MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 13: Eddie McGuire goes down the slide for Freeze MND during the round 12 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 13, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
While the FFA may fear flares and a few broken chairs to undo any good work they’ve done, the equivalent for the AFL must be Eddie McGuire’s comments.
Eddie has form in uttering crap. And frustratingly for the AFL negating some of the work trying to change their image.
The AFL introduce a team in Western Sydney with a high middle eastern population and not into aussie rules? He talks about ‘the land of the falafel’. AFL having an indigenous round? After Adam Goodes was racially vilified by a young Collingwood supporter at the MCG, who labelled the dual Brownlow medallist an “ape”, McGuire suggested that Goodes should promote an upcoming King Kong musical.
And the latest is that he would pay $50,000 to see journalist Caroline Wilson stay under a pool of iced water and charge an extra $10,000 for “everyone to stand around the outside and bomb her”. Danny Frawley chimed in by saying Wilson should be held under the freezing water, adding: “I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t [come up] … I’ll hold her under, Ed.” Much to the guffaw of all the blokes on the radio show, including the president of North Melbourne James Brayshaw. This just after the much publicised and heralded introduction of an AFL women competition and the White Ribbon campaign to prevent male violence against women. Since then Frawley has apologised for his “insensitive, inappropriate”.
I won’t go into why these statements were not ‘just a joke’. Others have done this much better than I could do. But another article by Russell Jackson titled ‘Eddie McGuire’s ‘banter’ exposes the rank hypocrisy of AFL football’ caught my attention. He writes:
But the problem here is that there’s far too much precedent for us to believe that McGuire will face any lasting punishment. In that sense, his blasé response to the controversy shows how well he knows the game. This is the real embarrassment for football – not that it’s incapable of involving women, because it now does so in performative and often crowd-pleasing ways, but that its cult of personality and craven worship of bullies makes rank hypocrisy like this its default philosophical setting.
This made me think about how we attribute ‘culture’ to a particular sport. Association football has been accused to have a cultural problem of misbehaviour both from those who follow the game, and of course from those outside (as we have seen many times from the likes of Rebecca Wilson, Tom Elliot and more recently Aaron Langmaid) this behaviour is seen to be ‘foreign and un-Australian’.
On the same token can Australian Football also be accused to have a problem in misogyny, sexism and racism? And the way these comments are justified in some quarters about ‘boys just having a joke’ is this accepting that this is part of an Australian ethos?
This is not to say that misogyny, sexism and racism do not exist in Association football. Examples is calling a player from Albania a ‘gypsy’ as an insult and the twitter comments the Matildas have received about being inferior sportpersons (and alas plenty of homophobia as well..from some of the chants I’ve heard on the stands). However while I have read plenty of articles rightly denouncing McGuire and Co. I haven’t yet seen any commentary stating that these are outside the cultural Australian context, that in some way they separate the sport from the Australian norm and therefore are foreign.
Often in the past Australian Football supporters that dislike football have cited that it is a game for ‘weak men’. The accusation that players fall over unlike AFL ones etc. is an example that in Australian Football strength, and traditionally male strength is a major aspect of the game and this may have, so far favoured a very masculine blokey culture.
Association football, as other sports which have had major female participation in the such as basketball, cricket etc. where also masculine strength is not a major part of the game may have a different culture (that of course does not negate that sexism still occur) and that the AFL has come quite late to the party. The problem with comments from high profile AFL figures such as McGuire, and the AFL reaction to it may risk to create a perception that an AFL female competition is somehow tokenistic and that it was initiated because the AFL suddenly realised that other competitions such as the WNBL, the W-League and the women’s BBL were attracting plenty of interest and they didn’t want to be left behind purely on marketing/business grounds, rather because it was a good thing to do in itself.
I think that the AFL women competition is an excellent idea and hope it will succeed. As Melissa Barbieri said on the Daily Football Show the AFL money power may make other women sports, especially the W-League not become complacent.
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) June 16, 2016
But if it were to succeed is important that Australian Football realises that the old days of blokes and sheilas is now over.