Supporting football in Australia – the challenge to the mainstream culture

The year was 1978. It was my first year of following Australian Rules football.  It was a Fitzroy vs Carlton match at the Junction Oval.  A lady, looked early 60’s. was sitting at the fence with her Fitzroy scarf and a lovingly crocheted maroon and blue blanket on her knees.  As the Fitzroy players ran out on the field she shouted: “Go Royboys! Show those poofters how to play!”

I am not going to justify that fairly homophobic remark.  But then there was plenty of that stuff going on in the VFL in those days.  People would accept it.  I wasn’t a cricket fan but I remember as I new Melbourne resident the infamous MCG Bay 13.

These expressions were not approved, but often seen as a form of Australian larrikinism.  Part and parcel of the irreverence of the Australian culture.

Shane Warne is asked by English wicketkeeper Alec Stewart to come out of the dressing room to speak to the rowdy MCG crowd and stop them from throwing bottles and balls and rubbish onto the ground.

Sunday, Melbourne Victory fans revelled in a comprehensive victory that gave the team the Championship.  But what did we see on Monday beside articles about the football?  The usual reports about crowd misbehaviour.

This was surprising because Victoria Police released a statement praising the behaviour of the fans at the Grand Final.

But then Brett Guerin, Commander, North West Metro Divisions, Victoria Police was interviewed by Neil Mitchell and he had this to say:

GuerinThen we had reports of outraged parents upset by swearing.  This was apparently from a TV reporter.

I think that in some ways these reactions are the product of football success.  Twenty years ago, when an Association Football Grand Final was more or less ignored and only the true believers went to the matches, the way football was supported wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.  But now Association football is attracting a wider variety of fan, people that may have not grown up with football, but in fact may have grown up with Australian Rules and may find organised support in Association Football somewhat confronting.  Swearing is not good.  But booing the opposition team and being ‘disrespectful’ is hardly ‘vile soccer hooliganism’.

When I realised that this issue was being discussed I couldn’t resist tuning to Neil Mitchell on 3AW.  Many of us football folk get really pissed off at Mitchell and that station.  But really it is to be expected.  The demographic is 40 and above, and as someone who is reaching his mid 50s I believe that younger people to be more soccer friendly.  Also it is very strongly associated with the AFL and so would its listeners.  However Mitchell sounded quite reasonable.

What we see here is the ‘violence’.  But what is our perception of violence?  For me it’s someone punching another person.  Or being really intimidating and threatening to someone else.  Lighting flares is stupid and dangerous, and shouldn’t happen, but unless it is thrown at someone is not by itself a violent act.  Neither is jumping on seats or standing in the aisles.  Again shouldn’t happen because of safety issues.   Same as a group of people chanting ‘Fuck off Sydney’ and booing the opposition.  We can call that stupid and immature, but violent?

I hope that whoever is reading this is not interpreting me as a so called ‘soccer apologist’ or condoning these acts.  I was arguing against flares ten years ago in the Melbourne Victory forum.  But I believe that if we are to address the problem we are not going to get far if we equal actions that are certainly  not acceptable, such as shouting profanities, the same as someone going to a game with the intention of causing bodily harm.

But in the end we have to ask ourselves, where this perception of violence come from?  Back in January last year I wrote a post who touched on this.

Let’s forget Panahi and Rebecca Wilson who hate football and would love it to remain the irrelevant marginalised sport that was 12 years ago or so. One article that took my attention was by the Age journalist Alana Schetzer. She wrote an article titled: ‘A-League violence must be volleyed for competition to succeed’. I disagreed with quite a lot of what she said (and she copped the usual abuse on twitter, which is never warranted) but the difference here is that she is a Melbourne Heart fan, and she does go to matches. What was apparent to me reading this article was that she probably wasn’t exposed to football before the A-League or even perhaps Melbourne Heart came on the scene. To me it read like an article written by someone who grew up with Australian Rules, likes the sport of Association Football and decided to follow a team but bemused and not understanding some of the behaviour of the fans.

When I attend derby games, my best mate – a Victory fan – and I plan our seating in advance to ensure we’re well away from the cheer squads, whose members are chanting and flag-waving one minute and lighting flares the next. It’s unpleasant at best and scary at worst to be in a stadium filling up with smoke.

I hope to take my six-year-old nephew to an AFL game this year but, unfortunately, I won’t take him to an A-League game because I’m genuinely worried about him witnessing fans roughing each other up in the name of ”team spirit”.

