The AFL strongly condemns racial vilification in the football community including our players, staff, and their families, across all levels of our game.
The recent incidents are harmful. Acts of racism can trigger trauma and seriously impact the mental health of the individuals, families and communities involved. Racist actions and behaviours are inexcusable.
Too often participants in our code are subject to racial abuse on the football field, in the stands and increasingly, on social media.
There is no doubt that our code benefits from increasing and improving inclusion at all levels of our game. Diversity across our entire football community, including players, staff, coaches, umpires, administrators, broadcasters, governance leaders, corporate partners, volunteers and fans, makes us better. It makes our game better.
While we know that we cannot eradicate racism, we will continue to evolve our policies and use our influence to increase actions against acts of racism, while further protecting our people who find themselves impacted by this harmful behaviour. A recent example of this was the review of our vilification rule, previously known as Rule 30/35 and now the ‘Peek Rule’ after the late, long-serving AFL executive Tony Peek, who took steerage of the rule first coming into existence in 1995.
These previous policies and the current Peek Rule send a strong message that our game will stand up to racism and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and culturally diverse players feel protected when faced with any kind of vilification.
The reclassification of the Peek Rule encourages a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone in our game, through enhancing education programs, policies and standards designed to protect players against vilification on any basis. This includes but is not limited to vilification surrounding a person's race, religion, colour, descent or national/ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. On these matters we are unwavering and determined.
We know we have more work to do but we will continue to uphold these policies to further protect our football community from the grassroots to AFL/AFLW.
With the rise of social media, many of our culturally diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and their families continue to endure acts of racism online.
While rivalry and competition remain integral in our code, there is no place for vilification or discrimination of any kind in our sport, or in the community. None.
Our message is clear, if you spread racism, whether online or at a game, there is no place in football for you. You are not welcome. This behaviour is unlawful for a reason.
Everyone in our game has the right to feel safe and supported and we encourage everyone in our game to report racism and call out this behaviour when it is safe for you to do so.
There are a number of initiatives in place to address racial discrimination and vilification, including:
· The AFL has recently undertaken a review of our National Discrimination and Vilification Policy for community football, to ensure that our policies and processes effectively, credibly and efficiently address discrimination and vilification matters for the health of everyone who participates across our game.
· As per the update to the AFL Vilification Rule earlier this year, now known as the 'Peek Rule', through our Inclusion and Social Policy team headed up by Tanya Hosch, the AFL is actively undertaking a deeper investigation and consultation of needs dealing with all forms of vilification at second-tier and community football levels. This includes assessing current processes, developing an ambassador program around standards at community football and supply of greater resources for community leagues and competitions to develop their responses regarding vilification in all its forms.
· The AFL Executive and the Commission are fully committed to this and any other engagements going into the future. We encourage anyone who has experienced any issue either online or at the game to come forward. Reports can be lodged via the AFL’s Respect and Responsibility contact form.
· We are listening to players and families of players who know intimately what it is like to experience racism. This will continue to inform what we do, proactively and in response to incidents. Working together increases our understanding of the damaging impact and our ability to improve actions. We must all be part of the solution.
Please join us by doing your part to help make our game safe and inclusive for all.
There is no place for racism or racists in our game.
Executive GM – Inclusion and Social Policy, AFL