THE AFL has promised to immediately update its ticket entry requirements to live games after it was revealed they did not prohibit spectators from using homophobic or sexist language at games.
Fremantle Dockers supporter and cheer squad member, Rod Swift was left shaken at Sunday’s match against North Melbourne after confronting a number Kangaroos supporters who were shouting homophobic and sexist slurs during the game.
“I heard some of the lines and they were quite filthy… but the homophobia is what really set me off,” Swift told Star Observer.
“When I turned around to look, it was because the security guard was smiling, and it was that tacit endorsement that got me really riled up.”
The Dockers supporter tweeted Etihad Stadium where the game was played and also the North Melbourne Football Club’s official account to elicit a response from officials to stop or remove the men from the ground.
“You know, do something about it, because this is wrong,” he said.
Swift waited until well after the match had finished before leaving the ground out of fear of repercussions from the men.
“I was in a very distressed state, I was still shaking for about 10 minutes after the match… because these men, the group of five that I identified, I’m sorry but that’s a punching bag situation,” he said.
— Rod Swift (@rodcub) April 17, 2016
@rodcub Hi Rod, sorry to hear. Please in future use our antisocial sms service so we can send staff to the area to manage the issue.
— Etihad Stadium (@EtihadStadiumAU) April 17, 2016
Swift sent an open letter to the AFL CEO Gillon McClachlan after he researched their ticketing policy, which clearly states a condition of entry to a game requires patrons not to use racial and religious slurs, but does not mention offensive language about a person’s sexuality, gender or abilities.
A spokesman for the AFL – which has signed up to the Pride in Sport Index to combat homophobia in sport – told Star Observer it was disappointed this kind of behaviour was still occurring and it would aim to be a better leader in this area.
“We believe we have made considerable strides in recent years in all areas of spectator behaviour, but we are certainly not perfect and incidents continue to occur,” he said.
“In summary, we would say we are disappointed this occurred, we will continue to explain our position that such behaviour is not acceptable, we will continue to educate our fans and will always seek to be a leader in this area.”
The AFL committed to immediately updating its ticketing policy to align with its Player Rules which clearly state: “no person subject to these Rules shall act towards or speak to any other person in a manner, or engage in any other conduct which threatens, disparages, vilifies or insults another person (the person vilified) on any basis, including but not limited to a person’s race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, special ability/disability or sexual orientation, preference or identity.”
“The AFL uses the same approach to our supporters when attending games and the behaviour outlined in our Player Rules is the expectation as to how our games should be conducted,” the AFL spokesman said.
“(Swift) does correctly point out that the wording on our website conditions of entry is out of date, and does not reflect the changes made to our Player Rules in recent years.
This has been forwarded to our ticketing department today and this will be updated as soon as we can change it.”
Swift also received an email from McClachlan personally confirming the changes would take place.
Police did attend the location after Swift reported the incident and spoke with the men, but no action was taken.
The police report said:”in the dying moments of the final quarter, a report of homophobic language behind the Fremantle cheer squad was reported via social media.
“VicPol attended and spoke with the males in question. As none of the language was heard by security in the area, and the complainant could not provide evidence of what was said, the males were released without any further action”.
“The men were about three metres from security and it’s hard to imagine they didn’t hear it,” Swift said.
“I actually indicated (to police) what they said and there were a number of witnesses, they took my number and I’m happy to speak with police again, because I have more information to provide.”
Pride In Sport Index co-founder Andrew Purchas said Australian sport still has a lot of work to do to improve the experience of LGBTI people.
“The AFL was one of six major sporting codes which only a few weeks ago committed to participating in the (Pride in Sport) Index,” he said. “We have welcomed the commitment that the AFL (is) making to improve their diversity practice and we look forward to working with them to ensure that sport in Australia is an activity where everyone feels they belong.”