AFL executive general manager social policy and inclusion Tanya Hosch speaks to reporters on September 21, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

THE AFL has increased the penalty for vilification from a three-year suspension to a lifetime ban from AFL matches.

Nine men have already been issued the penalty in 2023 and a further five incidents are under investigation. Five of the nine bans have stemmed from games played at the MCG, two at the SCG, and one each at Adelaide Oval, Marvel Stadium and UTAS Stadium.

Rising Western Bulldogs forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was the target of racial abuse from a St Kilda fan in round two, and a number of Indigenous AFL players around the country have also been sent appalling messages on social media this year.

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The AFL has also appointed a full-time employee – falling within the Integrity Unit – to investigate vilification cases (both racial and otherwise) from elite to local footy.


"We have been clear, there is absolutely no place for this behaviour in our sport and in society in general and we want people to know that if they behave in this way, they are not welcome at the footy again," AFL executive general manager inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch said.

AFL STATEMENT Lifetime bans for vilification at AFL matches

"The work will not stop in this space and having a full-time resource committed to investigating incidents is going to assist greatly in our response at all levels of the game. 

"It can be very difficult to find these people but on numerous occasions our Integrity officers have identified perpetrators and passed information to the police. 

"There is more work to be done, especially in the online space and we will continue to work with Australia's eSafety Commissioner to put in place preventative strategies for online abuse, remove abusive posts and act against perpetrators. 

"We know we still have more we can do to combat racism in the game but will continue to lobby the platforms for increased protections and penalties while building on these current actions to help promote change in our industry and society in general."


Those given lifetime bans will be able to apply for a review of their suspension after a minimum of five years.

"The implementation of an indefinite ban for individuals with the chance to apply for a review after five years is because we believe people can reflect and take the opportunity to change their racist views," Hosch said.

"Our main aim is to prevent these acts ever happening and we believe education and the opportunity to influence their understanding is a key component to that, so if people are willing to be educated, we would be happy to reconsider their return to the footy."

A new initiative has this year seen community coaches undertaking an online course "highlighting the harm caused by vilification and discrimination" as part of renewing their accreditation.

The course includes personal accounts from Hawthorn's Chad Wingard, Carlton's Darcy Vescio and former Tiger Bachar Houli about the impact of vilification, and is available to anyone who wishes to complete it via the AFL's learning platform.