There are so many things that are great about footy. The game itself is unparalleled: it’s elegant and tough at the same time, and a game can turn in a moment. The atmosphere at games is incredible. And club membership is diverse: looking around at games, there are men and women, children and grandparents, people of all races and from all over the world.  You usually can’t actually see the diversity of sexuality, but it’s there too.

But you’d never guess that from footy media. Footy media is primarily white, straight and male.  It’s focused on the players and coaches.  It spends little time talking about the many people in clubs big and small who make our game great.

This is a particular hobby horse of mine, I admit it. One of the things that first drew me, a native New South Welshman, to the game was the early participation of women.  I read Rob Hess’ chapter on “Women and Australian rules football in colonial Melbourne” and was captivated that women had always been passionate supporters of the game.

I write and talk about this a lot. For example, “Football, Feminism and You” was my attempt to explain why I think diversity in football media is important. Last year I wrote about how Fox Footy ignored Women’s Round, instead labeling the week “Christmas in July”.  Women’s Round is a truly great opportunity to recognize some of those who work off-field for the game yet, beyond an interview with Chelsea Roffey, Fox Footy did nothing to commemorate it.

I believe it does a tremendous disservice to the incredible men and women who give up so much for the game to focus solely on players.

And I’ve tweeted at many journalists about this lack of diversity. I’m not trolling: I genuinely want to bring attention to this issue and talk about it, because I think it’s important. Just yesterday, I tweeted at Backpage Lead that their home page had photos of 27 people, all of them men. To their credit, they replied and admitted that was a problem.

One of the people I’ve tweeted at is Mark Robinson from the Herald Sun. It wasn’t one or twice either- it must be at least a dozen times over the last year, as recently as this week, including my question about Fox Footy ignoring Women’s Round.   So today, when he tweeted:

“people believe its players and coaches who make up footy clubs when in fact it’s people like essendon’s Bruce Heymanson. RIP”

I was, I’ll openly admit, a little frustrated, so replied

@Robbo_heraldsun So I trust you’ll have fewer players and coaches, and more people like him on AFL360 this year…

And then all hell broke loose.  Robinson posted:

@erinrileyau even at a time of death u try to be a smart arse. pull your head in. A great man dies & you want to pick a fight. no class

And then proceeded to retweet every nasty thing that people said in reply.

It’s important to note that Robinson was the one who first used the occasion of Heymanson’s death to make a point. He didn’t just tweet “RIP Bruce Heymanson”. It was he who chose to use the occasion to talk about what people think football clubs are. I simply wanted to call him out on the fact that, as a prominent member of the footy media, he was complicit in that, that he has the power to change it.

Furthermore, I fully expected to be ignored. There was precedent for that as he’d always ignored me in the past.

Rather than engage with the substance of my critique- that by hosting a show that is all about players and coaches, he’s perpetuating the idea that it is they alone that make up footy clubs- Robinson chose to be rude, to call me classless, and then to echo the insults hurtled toward me, many of which suggested I was seeking attention.

I understand why some people may consider the timing of my comment disrespectful, but I can assure you, that’s not the way it was intended. I genuinely want people like Mr Heymanson to receive more attention, to be talked to and about in life as well as death. I want the football media to represent footy for all it is: a diverse, interesting, exciting and passionate world in which men and women spend years working quietly behind the scenes to help make the game great. That was my motivation for my tweet, nothing else.

As for Robinson’s motivation in choosing this, of all my tweets, to retweet? Well, only he can answer that.

And what do you think the chances are, after all the vile things he retweeted today, of him retweeting the link to this?

4 Responses

  1. I enjoy watching Robbo, Erin, but you’ve made a great point. There absolutely should be more about behind the scenes ‘people’ in footy media.

    Robbo’s arrogance certainly lets him down on occasion.

  2. Hello Erin, I found your article today when trying to find something else online about my Dad, Bruce Heymanson. I completely understand your frustration at the lack of attention given to those hard working people behind the scenes. But in my dad’s case, that’s where he wanted to be…behind the scenes. Everything he did for the footy club was for the footy club. Not for any personal gain, or attention, or media. He would have been humbled and completely overwhelmed at the response by the club to his passing. They have been wonderful to our family and despite their own troubles are still looking out for us. As is often the case, the ones who are truly worthy of attention do not wish for it. All the best Erin. Nicki

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