This is the email I received from a representative of the AFL after I published my piece about racism, sexism and homophobia at the AFL Grand Final.
I have received permission to print it from the author, though it was originally captioned “not for publication”.
Sorry to hear that your experience at last Saturday’s Grand Final was so distressing.
It is unclear to me whether or not you reported your concerns at the time to the anti-social behaviour text line which is displayed permanently and prominently on the scoreboards. In addition, at the start of each match a TVC is played featuring a number of AFL coaches that encourages spectators to show respect for the players, umpires and fellow crowd members and also promotes the text line.
In addition we have checked the Police and MCC reports on all incidents at the game – it appears there was a report of this type of behaviour to MCC Security but the record shows they responded to the area and monitored but could not identify any perpetrators or issues. Of course the presence of security may well have curtailed the comments.
The AFL has certainly been active in promoting respect and responsibility, and also in stamping out vilification of any kind, including sexism, racism and homophobia. There have been some high profile cases in recent times in which action has been taken by clubs to cancel memberships and ban people from AFL games when those perpetrators have been identified – which can be challenging as you can imagine.
My only concern with your piece was that I’m not sure it is fair to characterise large groups of AFL spectators as behaving in this way and nor is it fair to hold the AFL responsible for their actions. The AFL, the venue and police can act when made aware of issues but surely the issue of individual attitudes and behaviour is a broader one for Australian society. The AFL obviously does not condone this type of behaviour – in fact we address it as best we can. Unfortunately I suspect you would find similar things happening at other large sporting events. We will continue to combat these incidents and also proactively promote diversity and inclusion through our words and deeds.
I note that the AFL is also now being held responsible for the appalling social media reaction by some to your piece. Again, I think this is a cheap shot which ignores the broader point about the attitudes and behaviour of a vocal minority who believe they can say and do whatever they like if hidden in a crowd or behind a Twitter account.
[Name and email address witheld]