It’s true that other sports have unruly fans and that when trouble occurs, it’s almost always dismissed as the work ”of a few”. But what the recent events show is that there’s some sort of mindset that says this sort of confrontation is part of soccer. It’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be.

The fact that she names the active support ‘cheer squads’ is of course quite telling. I disapprove of flares but personally they don’t bother me from where I sit, but Alana Schetzer feel it is ‘unpleasant and scary’ and obviously sense an undercurrent of potential violence because she’s worried about her nephew witnessing ‘fans roughing each other’. Maybe Alana, who grew up in the more sedate environment of an AFL match (especially in the last 10 years) where there is a real cheer squad that only chants Geee-long! And then clap clap clap when the team kicks a goal, the sight of hundreds of young men at a football match chanting even as they exit the stadium can be intimidating.

This type of argument was taken up a couple of weeks ago by another Melbourne City fan,

Many Victory fans, arrested by the psychology of tribalism, will assume my criticism is the bad faith of partisanship – as if disgust at the endangerment of children might only be registered if it were committed by rival fans. Then there’s the infantile paranoia – again a function of tribalism – that assumes criticism of football crowds is the work of a saboteur, an “egg-ball lover” inventing grievances to keep the sport in its place.

Both are cretinous abandonments of responsibility. I will report what I’ve seen, anxious to keep the beautiful game from the influence of thugs. I would prefer more fans had an interest in awkward truths. Would prefer that more fans absorbed these stories and transformed them into shame and embarrassment.

Yes, the few are ruining it for everyone. But the “few” at other codes is approaching zero. By arguing the “few” you are complicit in the garbage, incapable of demanding more: club sanctions, for instance, and a revised, co-operative relationship between club and police. The game is being damaged by apologists. This includes the FFA, and the patronising congratulations of its original release.

I was there. In fact I was in the section where Mc Kenzie was as well. I was hit by a couple of empty plastic cups and a few more paper planes.  For me was a nuisance but I could see that other fans were a bit more distressed.

But while we have these accounts we also hear about what a great atmosphere football matches can achieve, an atmosphere that has been stamped out by other sports in the interest of  safety.  When this argument was raised back in January 2014,  Michael Lynch talked about the excitement and ‘edginess’ of a football match in a series of tweets that I’ve combined and edited:

I’ve hardly ever seen trouble at stadia in Australia. Admittedly I am in press box a lot, but always watch 1st half amongst the fans. I know people get worked up about them, but I don’t consider flares to be crowd trouble akin to a punch up. Seen a lot of wannabe Ultras here in terms of chants and dress, but not really that frightening. Certainly not like parts of Europe despite a punch up in Bourke St last weekend I stick to my view that much more is made of almost any incident in football than in any other sport. Also far more outrage over far worse violence every weekend by drunken “revellers” in CBD which doesn’t seem to get sustained treatment in similar vein.

Why anyone would want to take a 3yo to game unless they couldn’t get a babysitter beyond me. Stadia not kindergartens. Average kid got very short attention span of course. But as I wrote last week, the active support is what gives football its great edge. Stamp out the punch ups, but if you kill the chants, the taunting and the humour you destroy the atmosphere. Kids have their place, but atmosphere should not be compromised for a handful of parents and little children. (The stadium) shouldn’t be turned into a crèche….great to have families but only areas properly stewarded and policed.

Another example is from Western Sydney Wanderers player Mateo Poljak.

Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Mateo Poljak says there has been a widespread overreaction to fan violence in the A-League and insists the behaviour of football fans in Australia is a minor issue compared with other countries…….

Due to his involvement with the youth team of Dinamo Zagreb, Poljak was invited to be a ball-boy for their clash against fierce rivals Hajduk Split in 2004 and was granted his wish to be located in the north stand, beneath the home active supporter group………..”When Dinamo scored a goal, I think hundreds of flares came from the north stand and I was running from one and I didn’t see the other one hit my shoulder, but I had a jacket so it just burned the jacket, that’s it, nothing.’”

Despite the initial fear, Poljak reflects fondly on the experience and kept his burnt jacket as a souvenir, despite being handed the match jersey of Dinamo striker Ivan Bosnjak after the match.

”It was actually pretty funny … it was a positive memory,” he said. ”We won 3-0 and I kept the jacket. I was not injured, or burnt or something, just my jacket which was new, but at the end of the day it was a good win for the boys, good atmosphere and it was a good trophy.

Another Western Sydney player Jerome Polenz wrote on Twitter and Facebook: “Pyro is only acceptable if it’s safe and no harm can occur to anyone“. But again that is from someone who grew up in Germany and see flares (or pyro) as part of the game.

