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AFL Multicultural Round and Vilification

This open message is a key piece of communication that we ask every SMJFL participant (player, parent, volunteer, club official, team official etc.) to spend a couple of minutes to read. The message highlights the SMJFL’s desire to work actively with all football stakeholders to celebrate diversity and reduce any forms of vilification within the SMJFL.

It should be noted that in comparison to other sports, and indeed other AFL leagues, the SMJFL is perceived to have some of the lowest reported cases of vilification. However, one reported case; is one case too many. Especially within a junior football league environment, where all stakeholders are focusing on not only the football development of the players but also teaching them important life skills in a range of different areas.

It’s timely that this open message is released in the same week that the AFL celebrates its annual Multicultural Round. To quote the AFL’s media release:

AFL is a game for everyone, no matter who you are or where you’re from. Australian Football has the extraordinary power to bring people together regardless of background. Toyota AFL Multicultural Round gives us the opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultures that make up our amazing game. Everything’s possible when we unite through the love of the game.

At a local league level, the SMJFL wholly supports the notion that the AFL has the power to bring people together. The league celebrates the fact that we players, parents, volunteers and officials from a variety of different nationalities and religions. While the sport itself, affords the opportunity for players to participate regardless of age, gender, size, shape, disability or ability. As such, no individual should every be vilified while participating (in any capacity) within the SMJFL.

It’s duly noted that the issue of vilification is not a problem confined to just the SMJFL. It’s a broader community issue. So it’s important that we all (as parents, coaches, club/team officials) continually educate our kids about respect, tolerance and inclusiveness; which are all key values of the SMJFL.

I’d like to highlight two key values from the SMJFL Strategic Plan, which are RESPECT and INCLUSIVENESS:

RESPECT – to promote respect, tolerance and fairness for all
INCLUSIVENESS – regardless of gender, sexuality, disability, cultural background, socio-economic status or football ability

In line with these values, the SMJFL asks all participants (players, officials & supporters) to be pro-active in their communication and education of vilification of players and/or supporters. The issue of vilification is not something that will be solely managed by the umpires as 95% of cases of vilification will not be within earshot of the umpires. So everyone has a role to report and manage cases of vilification on & off the field.

It is sometimes misinterpreted as to how vilification is judged, so for the avoidance of doubt:
If an individual feels that they have been vilified; then they have been vilified. It’s that simple. Vilification is not judged by the person(s) saying it, it’s judged by the person(s) receiving it.

It should be noted that any form of vilification has the possibility of being reported. Any breaches can result in sanctions. The SMJFL By-Laws govern the SMJFL and included within is the AFL Victoria Vilification & Discrimination Policy, which the SMJFL adopts and uses for reported cases of vilification. All players, parents & officials are encouraged to read this policy.

Lastly, in the off-season (2016/17), the SMJFL will work to create some initiatives and/or resources that can be used for the 2017 season. Clubs will be engaged in this process and we welcome the whole league’s support of these initiatives in 2017.

We thank you for your support of the SMJFL celebrating diversity and actively working to reduce vilification within the league.

Good luck for the remainder of the 2016 season.

Peter Ryan
South Metro Junior Football League

Footnote: The last time the league addressed a key issue via an Open Message to the Community, was in 2013, when Match Day Behaviour was highlighted by SMJFL players as the number 1 key issue within the league. From that point in time the league has developed a number of initiatives that have resulted in markedly improved match day behaviour. The success of this work has seen the SMJFL now being referred to as the best behaved league in Melbourne. 
The SMJFL hopes to have the same level of success in reducing vilification.