Football Australia's investigation into Sydney United 58 fan behaviour uncovers more racist behaviour – ABC News

  • October 10, 2022

Football Australia's investigation into Sydney United 58 fan behaviour uncovers more racist behaviour
Football Australia (FA) has confirmed it is investigating another incident of fan-based racist behaviour at the Australia Cup final on October 1, with the possibility more will emerge as inquiries continue with the support of club officials from Sydney United 58 FC and police.
FA boss James Johnson told The Ticket podcast football authorities are looking to identify one member of the crowd who was imitating a monkey during the game, which was also marred by Nazi salutes, a chant associated with the far-right Croatian Ustaše movement, and booing during a pre-match Welcome to Country ceremony.
"What happened last Saturday night at the Australia Cup final was shocking and it was concerning for our sport," Johnson said.
"We are currently investigating two other cases at the moment … one case regards the lighting of a flare and the other was some racist chants in the form of a person acting as a monkey during the match … we're trying to identify those two individuals and once we do, we'll take further action.
"There could be more [cases] as more information is made available to us."
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Last week, two supporters were handed lifetime bans from all FA-sanctioned events after being identified performing fascist salutes. Meanwhile, a case against the club is running in parallel to the other ongoing investigations.
"In addition to the individual cases there is a process we are undertaking with the club, a show cause notice was issued early last week," Johnson said.
"What I can say today is the club has been cooperating … ultimately, we need the club to keep cooperating to ensure its fans who have acted in an inappropriate way are held to account.
"We opted to move quickly and decisively … the message we wanted to send to our football community is this type of behaviour by some individuals is not welcome in our sport.
"One of our values we hold dear to our hearts is inclusion … this was about breathing life into our values … that's why we've taken strong and swift action."
Officials in Australia have been closely watching developments in Europe, where support for far-right sentiment and political groups espousing their views continues to grow.
Such social shifts impact sport and have added an extra dimension to the operational delivery of major sports events.
"Running major sporting events is always complicated, and I think historically the focus has always been on the physical safety of individuals – both the players and also the spectators," Johnson said.
"There's certainly a shift I think that is occurring that focuses on the psychological safety of spectators.
"There have been instances where the extreme right has used sporting events to showcase their beliefs, which ultimately puts the players and other spectators and our community in harm's way.
"That's an issue sports at the moment are grappling with … I think it's a new area and it's a new challenge that sports, not only in Australia but also sports across the globe, are having to grapple with."
Nazi salutes, fascist chants and monkey noises are symptoms of a deeper problem. Punishing the symptoms does not treat the root cause, something sport globally continues to struggle with.
"I don't think sports are looking at it enough," the football boss said.
"These are issues that extend beyond sport, they are issues that occur in the community, and the community has a strong view.
"We've tried to move quickly to send a message not just to those who are impacted by these events but also our broader community because of the expectation they are placing on us."
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The FA will work with Sydney United to address cultural issues at the club, putting all other football clubs in Australia on notice.
"I think the actions that we take are really where the rubber hits the road," Johnson said.
"When we work with the club … and I don't want to speculate at this stage but [our actions] will be designed to ensure that the club goes through cultural change.
"Because ultimately, they've got a lot of history, and a lot of it is good history, but we really need to help this club through sanctions, to get to a place where they are able to be accepted and exist in 2022."
Football Australia is not alone in tackling racism, but its decisive action this past week shows it is more willing than some others to call it out quickly and act decisively.
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