The boys’ clubs protecting our sporting yobbos
If blokes are honest, most of us would admit to behaving differently when there are no women around. While the extent of the change varies from guy to guy, most of us do things and say things we wouldn’t dream of doing or saying in female company.
Usually it’s low-level yobbo stuff - drunken anecdotes, sexual innuendo, a sneaky wee on the lemon tree – but for a minority of screwed-up blokes it involves a complete personality transformation where they drift into a shocking moral orbit, their macho posturing cheered on by their equally boorish buddies.
In the context of sport, particularly in light of Brendan Fevola’s unravelling and the car crash quality of Wayne Carey’s memoir, it’s clear that for many of our sporting heroes, life has been one extended boy’s night.
Unless he’s an even bigger ratbag than we all imagined, I doubt Fevola would ever have taken his trusty marital aid to a mixed company dinner party. Or whether Carey – to select just one outrage from his bulging shame file - would have decided to brush his own wife’s 30th birthday party if he hadn’t been off his face at an all-male booze-up.
These guys remained in a state of arrested development into adult life because they were surrounded by compliant, unthinking males who reinforced and enabled their shabby conduct.
It’s here where the codes and the clubs have been complicit in maintaining an often low-rent atmosphere.
Earlier this year magazine executive and league tragic Marina Go revealed that she applied for a board position with the Manly Sea Eagles and didn’t even get a call back. This from a club which started 2009 in scandal, with NRL poster boy Brett Stewart charged with sexual assault – and when a special board meeting was called to discuss the scandal, one member turned up plastered from a five-hour lunch. On a Monday.
Neither the NRL nor the AFL has done nearly enough to put women front and centre at the administration of sport. Both codes estimate around 40 per cent of their fan base is female. Yet women hold less than 10 per cent of the office-bearer positions in the club hierarchies – shamefully in the case of some clubs there are no women at all.
At its upper eschelons the AFL has done a reasonable job – of late – in ensuring female representation. Two of its nine commissioners, public policy guru Sam Mostyn and Family Court judge Linda Dessau, are women. The NRL has just one, businesswoman Katie Page, and league CEO David Gallop has said that his code must do more.
But at NRL club level almost every board is about as inclusive and enlightened as The Melbourne Club – in her excellent article at the website www.womenonboards.org.au, WOB executive director Claire Braund writes that of 110 board positions at 14 NRL clubs just three are held by women.
With a couple of exceptions in the AFL – the Bulldogs and Bombers have two women on their boards – most of the clubs seem to think they’ve covered their obligations by sticking one sheila on the board to pretty things up a bit.
Anyone who thinks it doesn’t matter should recall that Brendan Fevola used to play for a club whose former president has also been excommunicated from Carlton after his almost boastful remarks about “buying off” women who had made allegations of sexual assault.
It goes to the creation of an atmosphere and the atmosphere that our clubs are still creating is not the same one which exists in the stands.
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