Now someone will probably accuse Lynch, Poljak and Polenz to be in denial or an apologist. But they come from parts of Europe where this type of support is almost the norm.
But then we have to say that the atmosphere at a football match is unique.  When I go to AFL matches there is noise, but it is mainly waves of sound caused by individuals reacting to events on the ground.  There may be some chanting like ‘Geelong!’ then clap clap clap, but nowwhere near the type of involvement I have seen at A-League matches.
In the hubbub of the ‘soccer violence’ media storm we had on Monday people may have missed an article by Greg Baum, a writer that mainly writes about Australian Rules football but also likes Association Football.  There He writes:
Ceremonials were minimal. The setting of the stage was left to the Victory fans, scarves arrayed, singing Stand By Me, which proved if nothing else that volume is its own tunefulness. Note to the AFL: this was the fans complementing the spectacle, not having the complement forced on them. Soccer might have had to exclude 20,000 fans by playing at AAMI Park, but it lost nothing else for the accident of this staging. There is a difference between a venue and a stadium.
So is Michael Lynch right?  If we kill the chants – even the sweary ones –  the taunting and the humour are we going to destroy the atmosphere?  Is the ‘edginess’ and apparent intimidatory environment that make football fans (such as Alana Schetzer or perhaps ) used to the type of atmosphere in an AFL or NRL match unconfortable part and parcel of the unique experience that Greg Baume has talked about?
If that is the case how can we have the passion without the misbehaviour?
The issue remains that this support is alien is Australia, and whether we like it or not it is restricted by us aficionados but will alienate those who want to support the game but feel uncomfortable with it, because it is not part of their culture experience. At this point many active supporters will say ‘Who gives a fuck about them, if they can’t understand the football culture they can go back to AFL/NRL’. The problem with this attitude is that, as I stated before, we are in Australia not England, Italy or Serbia.  We can’t afford to tell new followers unfamiliar with this sort of stuff to piss off. We need families and we need people like Alana and her six year old nephew and martin McKenzie Martin to come along and feel safe.  We can’t be in a situation where only 5,000 rock solid football culture loving people turns up to matches. The A-League would die.
On the other hand we also want to create an atmosphere in Australian sport that will make Association Football unique amongst all the codes and make  ‘brand’ different.  The revelation of the atmosphere created in a football stadium has been a revelation for many Australians who never experienced anything like this before.
We need to arrive to a solution where fans wanting to be active can do so safely, and the FFA and Clubs fearful that the fans will alienate people.

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HELP! I am hooked on anti soccer hate following

I nonchalantly scroll the tweets.  Yes Abbott is a douchebag.  Yes, Murdoch is the embodiment of evil……Soccer crowds are violent and un-Australian…WHAT?!  I can feel the adrenaline surging. Who said that. There is a link? it must be oh God this is great!  I am going to feel angry and pissed off!!

Why do I get this rush when there is an anti-soccer article?  Why do I respond?  Why do get hooked in the arguments when I know they are ultimately irrelevant and they say the same thing over and over?

The internet is so good for a soccer hate junkie like me.  You got the immediacy of twitter, and the longer explanations in Facebook.  Then there are the comments after an article from an online newspaper.  These are the best because you get those who have never been to a match and mix their xenophobia with soccer hating. Oh Joy!  two things I can’t stand in one!!  What a perfect combination!  And we are so lucky to have the Herald Sun whose readers are constant fodder for inane anti soccer comments and bigotry.

Yes I am Guido Tresoldi and I am a soccer hate follower.  I feel dirty but I HAVE TO search for Malcolm Conn tweets.  I don’t follow him…but I do searches of him.  I have to have a hit….

Oh yes …give it to me Malcolm…give me more!  You mean beast!!  We haven’t had anything from Rita Panahi for so long!!

But dismissing some Cricket Media guy with an agenda or an AFL loving Andrew Bolt wannabee from some outer suburban area of Melbourne is one thing.  But what about when they are people that you usually admire? WHAT ABOUT IF THEY BELONG TO YOUR POLITICAL SIDE?!!

John Birmingham hasn’t written anti soccer articles for a very long time.  Last Monday article by Martin McKenzie-Murray doesn’t count, as he likes football.  The fact that he writes of the lefty publication The Saturday Paper  and that article was written in the Guardian  – another lefty newspaper – that it is usually quite pro football,  has created conflicted feelings for an Australian Guardianista like me.  However this article did gave a free kick (see what I did there?) to authentic soccer haters to jump in.  Martin may not have realised it but he did a Graham Richardson.  You know when you are a Labor person but writes anti-ALP articles in an anti ALP paper so that the anti ALP people can have verification of their own beliefs.   And of course another writer that is politically on my side Bernard Keane that writes for Crikey.

