THE Ballarat Football League has banned two Melton South supporters from attending the opening eight matches of the 2012 season for abusing prominent indigenous community leaders Ted Lovett and Geoff Clark at last year’s elimination final.
Kevin Parker, who is a member of the Melton South Football Club, has been told he may not enter the Panthers’ first eight games of this season, after he admitted racially abusing Mr Lovett.
Graham Pearce, another Melton South member, has been banned for eight matches for abusing Mr Clark, although Mr Pearce denies any racial abuse. An appeal to overturn Mr Pearce’s penalty will be heard on Saturday, before the BFL season opener.
The BFL’s investigation into the incident was requested by North Ballarat City Football Club after the abuse was reported after the elimination final at Eastern Oval. The penalties were communicated to the two club members last month.
The league will this week announce a new advertising campaign that promotes multiculturalism through posters, football record advertising and signage at games, and chief executive Rod Ward has reaffirmed the BFL’s stance on racial abuse.
He said there had been three cases of vilification addressed by the league over the past eight years, two of which occurred last year, prompting the league to introduce new by-laws.
Ted Lovett and Geoff Clark
“Society in general views these incidents very seriously and rightly so,” he said.
“In this case indigenous Australians represent 2.5 per cent of the population and make up 10 per cent of AFL lists. We want to encourage and support that.
“With Sudanese people in Melton and Bacchus Marsh, we also want them to feel that they can enter our game without fear of being racially vilified.”
Mr Pearce admitted Mr Parker’s abuse was “the wrong thing” but said the comments were not directed at players or officials, and that the punishment was unfair.
“This happened after the match. The match was over,” Mr Pearce said.
“One of our club’s supporters was basically yelling (non-racial) abuse at one of their players. Then Lovett and Clark walked over to our group and started having a go.
“(Mr Parker) saw red and racially abused Ted Lovett. He did the wrong thing and has since apologised. I had my say with Clark. I did not racially abuse him but I had a go at him about his past. No player, official or umpire was abused. This was just between supporters.”
“I think (the penalty) is way too harsh. (Parker) has made a formal apology, he is remorseful. I think that is a fair enough penalty in itself.”
Witnesses claimed there was racist and threatening behaviour from members of the crowd throughout the match.
The apology was made to the investigating committee but there has been no apology received by those on the receiving end of the abuse.
A Melton South club spokesman last night said the club had created a sporting environment that “is inclusive, regardless of gender, race or sexual preference, and that it does not tolerate or condone poor spectator or onfield behaviour”.
The Courier yesterday contacted members of Mr Clark’s family, who did not want to comment for publication.
The penalties were handed down by the BFL board of directors under a long-standing authority within its constitution to make decisions on the conduct of supporters, players and officials.
The league has since introduced new by-laws that include mandatory bans for players, officials and supporters who are found guilty of vilification on the grounds of race, religion or sexual preference.
Mr Ward said the board made its decision knowing that the new rules were coming into play. The new by-laws were drafted in November last year and formally adopted in February.