Originally written by DEAN MILLARD
THE Victorian Government will soon be cracking down on sports clubs who tolerate violence and offensive behaviour in what appears to be a fairly simple message to the Victorian sports community; behaviour yourself or fund yourself.
Sports minister James Merlino announced this week plans to implement a new code of conduct for Victorian sporting clubs in the wake of a spate of ugly incidents at community sporting events in suburban Victoria this year.
Clubs will need to sign up to the proposed code of conduct, which is yet to be devised, and prove they are adhering to it or risk losing millions of dollars in State Government funding.
Under the sweeping changes being developed by the Victorian Government, sporting bodies will need to ensure they have set appropriate penalties for clubs who breach the proposed new code of conduct, particularly in regards to new standards for spectator behaviour.
In a press release issued early this week Merlino said the new code of conduct was being designed to show sporting clubs and supporters that offensive behaviour would no longer be tolerated.
“Victorians love their sport and it is our local sporting clubs who are at the very heart of communities right across the state,” Merlino said.
“Sports fans are passionate and there’s nothing wrong with being enthusiastic when following your local club, but there are a small minority who overstep the mark by abusing other players, officials and spectators.
“Respect is a two-way street and it is everybody’s business – regardless of age or background – to ensure that people can enjoy themselves and feel safe when they are down at their local ground watching a local club or team.
“Everyone knows that verbal, emotional or physical abuse has no place in sport – the trouble is, those responsible are unlikely to realise just how over the top and out of line they are.
“This new Code of Conduct will set clear standards of respect in sport, and ensure that clubs and all supporters take an active role to stamp out bad behaviour.”
Merlino’s media adviser, Michael Sinclair, said the code of conduct was something that had been being developed for the past three or four years but that in the light of some of the behaviour exhibited at some community sporting events this year enough was enough.
“It is really more of a crackdown on some of the behaviour we have seen during the year,” Sinclair said.
“There was a case in Melbourne during the year where a player was hit over the head with a mallet, and that is simply not good enough.
“It is easy to have a code of conduct that is written on a bit of paper and hung up on a wall in the clubrooms and forgotten about.
“By tying it to funding it is a pretty strong message that we are not going to tolerate it and you have to have a good family club.
“A lot of sporting codes have got their own codes of conduct and a lot of them are very good, we just want to make sure that their codes reflect what we have in ours.”
Sinclair said the government would be speaking with a range of local and regional sporting clubs and associations throughout Victoria over the coming months as part of a consultation process to develop the new code of conduct.
He said once the code of conduct was designed the State Government hoped to have all of Victoria’s 16,000 sporting clubs signed up to it before next year’s round of government funding.
“The next funding round is the middle of next year and we aim to have something out to the clubs by early next year and have them signed up to the code within a couple of months before that round of funding starts.
“We want clubs to take ownership of their own people, their players, officials and supporters, and take control of the way they are behaving at sporting venues.
“We want to mould it into something that is applicable across the board for sporting groups and we want it to be something that is feasible and enforceable.”
He said the code of conduct would not be designed to block sporting clubs and associations who had occasional minor incidents from accessing government funding, but stressed what clubs did to educate their players, officials, members and supporters as well as how they dealt with issues that arose would be taken into account when clubs applied for future funding.
“We’re not knit picking, it is the serious high level stuff where we have brawls and larger situations where leagues might report players or fine players or clubs.
“If a player has been suspended for belting an umpire or something else as harsh as that the club needs to be able to show how they have dealt with that.
“We want clubs to try and police their own people and make sure they are not doing the wrong things.”
He said local councils and governing sporting bodies would need to be able to vouch for any club that applied for funding that they were operating within the code of conduct.