Footy's Most Famous Fan Leads Backlash Against PC Police
They've had enough. AFL fans are demanding the right to barrack with passion.
In recent times, the AFL has cracked down on unruly fan behaviour.
A Carlton fan was ejected from Marvel Stadium last Saturday for calling an umpire a "bald-headed flog".
Recently, a Richmond supporter was banned for three matches for calling an umpire a “green maggot” during the Anzac Day eve clash between the Tigers and Demons -- a colour-updated version of the traditional "white maggot" slur which fans have directed at umpires for years.
But now fans are fighting back, angered that the AFL has overstepped the line.
Legendary Collingwood supporter "Joffa" Corfe has been doing the media rounds in Melbourne, saying he won't attend another AFL game until CEO Gillon McLachlan apologises for the way fans have been treated of late.
Yes, Joffa is striking. And the famous silver jacket and gold tie combo will stay in the cupboard until things change.
"I really think we deserve an apology. We’re the biggest stakeholder in this game and we’re being treated like rubbish,” Corfe said on radio 3AW.
"I’m representing every supporter in Australia who’s had a gutful of what’s going on this year with the way we’ve been labelled and portrayed. We’re owed an apology. I really believe that," he told The Herald Sun.
This is an interesting and delicate issue to say the least.
Fan behaviour has been in the news all year. Instances of racism have drawn near universal condemnation -- such as the awful slurs against Crows champion Eddie Betts, and the booing of Adam Goodes between 2013 and 2015, which is back in the spotlight with the new documentary The Final Quarter set to air exclusively soon on Network 10.
But the football community has been more divided on other issues.
One example was Anzac Day, when fans were split -- more or less along club lines -- over whether it was OK to boo Scott Pendlebury on the podium after the game. Some said you never boo a champ. Others said fans were just letting off steam after a controversial ending to a close contest.
There has also been ongoing controversy over the booing of Geelong superstar Gary Ablett.
But on the issue of booing umps, the pendulum appears to have swung the way of fans.
Buy a ticket to an AFL game, and the fine print says you can't use "indecent or obscene language" or "threatening or insulting words", or behave in a "threatening, abusive, riotous, indecent or insulting manner".
Words like "threatening", of course, are open to interpretation. Fans are worried that they can no longer exercise what they see as their right to yell at umps. Such yelling is not always done in a polite way -- but does that necessarily make it a threat?
This is the crux of the issue, and it's clear that the AFL understood fans were confused, when it issued a Statement on Fan Behaviour yesterday.
"The AFL's message to everyone is clear -- come to the footy, barrack as loud as you can, enjoy the game and do so in a responsible manner," the statement said.
The statement also revealed that the fan ejected for calling an ump a "bald-headed flog" would receive no further sanction.
So what happens next?
Joffa, for one, was not placated by Wednesday's statement. He feels like fans are being denied a basic right.
"If I’m sitting at the football and I’m too scared to stand up, to cheer, to remonstrate a horrible umpiring decision or to banter an opposition player from the other side of the fence or heaven forbid to boo, what am I even doing there?" he asked.
It's a fair question. And the sequined jacket might be staying in the cupboard for a while until we all know the answer.