Bernard is someone who just doesn’t like soccer.    HE REALLY HATES IT.  Must admit that poor Bernard, looking from his profile photoes, looks like a chap that hates lots of things. Cheer up Bernard.  Nevertheless if I have to boycott the Saturday Paper, the Guardian and Crikey what a Chardonnay, caffelatte sipping, middle class, teritary educated, chattering class, lovvie, inner suburban living socialist like me is supposed to read?

I can’t stop.  I hate it but I love it at the same time.  I agree with some on people that follow me on twitter that responding is a waste of time but something inside me compels me to type a response.

I am not alone in this of course.  Most of the people that I follow on twitter are left leaning as well.  And I see them trawling through the Murdoch papers being ourtaged by the ilks of Miranda Devine.  And on Sunday mornings my timeline is flooded by irate tweets of people watching Gerard Henderson on Insider or even more hard core, the Bolt Report.

Actually this phenomenon has been well documented.  It seems that for some of us the feeling of feeling angry and outraged is addictive.  It must release some chemicals in the brain.  Monique Schafter did a report on it on the ‘Big Beast’ a while ago.

So Soccer haters.  Go forth and tweet!

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The confessions of a reformed Eurosnob (and other things)

The scene is the South Melbourne ground at Albert Park. I sit on the concrete steps. Behind me there is scaffolding which has been erected for a TV camera and a couple of SBS commentators. On the side the old South Melbourne VFL Football and Cricket stand cuts a lonely figure, forgotten and fenced off. I remember it when I came to see a South Melbourne – Carlton VFL match in the late 70’s.  I came here to see my team, Carlton SC playing South Melbourne. The crowd is sparse. So much so that one of the commentators (I think it was Paul Wade) can comfortably walk amongst us just before the start of half time and have a chat.

It was  a bit of a journey for me, being here. I used to dismiss football as the sporting equivalent of those ‘peasant’ events in those ethnic clubs, such as Veneto club or the Calabria Club. Those dancing dinners that I’ve heard about. You see at that time if I had to take the cake for snobbery I would been in the top 10. Maybe was being from Milan.   Milanese are renowned to be a bit as Italian say ‘con la puzza sotto il naso’, which could be translated as ‘tofee nosed’. I lived most of my Italian life in Bergamo and which was seen by the Milanese an over-pious hick town, and my parents would recount the uncouthness of the Bergamo residents at the dinner table.

This was continued in Australia. We, as middle class Milanese business migrants, didn’t have much in common with the Italians that came 20 years before from impoverished areas with barely anything and built up their lives from nothing. The disdain of the ‘serate danzanti’ at the different clubs, with the derisive comments of the band with their frilly shirts (it was the 70’s after all) transferred itself on the clubs built up by these communities. I remember my father telling the family after someone invited him to a match with Apia “I’ve seen the best players in the world like Di Stefano and Rivera, why should I watch these amateurs?” And also my father believed in assimilation. He was in Australia and he wanted to do what Australian did. So he bought a house in the northern suburbs of Sydney with a pool and started to learn golf.  Another facet of this when we moved to Melbourne was to follow an AFL team.    I couldn’t get into rugby league in Sydney, a game that was too much start and stop for me.

Adopting middle class Australian values had limits however.  Both my mother and I hated the suburbs and when my sister and her new husband became part of the first wave of gentrification of Carlton we convinced my father reluctantly to move there as well, and therefore being in Carlton we followed the Blues.

Soccer was not on the horizon. For me it was a game where migrants (unlike me) wanted to cling to their ethnicity. I did not reject my Italian heritage, quite the contrary but after the storm of migration I really wanted to feel settled, feel I was part of a place.  Being in a inner suburb which I loved in a city which had a cooler climate really helped.  And following a VFL team was part of that.  Finally, as Melbourne welcomed the sport of my childhood was still echoing.  I keenly stated to follow the National team and its tragic failings to qualify for a World Cup.  But in the NSL I couldn’t find a team that I could identify with, a team where I could establish some connection, despite the fact that in my consciousness football still meant something.

It was fate that the Carlton Soccer Club was formed. It was perfect. It was the same club I was following in VFL but with football, and it wasn’t connected to any ethnic group (albeit as I later discovered had very strong Italian connections). It was like football was calling me to come home.

