Confrontational videos of AFL and AFLW stars Chad Wingard, Bachar Houli and Darcy Vescio used to root out abuse in local football


“It doesn’t have the support that the AFL has, we have advisors, libel rules, we have all that stuff that protects us and helps us with any scenario that comes up with umpires and coaches, crowd control. It’s as secure as we can make it, and the community layer doesn’t have the same security blanket.

“The community level is my biggest concern when people don’t feel safe.”

Wingard said he feels the AFL football field and clubs are a safe place given the extensive training, support structures and staffing. He added that AFL players also typically have teammates from a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds and therefore have strong empathy and understanding, but the same cannot always be said in community clubs.

“I do not feel myself [racism] at all on the floor. I don’t think it’s the AFL per se, it’s definitely the social media platforms and that’s something we need to monitor. My experience is that it doesn’t happen in the workplace or through the AFL,” said Wingard, who started his career in Port Adelaide and now plays for Hawthorn, which is currently the subject of an AFL investigation following its cultural security clearance. The review predated Wingard’s time at the club.

“Obviously there is something going on at Hawthorn and other clubs so it’s not totally eradicated, but there isn’t a workplace in the world that has eradicated racism or discrimination. I definitely haven’t experienced it at my place of work,” he said.

Wingard said it’s not just about players, it’s a matter for league administrators and senior club officials to better understand issues and take them seriously when they arise.

“I had a story a few months ago of someone of Asian background being bullied, being called ‘COVID’ and being abused because of their background. He reported it and nothing happened at the league level,” Wingard said.

“It’s heartbreaking to see. We can educate and start with the coaches and players and hope that a club has a good culture. When a club develops a good culture, you have a good start.”

A problem for the AFL is that while many leagues are AFL members, many are not, so while the AFL can provide resources and policies, it has no official capacity to force change or influence in those leagues.

“The most important thing for me is the anonymous hotline and just making sure you report it to the AFL so it can be tracked and they can track this league. It’s better than letting it linger,” Wingard said.

“If you don’t tell your parents or coaches or this hotline, it will cause even more pain and heartache in the future.

“If I were younger and had something like this and had a way to report it, you would just feel like you could do something about it. You feel heard. Just the feeling of being heard can change the way you feel about yourself. It might not change the outcome or actions, but feeling heard about something can make you feel valued and know that it’s not right, that they did something wrong, and you have something done against it. It strengthens you.”

Wingard said in the AFL module, “Being slandered doesn’t just go away like a bruise or a cork.”

The AFL last year issued the National Community Football Policy Handbook, which outlines the rules on disparagement and discrimination in community football.

The league has partnered with Shark Productions, who made the documentary about Adam Goodes. The final quarterto create the powerful videos for the anti-libel modules, with proceeds from The last quarter to finance them. Confrontational videos of AFL and AFLW stars Chad Wingard, Bachar Houli and Darcy Vescio used to root out abuse in local football

Ryan Sederquist

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