By Phil De Young – VAFA Vice-President
This week is the AFL Multicultural Round and we celebrate the many wonderful cultures who all share a common passion for footy and that no matter who you are or where you come from, Australian Rules Football is a sport that embraces everyone willing to get involved and have a good time.
The VAFA has the extraordinary power to bring people together regardless of background. Everything’s possible when we unite through the love of the game. We highlight the contribution multicultural communities have made to the game’s history and welcome new communities to embrace Australia’s game in the future.
A number of different initiatives are being promoted at each venue. Footballs will carry the brand name Sherrin, either in Hindi, Mandarin or Arabic, the 50m lines on grounds to be marked to reflect a language theme and the word ‘umpire’ will be translated into seven languages and printed on the back of their shirts.
The VAFA embraces diversity and inclusion and provides football to everyone regardless of colour, race creed and even skill. We are on a continued journey and this round gives us the opportunity to make a statement to all fellow participants that we respect their heritage and their individual story.
Much has been written, discussed and argued over the last two weeks in relation to the booing of Adam Goodes. Whilst opinions vary wildly on the cause of the crowd antagonism towards Goodes, I feel the game would be better off if all booing ceased, whether it be directed toward Adam Goodes or any other individual.
Indeed, our Association is very clear on the matter. Our spectator Code of Conduct’s number one expectation of those viewing Amateur games is to “Respect the rights, dignity and worth of all individual including refraining from any discriminatory practices on the basis of race, religion, ethnic background or special ability/ disability”. The Code later requires spectators to conduct themselves in a manner that “enhances the values of the Victorian Amateur Football Association”. Clearly, the number one value that underpins our Association is respect.
It has been pleasing to witness many AFL club leaders, the AFL Players’ Association and a large number of individual AFL players come out in support of Adam Goodes and plead with supporters to stop the booing, but at the end of the day, they have very little control over how crowds behave. And whilst some would say this is a good thing, the game has suffered significantly in recent months because of this lack of control.
In contrast, at VAFA level, we can and do control crowd behaviour and our game is better off as a result. Our alcohol policy is at the heart of our crowd control issue and we are highly respected and envied by other competitions for our strong stance in this area. So too is our uncompromising policy on behaviour both on and off the field and the strict enforcement of our rules.
At a recent meeting of players working towards the formation of a VAFA Players’ Association, I was pleased to hear of the players’ concern in regard to abuse towards umpires from spectators. They were underlining the basic tenet of our competition: respect for others. We have a great deal to be thankful for in the VAFA and we should prize the way our competition functions; but we must remain vigilant in protecting what we have.
A final thought comes from the last verse of Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s 1963 poem, ‘Picture of Childhood’, which reads:
I can’t remember how many there were making a din, beating him up
It may have been a hundred, it may have been more
But I, just a boy, wept for shame
And if a hundred are beating somebody up
Howling in a frenzy, even if for a good cause
I will never make one hundred and one.