Sporting chance

Sport at its best is very, very good but when it goes bad it can be ugly.
With the media spotlight continuing to focus on opposition fans booing Sydney footballer Adam Goodes, it is interesting to see the Hills football community’s response to recent incidents of umpire abuse and allegations of racial vilification.
AFL leaders have come out in force to shame the booing fans but the rudeness with all its nasty racial undertones persists.
In contrast, complaints have been made to the Hills Football League (HFL) and steps are taken by all parties to fix the problem –  according to the situation.
None of the clubs disputed the HFL penalties. They all endorsed the actions and the HFL’s zero tolerance approach to abuse and vilification.
It doesn’t mean these incidents will never happen again or that there isn’t room for improvement.
What it means is that as a collective group the football community has recognised that certain behavior is not accepted and consequences have to be metered out to change culture.
Some of these cultural changes have been driven from the AFL level down, particularly the issue of racial vilification.
But some of the changes are driven by wider society which has decided that wrapping a club scarf around your neck is no longer a free pass to be a thug, foul mouthed or racist.
HFL president Glen Sickerdick concedes that the type of behavioral reports now handled by the board and tribunal probably wouldn’t have come their way years ago.
People would have been offended or upset but they would have grumbled quietly and resigned themselves to the ugly side of football.
That is no longer the case and it’s a good sign.
The Hills is also lucky in the size of its football community.
It’s small enough that recalcitrant offenders cannot hide among 50,000 spectators.
This season and last the HFL has slapped $1000 “suspended” fines on clubs whose spectators have stepped over the line.
The clubs handled the problem internally, never had to pay the fine and sent messages about what will and what will not be tolerated in the heat of spirited barracking.