A sporting great and the SA Government have expressed hurt and shock after revelations Aboriginal football fans were denied entry to Adelaide Oval ahead of an AFL match.
- A former ticket office employee said she had to lie to Aboriginal patrons
- The oval’s management said the situation was caused by a “communication mishap”
- It has been widely condemned, including by the SA Government
A former employee of McArthur Recruitment, who provide Ticketek with staff to operate the stadium’s box offices, told the ABC a supervisor issued an instruction to tell Aboriginal patrons the game was sold out when it was not.
The directive occurred during last year’s NAIDOC Week match on July 12, 2018, between Adelaide and Geelong and was in place for “at least” an hour, the former employee said.
She said she had to lie to two Aboriginal patrons who tried to buy tickets from her.
Adelaide Oval’s Stadium Management Authority (SMA) has acknowledged the situation occurred, but blamed a misunderstanding.
However, the revelations — which come only days after West Coast Eagles premiership player Liam Ryan was racially abused by online trolls — have caused deep distress.
“This really upsets me,” tweeted former Test cricketer and current Adelaide Strikers coach Jason Gillespie.
Gillespie’s late father Neil was a former CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM), and the organisation’s current state CEO Cheryl Axelby said such discrimination was sadly still common.
“An Indigenous round excluding Aboriginal [and] Torres Strait Islander people coming into the game, based on a few people, I think is absolutely appalling and it is racism,” Ms Axelby said.
“There’s no other word for it.”
The State Government has condemned what occurred in similar terms, describing it as “shocking”.
“If anyone is being told not to enter an event because they are Indigenous, it’s absolutely appalling,” said frontbencher Corey Wingard.
“It’s discrimination of the highest order.”
Asked whether what had occurred was racism, SMA general manager Darren Chandler said “if someone has denied someone tickets to the venue based on their race, absolutely”.
Ms Chandler said a message to deny access to a group of fans “who were intoxicated and behaving poorly” had been misinterpreted by box office staff.
“During the course of the lead-up to that game, SAPOL and the Adelaide Oval security became really concerned with a group of individuals who had previously been refused entry,” he said.
“As a result of that, a directive came from SAPOL to the east ticket box to not sell tickets to these certain groups because they would not be allowed entry into the stadium.
“Unfortunately this has been interpreted inside the ticket box as ‘do not sell tickets to the Aboriginals who are coming to the ticket box’.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed that that’s the way it was interpreted and certainly apologised.”
‘Communication mishap’ won’t happen again, SMA says
Mr Chandler said the SMA had spoken to both Ticketek and McArthur Recruitment about the “communication mishap”.
“We put in measures to make sure that there was no way that this … could happen again,” he said.
“If any staff member has issues or thinks that there’s a strange or unlawful communication coming through that should have been raised to a supervisor … it could have been clarified.”
Rory Sloane reacts after kicking a goal during the now controversial game. (AAP: David Mariuz)
He also said there had been no complaints from fans, adding that he was not aware of fans being turned away during the time the instruction was in place.
“To my knowledge, only those people who were identified by SAPOL and security … were denied purchasing tickets or denied access to the venue,” he said.
However, that was contradicted by the whistleblower, who said she witnessed four Indigenous people turned away from the game, in addition to the two to whom she denied entry.
“At the end of the day, there are a lot of people who didn’t know they were being turned away as a result of that decision,” ALRM CEO Cheryl Axelby said.
“It’s not unusual for our people to experience these type of situations and what I’d call being guilty by association.
“Racism is everybody’s business and we should be ensuring that no citizen of South Australia is experiencing racism.”
The AFL has been contacted for comment, but in a recent opinion piece for ABC News general manager for inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch explained the league was about to review its anti-vilification law.
“The AFL is about to conduct a review of Rule 35 to incorporate abuse by fans at the game and the social media trolls that have negatively impacted on the players,” Ms Hosch wrote.
“This is important because the ovals and stadia where they play are their workspaces: the MCG, Adelaide Oval, Perth Stadium and Docklands Stadium.
“The AFL is the most consumed football code in this country and it enables people from every facet of society to participate in it and enjoy it.
“Surely that says something about us as Australians and what we value, what we love and what we are not prepared to tolerate.”