And in fact there is no denying that despite all those AFL/VFL matches and finals I attended, there was a real sense of being at home in the few Carlton matches I attended.  Despite the fact that I couldn’t go to many.   At that time I started a new job, became a father and my wife wasn’t well, so my free time to see matches was very limited.

I recount my reconciliation with football as I am thinking of a reconciliation of the past and the current football in Australia.

Joe Gorman has (as he does) written a great piece yesterday about the formation of an Australian football museum. I felt that the main issue in the article wasn’t the museum itself, but the symbolism that the FFA and the current administration will acknowledge the past.  As Joe writes:

The museum must not, as this administration and the A-League has done for a decade, shy away from the game’s roots in ethnic communities. FFA’s lust for corporate attention and the pig-ignorant view that football must be “mainstream” must not be allowed to distort our past.

Football was genuinely multicultural well before multiculturalism was public policy. The ethnic social clubs that emerged in the post-war period provided some of our greatest clubs and players. Great Australians such as Charlie Perkins and Marin Alagich, hailed as champions of multiculturalism, found community and sanctuaries from racism at football clubs run by migrants. Any Australian football museum must reflect this truth.

I say hurrah to this, I agree wholeheartedly.  But like all history we also need to acknowledge why  there was need for reform.  The NSL was unraveling with dwindling attendances and being ignored by the media except for SBS.   Soccer Australia under the administration of people such as Labozzetta was pretty much a disaster.  The structure  was made up and voted in by two territories and six State Federations and was very hard for the to make decisions when it’s own livelihood was dependent upon eight different bodies pulling in different directions. Plus, it had to be said, despite many attempts or at least being seen to support reform, Soccer Australia could not reform itself because of self interest of its constituents.  It was a mess It was only when the government intervened threatening withdrawal of funding that the constituents of Soccer Australia reluctantly submitted to the Crawford Report and relinquished control.  I made a submission to the Crawford inquiry and I stand by by what I said then in 2003.

Crawford

I believed then, as I believe now that a break from the NSL had to occur.   Football was seen as a marginalised sport.  And here is where the conundrum occurs.  If we have to broaden the appeal of something we may have to change the perception.  This perception may be totally wrong, but it is still there.  Perceptions are very hard to budge – why despite the evidence to the contrary Liberal governments are always seen ans better economic managers?  So whether we like it or not – teams like South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights still has an image of being basically based on a particular ethnic group.  This may have been wrong but I believed as I believe now that a total new competition with new teams was the only way to extracate the game out of the swamp it found itself.  And can I say immediately this wasn’t the fault of the traditional NSL teams, it was a combination of factors.

However there was a certain attitude that football belonged to a certain group.  Just after the creation of the A-League I was talking to a South Melbourne supporter, which was totally against it.  Many of his arguments were right.  The new A League teams were franchises and didn’t have any link with the community.  They were like McDonald outlets.

On the other hand I said that while teams such as South Melbourne and the Melbourne Knights had strong community connections, the predominant community was only one (Greek and Croatian).  Ultimately following a team is, when we see it, quite an irrational act.  The reason why we want to follow a team is because of the meaning it gives to us. Family connections, memories.  In the A-League often it stated by having a team reprsenting the city where you live, and where everyone felt (in reality or not) part of it.  While there is no doubt that teams like South Melbourne and Melbourne Knights would welcome new fans with open arms, the perception that any team was affiliated to a particular group would already put a barrier for some new fans to invest emotionally in a team.

To my surprise the South Melbourne fan said he didn’t care if new fans didn’t want to follow his team because of this.  He loved that the team had a connection to his heritage and all the people that followed the team with him.  he enjoyed the fact that the team was part of a particular ethnic group because it shouldn’t have to feel it had to follow a mainstream Australian ideal.

Well I didn’t agree.  I can see his enjoyment and attachment but this meant that by maintaining this sort of attitudes for teams in the top level in Australian football the sport would remain marginalised and on the outer, and it doesn’t deserve to be that.  I thought such an attitude to be quite frankly, selfish.  Where football was there to satisfy the emotional requirements of a selected group of fans, and who cared about the rest.   Football is not there to satisfy the cultural requirements of any particular group.  It belongs to everyone and can’t be constrained by ethnic virtual district.

On the other hand this doesn’t mean that the FFA has gone too much the other way and has treated football past, which includes teams created by a number of different groups, with undeserved disdain.

