WA soccer is at the centre of a discrimination row after governing body Football West insisted that a disciplinary hearing involving a female Muslim player be held at a Perth pub last night.
Noranda Wolves player Hanan Anwan, 22, was given a red card and sent off during a Division 1 State Women's League match against Cockburn City on July 17 after an incident she and coach Gordon Doutre claim was sparked when the opposition goalkeeper attempted to pull off her religious headdress.
Ms Anwan, an Australian-born Muslim and former Wolves' best and fairest player, wears a head scarf during matches in accordance with her Islamic faith.
Ms Anwan, a teacher at a Perth Christian school, was sent off by the referee for "violent conduct", defined under soccer's laws as "excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball".
The referee's report, which Ms Anwan does not dispute, says she shoved the Cockburn goalkeeper to the ground.
In addition to an automatic one-match ban for a red card, Football West imposed an extra match ban for "violent conduct", a decision Noranda sought to appeal against.
No penalty was enforced against the Cockburn goalkeeper.
But Football West's insistence the appeal be heard at the Inglewood Hotel has touched off claims of insensitivity towards the religious belief of Ms Anwan, who has never been to a hotel or consumed alcohol.
"It's turned from a red card into a completely different issue," Ms Anwan said. "Something as simple as me just wanting to appeal against my red card so I don't have to miss games has turned into, I don't know what you would call it … racist issue? A discrimination issue? I don't know."
Mr Doutre said the decision flew in the face of international body FIFA's programs to promote tolerance and diversity.
"I think FIFA, the (international) governing body, would be absolutely ropable about this, to find that a governing body that is representing them in WA is behaving like this."
On Monday, Noranda club secretary Erika Blake tried to have the hearing shifted to another venue on the grounds of cultural insensitivity.
The reply from Football West general manager of competitions and operations Keith Wood said in part: "(W)e understand your point but we live in a country and society in which the consumption of alcohol is permitted and part of Australian culture."
Ms Anwan said she was considering taking the matter to the Equal Opportunity Commission.
Mr Doutre said the club would "back her 100 per cent".
Last night, Football West chief executive Peter Hugg stood by the decision, saying the hearing was in a function room and Ms Anwan could enter the room without walking through the hotel's bar.
"It's not as if we're making her drink, or making her walk through the bar - she doesn't need to go anywhere near it," he said.
"If someone wants to make a discrimination case of this it's a shame, but we don't believe it to be and we don't think we're acting insensitively."
Labor MP Ljiljanna Ravlich, who was contacted by Mr Doutre, said Football West was being "bloody minded". "There should be no racism in sport and this has a touch of discrimination, about it," she said.
'It's not as if we're making her drink, or making her walk through the bar.' " FOOTBALL WEST'S PETER HUGG