BALLARAT Football Netball League's board has apologised for historical racism shown towards Indigenous players in the wake of Robert Muir's horrendous revelations at the weekend.
The league made clear the disrespect shown towards Muir in his playing days was "not a reflection of the modern game" and the league and its affiliated clubs continuously worked hard to stamp out such behaviours.
Scroll down for the full statement
BFL's board issued an apology on behalf of the league on Tuesday morning, following a board meeting the night before in which time had been set aside to discuss as a group how best to respond to Muir's story.
The former St Kilda footballer opened up in an interview with the ABC on Sunday, detailing the abuse and violence in his personal and football life. He spoke about the ripple effects this has continued to have on his life since including alcoholism, depression and homelessness.
This included a two-and-a-half-year ban in the Ballarat Football League, from July 1971, for an incident umpires claimed was a "very savage kick" on an opponent. This was despite his Redan opponent insisting it was merely a trip.
The story was the tribunal only deliberated for five minutes before reaching a verdict.
Muir, who captained the Swans under-18s at the time, said this potentially cost him two years of a Victorian Football League career.
The Swans took the appeal to the Victorian Supreme Court.
BFL's board made a particular reference to the incident retrospectively in the apology.
With the passing of many years, it is now difficult to understand how such decisions could have been made in 1971 and the current league board does not condone any such actions of racism.- Ballarat Football League statement, Tuesday, August 25
"With the passing of many years, it is now difficult to understand how such decisions could have been made in 1971 and the current league board does not condone any such actions of racism," the statement read.
"The racist views and behaviours of the period in which Robert Muir experienced such disrespect do not, rightly, fit with our modern society. It is our hope that as a League and a community we have learnt from the past to ensure such mistakes are not made again."
Ballarat Swans president Karl Drever told The Courier on Monday, Muir's story had sparked a lot of interest and concern among modern members. Drever also said the Swans should be proud the club fought so hard in the appeals process for the lengthy ban.
Muir returned from his ban to play nine senior games and kick 22 goals for the Swans before he was recruited to St Kilda midway through the 1974 season. The Swans are also working on a response to Muir's story.
Muir also played junior football with East Ballarat.
St Kilda and the AFL have both issued apologies to Muir. The Saints also published a personal response from Muir on Tuesday who said he was overwhelmed by the reaction to his story.
Muir said for now he needs some space to focus on his family and mental health but would, in time, reconnect with former teammates and opponents who had reached out.
"I need time to process my feelings and adjust to the world knowing about my difficulties," Muir said.
"...Although I have suffered greatly because of my involvement in the game, my love for football and for St Kilda remains. I missed out on the support I needed when I played, but I am glad it is being offered now. I'm also pleased that the many brilliant Indigenous footballers currently playing the game are finally getting the support they require.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made a huge contribution to AFL football. All we ask for in return is respect."
A Go Fund Me page that was set up to raise money to help Muir afford should surgery has also been cut off after reaching more than $112,000.
READ BALLARAT FOOTBALL LEAGUE'S FULL STATEMENT HERE
"The Ballarat FNL join the wider football community in apologising for the historical racism shown towards indigenous players, such as that bravely laid bare by Robert Muir in recent days.
"The disrespect shown towards Robert during his playing days in the BFL is not a reflection of the modern game and is one the league and each of its affiliated clubs have worked hard to stamp out in recent times.
"With the passing of many years, it is now difficult to understand how such decisions could have been made in 1971 and the current League Board does not condone any such actions of racism.
"The racist views and behaviours of the period in which Robert Muir experienced such disrespect do not, rightly, fit with our modern society. It is our hope that as a League and a community we have learnt from the past to ensure such mistakes are not made again.
"The Ballarat FNL will continue every effort to make the game as inclusive and welcoming for all participants, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion."
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