The fear of being tainted with the ‘old soccer’ meant that the new guard, often led by men who had little or no relationship to football – and in fact came from other codes, ignored and dismissed the history of the game in Australia.  My understanding of the history of football in Australia  started when I read Johnny Warren’s Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters, and Les Murray’s By the Balls  These books made appreciate why teams originated from migrant communities.  In the 50s when Australia was less into multiculturalism as now, when it was solidly anglo-celtic, the creation of clubs where people that shared a culture and language would have presented an oasis after working in places such factories or on building sites.  And part of this was to follow and foster the game of their country.  The efforts and dedication of post war migrants that gave up their time to build these football clubs.

This was ignored by the post-Crawford FFA in the fear that ‘new football followers’ would have tainted the new football and may have been turned away by this old soccer ethnic link’.  I can see how followers of the tradiotional teams would have been offended.

After ten years of the A-League it is now to start a process of reconciliation.  An Australian Football Museum could be a start.  But even more would be to remove the FFA’s National Club Identity Policy that confirms to traditional clubs that their heritage is seen as a liability.  With the A-League established, the FFA Cup is a perfect vehicle to start mending some bridges.  Eliminate the NCIP, allow teams to proudly express their culture.  It will be fine.  Football will be streghthen by it.

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Abolishing the death penalty. We can’t pick and choose

It’s November 2008. In the darkness of the Indonesian night three men are driven from their prison on Nusakambangan Island in Central Java 10 minutes away to an isolated area within an abandoned prison called Nirbaya, which is also on the island. Three separate firing squad await them. All are shot at the same time about 12:15am, before a medical team declared them dead.

Did we have candlelight vigils? Did we have media campaigns to save them? Did we have #IStandForMercy hastag for them? No.

Probably because these men were not Australians. In fact They were Imam Samudra, Amrozi,, and Mukhlas, Indonesians that killed Australians hideously in the Bali bombing.

Now we can put many arguments. These men coldly killed many people in a calculated manner. They didn’t rehabilitate but they were unrepentant and maintained their zealous jihadist ideology to the end. But I do wonder how many of those that now advocate for the end of the death penalty, just shrugged their shoulders then.

I remember when I got involved with Amnesty International in the early 80’s. AI was more of a direct prisoner of conscience organisation then than a more advocacy one as it is now. However it implemented then to be against capital punishment. The argument (which I agree with) is that torture is unacceptable whoever is subjected to it, and the death penalty is a form of torture.

However many AI members disagreed. I can remember reading letters in the AI Newsletter arguing that a Human Rights organisation should not advocate for murderers and rapists. That AI should place its efforts in innocent people who were imprisoned for their beliefs and (as the definition stated) ‘acted or advocated acts of violence’.

And here is what we have. If we support the abolition of the death penalty, while rightly we are against the killing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, we should also be against the execution of the Bali bombers. The same as being against the execution those who do unspeakable crimes, such as sexually assaulting and killing children for example.

If we support the end of the death penalty, we have to support it for all. We can’t pick and choose

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The Scott McIntyre case – The pitfalls of social media and work

“Guido, come and see me in my office”.  That was a phone call first thing in the morning from my boss.  Immediately I felt a knot in my stomach.  My boss always emails me.  When she asks to see her in her office it usually means something not good.  Also I came to know her tone of voice and this time it was the ‘somber’ one.

I walked in and I was shocked to see photocopies of something I posted on Facebook and subsequent interactions.

My crime was that I posted a link to this article from the Herald Sun about adult film actor Angela White filming sex scenes in the LaTrobe Bundoora campus library.

As a University Librarian (not at LaTrobe) I thought it was a funny story.  And I wasn’t posting anything ‘naughty’, you can’t go wrong with putting up something from the Herald Sun .  The discussions that followed in Facebook involved in recounting some of the things that were done to some books.  OK I can leave this to your imagination (they were about nudism…we’ll leave it at that).  But nothing really scurrilous.

Somehow my Facebook post was picked up by the University’s media unit and it percolated from the University’s Librarian (position just under the Vice-Chancellor) to my boss’ boss’ boss then to my boss’ boss and then to my boss.

Maybe all the Universities media unit were on red alert after the news came out and were scouring social media for any comments.  My boss warned me about the dangers of social media. But, I protested.  That post was done on a Sunday, on my iPad at home.  My boss said that it didn’t matter.  My posts identified me as a Librarian at the University and this could have repercussions.

She then passed me the official University policy for Social Media. I said that it was not relevant as I wasn’t posting as an official staff member.  She said that it didn’t matter as I could be identified as so, and said to be careful in the future.  She advised me to steer clear from anything controversial, even if it was my personal account.

