The Adam Goodes incident has put the issue of abuse during AFL matches in the limelight. Photo: Luis Enrique AscuiThe AFL has fast-tracked a scoreboard campaign in which star footballers will appeal to fans to stop abusing players, as the powerful image of a shattered Adam Goodes is still fresh in the minds of football fans.
The move gained momentum after Friday night’s vilification incident which saw the devastated Swans co-captain retreat to the MCG rooms during the final quarter of the Sydney-Collingwood game after being called an ”ape” by a young Magpie supporter.
Cyril Rioli, Kieren Jack, Travis Boak and Tom Scully are among the players who will record messages to their supporters to be broadcast on scoreboards at AFL grounds around Australia this week.
The proposal from the league’s new football operations boss, Mark Evans, will see players from all 18 teams urge their fans to behave in an appropriate manner towards the opposition. Each message will come with the tagline: ”Cheer your heart out, but always do it with respect.”
Evans was at pains to point out on Monday that the message involved all kinds of inappropriate crowd abuse, including indecent language and racial, religious and homophobic vilification.
Evans said Goodes’ devastation and subsequent moving explanation of his reaction, followed by Stephen Milne’s admission on Sunday that he had been significantly affected by the personal attacks constantly aimed at him during games, meant the campaign could be launched at a time when vilification was fresh in football supporters’ minds.
The AFL had not planned to roll out the player appeals until round 11 and had chosen not to run them during the indigenous round in the belief that it was a week for positive messages.
The messages will be displayed at Sunday’s Melbourne-Hawthorn game at the MCG in which Nathan Jones and Rioli will feature in scoreboard telecasts, finishing with a graphic featuring details on reporting anti-social behaviour via text message.
Adelaide’s Rory Sloane and a Fremantle opponent will deliver similar pleas at AAMI Stadium, with Port Adelaide’s captain Boak and a senior Western Bulldogs opponent to do the same at TIO Stadium in Darwin. North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow is expected to feature in the clash against St Kilda.
The view from Sydney was that Goodes had already delivered a powerful message and the Swans game against Essendon on Saturday at the SCG will feature their co-captain Jack.
Saints captain Nick Riewoldt planted the seed for the idea at AFL headquarters when the captains held their annual meeting with the commission and the league executive in March. Riewoldt told the commission he believed spectator abuse had become worse over his years in the game and Evans was prompted by an American football campaign on NFL scoreboards featuring star players.
The AFL Players Association will also re-release posters at venues featuring star footballers above the slogan: ”Our teams are made up of many colours: Wear them with pride, not prejudice.”
Milne told Channel Nine on Sunday: ”It’s a bit of a touchy subject. Nothing really changes with me. What happened on Friday night was very sad for the game … But I cop a few words which aren’t good for anyone. I’ve got a couple of kids and they go to the footy and my family and parents have to cop the abuse. So the sooner we can stamp it out the better.”
Evans said: ”We don’t want people coming to the game being subjected to abuse and we don’t want it to happen to our players.”
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