‘No place’ for racism as AFL bans fans for life

AFL Gather Round Media Call:
Fans have been given a lifetime ban after they were found guilty of being racist at AFL matches. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

Nine people who racially vilified players during AFL matches have received lifetime bans from the AFL, with a further five people facing similar penalties.

The AFL dolled out the lifetime ban for those nine people after investigations found those fans had been found guilty of racist behaviour at matches.

Five more fans are currently under investigation and could be facing similar bans, the league confirmed.

The prohibitions come after the AFL decided to increase its penalty against fans who were found guilty of racist behaviour during matches from three years to a lifetime.

AFL Gather Round Media Call:
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and the AFL board have taken a stand against racism at matches. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

AFL Executive General Manager for inclusion and social policy, Tanya Hosch, said the AFL would continue to stamp out racism and the increase in penalty was an appropriate punishment for the behaviour.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

The fans who were caught being disrespectful during the 2023 season were all men aged between 18 years old and 72 years old.

They were reprimanded over various incidents across the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Adelaide Oval, Marvel Stadium, and the University of Tasmania Stadium.

The bans follow public outrage at ongoing reports of racism at AFL matches across the country.

More than 25,000 people signed a petition calling for the imposition of lifetime bans for racist behaviour, with support from high profile names like former federal senator and Olympic gold Medallist Nova Peris.

Each of the men to receive a lifelong ban had either been reported by patrons to police or staff over the unacceptable behaviour displayed at a match.

The AFL also have instituted a full-time dedicated employee, sitting within the AFL Integrity Unit, whose role will be to investigate racism and vilification cases at the elite and community level of the game.

Ms Hosch said identifying offenders both at matches and online could be challenging but this new role would provide another avenue to stop racist behaviour at games.

“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,” she said.

“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 preventive 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 (we) 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.”

Fans have been given a lifetime ban after they were found guilty of being racist at AFL matches, including at The Melbourne Cricket Ground. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Any person placed on a lifetime ban has the ability to formally apply for an official review of that ban 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,” Ms 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.”