As you would imagine I was taken aback.  How could something fairly innocuous which was done in my own time on my personal Facebook account has to do with my employer?  No doubt that the University was a bit oversensitive.  My posts were in no way in any ‘official’ work capacity.  However I imagine that media units of universities were ultra careful that the mainstream media didn’t pick up other ‘incidents’.

So I deleted where I worked on my Facebook account, and made a professional twitter account just for work stuff.

Social media is like a South Eastern Eucalyptus forest on a 40 degrees windy day in summer.  A spark and a small flame can become a  wildfire.  This has happened with Stuart McIntyre today.

In case you didn’t follow the shitstorm on twitter these were the tweets that got him sacked from his job as SBS Asia Football commentator.

Inevitably this created a huge backlash.  A torrent of abuse ensued like

Then Malcolm Turnbull denounced his tweets and this morning Scott was sacked.

Now many are criticising SBS for denying Scott freedom of speech. However whether you agree of disagree with his statements, the problem was that his account was also a work one.  He identified himself as a SBS employee and that twitter account was used as a work tool.

scottBy identifying himself as a SBS employee rightly or wrongly he dragged them in the controversy.  As Molks tweeted.

The question is whether if Scott tweeted those opinions on a purely personal account where he didn’t identify himself as an SBS employee whether he should have been sacked.  And I firmly believe no.

So if I tweeted something really controversial such as Scott did on my personal twitter and facebook account, not identifying myself with my employer, in my own time, should my employer take action? No. That would be totally inappropriate.  If anyone managed to link me to my employer now they would have to do a Google search and contact them, it would border on the malicious.

It would be akin as being dismissed because I wrote a letter to the editor, or voiced an opinion at a public meeting.  It really would be a breach of human rights.

Same if Scott wrote that in a personal account with no links to his work, just himself and tweeted that I also believe that he shouldn’t have been sacked.  But he didn’t

By paraphrasing Pat Benatar….Social Media is a Battlefield…..

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Cricket. I tried, but you’re just not my type.

Congratulations on Australia winning the Cricket World Cup.  Despite not following this sport I am always glad when an Australian team wins a top tournament.

In my previous post I did state that in my opinion the Australian cricket team is not reflective of the current cultural diversity of Australia.  Nevertheless cricket remains is a very important aspect of not only sporting culture but Australian culture as a whole.  It was a sport that defined Australia, especially as a way to differentiate itself from the mother country.  Australia might have been “British to the bootstraps” as Menzies said, but it loved beating the Poms.

I had no concept of the game of cricket before I came to Australia.  It happened that my first Australian summer of 1974- 75  the Ashes were on.  All I remember in the haze of that first summer Christmas, was that every time I turned ABC TV on there seems to be this game on.  I remember my family asking ourselves if these were different matches played over days.  We were aghast when at a work Christmas party we were told that in fact it was one match over five days.

 

It was when we came to Melbourne four years later than I decided to understand this game.  This early Melbourne period constituted my ‘assimilation period’  I had another chance to make this country my own and therefore try to participate in the Australian society.  I liked Australian Rules immediately, so cricket was next.

I would watch an hour or so of test cricket on TV.  I would listen to it on the radio.  A friend of mine drew the positions names on a transparency sheet so I could stuck it on the inside of my windscreen and take a quick peak when they talked about ‘backward point’ or ‘deep square leg’.  Of course I was living where the cathedral of cricket, the MCG, was located.  My late brother in law was a MCG member, a legacy of when his mother put his name down on the waiting list during the 1956 Olympics.  So he and I went to see a couple of day matches (one against India I remember) and I also went to a test match on the day after Boxing Day.

But despite all my efforts the game did not grip me.

It gave me an appreciation of it.  I understood what a tactical game it is.  The fact that the ball and the pitch change their characteristics over time and therefore tactics need to change.  The fact that captains have to change the way they place their players depending on what they see the strengths and weaknesses of a player.  Whether to use fast bowling or spin.  But for me what impressed me most were the batsmen.  I can’t think of any other sport where you are facing an opponent on your own (apart the other batsmen who is opposite, but apart from running can’t really help you when you are facing a bowler) with twelve members of the opposing team around you (and a wicketkeeper just behind, ready to pounce).  In other team sports you have your team mates around you.  In cricket all of them bar one are looking at you from a balcony.  It is truly a test of character.

And of course I can understand why a test game is a ‘test’.  Standing on a field for hours (especially if it is sunny an hot) and maintain concentration for a whole day is an effort that requires Guru qualities.

