AFL amps up its fight against racial abuse


Teammates, umpires and even coaches will now be able to report racist and sexist abuse of any players after the AFL made sweeping changes to its racial and religious vilification rules.

The rule - known as rule 35 and introduced in 1995 after Essendon legend Michael Long was racially abused in the Anzac Day match that year - has since been expanded to cover vilification related to disability, appearance and sexuality.

It covers AFL, AFLW and community footy, and social media attacks will be heavily scrutinised after a series of online racial attacks on Indigenous players in recent seasons.

Both the AFL and Collingwood specifically have been accused of ignoring racial abuse within the game by former players Joel Wilkinson and Heritier Lumumba respectively.

This new update also gives victims two weeks, up from two days, to report abuse and gives the league the power to investigate matters regardless of when they happened.

The AFL said the change had been made to "accommodate delayed trauma that a person may experience from such an incident".

''Despite time limits indicated (two weeks), the AFL has the discretion to investigate any incident regardless of timeframe," an AFL statement read.

"This has been introduced to give the person time to seek the advice they may require and/or for the incident to be investigated before a report is made.''

The AFL head of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch said better understanding of the impact of abuse was crucial to helping eradicate it from the game.

''The AFL's original racial and religious vilification policy was an Australian first, and perhaps a first in world sport. It sent a very strong message that our game wanted to stand up against racism and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players had protection and rights on the ground,'' Hosch said.

''While the rule has worked on the ground, the review shows that we need to continue to ensure that we continue to get better in every aspect of our game and ensure that everyone across our game is aware of the impact of vilification and what they need to do to contribute to an inclusive and respectful environment. We know we need to get better.

Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes retired early after a series of racial attacks from fans Picture. Phil Hillyard
Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes retired early after a series of racial attacks from fans Picture. Phil Hillyard

''In recent times, with the rising use of social media in Australia, our code has experienced and continues to experience attacks on players and their families in all manner of ways. We must ensure we have the right professional support for those abused and the ability to put the right accountabilities in place for people who misuse those platforms to vilify our players.''

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said the league was committed to driving change so "everyone can belong and succeed in our industry, both on and off the field".

"We have done a lot to make football a game for everyone but we also know from recent history that whatever we may have done in the past, we always need to do more in the future," he said.

Originally published as AFL amps up its fight against racial abuse