vital part of football everywhere, and Football Queensland’s work towards building up match officials for the future is essential to the longevity of the game in its current form.

Football Queensland CEO, Robert Cavallucci, acknowledged the potential impact of the program for the state’s football future.

“The Schools Referee Program will grow referee numbers across the state as schools sign up to host a Level 4 Introductory Course for students,” he said.

“This program aligns with FQ’s Strategic Plan target to develop new schools programs and improve coach and referee development opportunities in an accessible way. Students will learn how to become a referee within their school environment, gaining a new qualification and the opportunity to earn money while embarking on a rewarding career path.

“Students have the opportunity to become part of the FQ referee family, gaining access to valuable resources such as education materials, video analysis tools and mentoring by senior FQ referees.

“Football Queensland is confident the Schools Referee Program will help cultivate the next generation of referees to officiate matches at community football or in our elite competitions.”

Jacqui Hurford, Football Queensland State Referee Manager, was enthusiastic about the numerous benefits afforded by the program for schools and students.

“The aim of this program is to help the schools become self-sufficient in match officials, which will ultimately drive down their costs. Boosting the number of student referees will address the shortage of match officials available for school games, particularly during school hours,” she said.

“Student referees exhibit improved confidence, self-discipline and a sense of responsibility, developing leadership skills as well as problem solving and conflict resolution.”

All registered first-year referees will receive a registration pack which includes a referee uniform, whistle, flag and cards. Football Queensland will also be providing schools with marketing collateral in an effort to promote the course to students, and to deliver the program at a time that best suits the school.

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