But somehow the game’s ebbs and flows couldn’t sustain enough interest for me.  So I stopped trying.  Sport is supposed to be fun, not hard work.

Maybe is my Italian background.  When my team, AC Milan, was formed by the Englishman Alfred Ormonde Edwards, he named it as ‘ Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club’.  But once the Italians starting running the club the cricket was quickly forgotten (despite this Italy has a Cricket Federation which is an associate member of the International Cricket Council).

In the words of 10cc I may not ‘love cricket’ but at least I gave it a go.

 

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Soccer or Cricket. What is the most representative team?

For most of the time of the A-League existence, Association Football and Cricket – two sports played in summer – have maintained a sort of distance.

However I do wonder whether cricket did look at the A-League and felt that it did suck some of the summer attention away from it. Apart from the Ashes the traditional test apparently wasn’t being as popular as previous years. The one day game also (from what I was reading at least) was losing some audience. That is why they created the Big Bash League. A form of the game that despite being despised by the traditionalists has proven to be very popular, especially amongst the young.

I am not sure whether the Big Bash League was partly created to counteract any potential inroad of the A League on its traditional summer patch. Maybe it was, if the tweets of Malcolm Conn, the communication manager of Cricket Australia, are anything to go by. Malcolm went on a campaign of highlighting how the BBL was thrashing association football in the ratings at every opportunity. This included comparing the Socceroo games, which I thought thoroughly reprehensible. Its understandable advocating the success of a domestic competition against another, but negatively comment on the national team, the national team that represent Australia is ..well… un-Australian.

On the other hand I think that Gallop was responsible for this sort of code war. I cringed right at the start of his mandate as CEO of the FFA when he mentioned the hoary chestnut of association football being ‘the sleeping giant’. Then at the start of this season saying that ‘“other competitions have gone to sleep.” could not fail to raise the hackles of cricket.

As I said before, this sort of stuff is unnecessary and it betrays a sense of inferiority.

However, the latest statement of Gallop is right on the money.

Cricket was outraged. Malcolm did not fail to disappoint.

 

Then Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland came out stating that the cricket national team was still the country’s most popular team — “followed by daylight”.

I think that both Mr. Conn and Mr. Sutherland didn’t undertand what Gallop said. As George Donikian so succincly put it.

The discussion also ensued on Offsiders yesterday, and again the essential question was not discussed. Chloe Saltau from The Age again cited how more popular the BBL was to the A-League missing the point completely, as I tweeted while the program was on.

 

Perhaps I was being less diplomatic than Mr. Donikian, but my observation of cricket over the years is that it is a bit like Ramsay St.

Let’s look at the team that is currently playing for the Cricket World Cup.

Michael Clarke
George Bailey
Pat Cummins
Xavier Doherty
James Faulkner
Aaron Finch
Brad Haddin
Josh Hazlewood
Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Marsh
Glenn Maxwell
Steven Smith
Mitchell Starc
David Warner
Shane Watson

The only player I could find from ‘non English speaking background’ was Mitchell Starc whose father’s parents are from what is now the Czech Republic. But apart from that I see a solid anglo-celtic background team.

Compare this with the Socceroos. The site codehesive showed how many connections teams in the last world cup had with overseas heritage. Australia was second in all 32 teams

 

These were the players with an international connection:

Ivan Franjic Grandparent from Croatia
Jason Davidson Grandparent from Japan and grandparent from Greece
Tim Cahill Parent from Samoa and parent from England
Matthew Špiranovic Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Oliver Bozanic Parent from Croatia
James Troisi Parent from Italy and parent from Greece
Mile Jedinak (c) Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Eugene Galekovic Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Dario Vidošic Born in Croatia
Massimo Luongo Parent from Indonesia and parent from Italy
Mark Bresciano Parent from Croatia and parent from Italy

Then if we look at the players that were selected since then such as Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse and Terry Antonis, and we can see how the Socceroos are much more representative of a real multicultural Australia.

Of course Sutherland is right when he states that the cricket team may include Pakistani-born Usman Khawaja and Fawad Ahmed, indigenous former Australia all-rounder Dan Christian, Portuguese-born Moises Henriques and Gurinder Sandhu, who is of Indian heritage. However it seems that cricket has discovered NESB Australians very recently. The Australian National Association team had them for yonks, and yes when many referred to the code as ‘wogball’.

We can say that the Australian cricket team is the most popular. But when it comes to be the most representative the Socceroos have – to use a cricketing analogy – runs on the board.

 

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