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SANFL Plea for Respect

Article from the Portside Messenger, 27 May 09

BY Reece Homfray

THE SANFL has ordered every footballer in its under-18 competition to undergo training to improve attitudes towards women.

And the SA Amateur Football League is working on a "member protection policy", which includes the importance of respecting women.

The news comes in the wake of a string of sex scandals, which have rocked the national sports community in recent weeks.  All nine SANFL clubs under-18s will complete the AFL’s Respect and Responsibility program for the first time next month.

The two-hour workshop aims to educate footballers about the consequences of sexual harassment and the importance of ensuring a safe environment for women.

"As a corporate citizen the SANFL recognises it is not just about developing footballers' skills, but also developing them as young men in the community," SANFL state league services manager Daniel Thomas said.

"And while we pride ourselves on our past, we take a strong stance against this unacceptable behaviour (disrespect towards women)."

It is anticipated the workshop, which runs in conjunction with a drug and alcohol program, will be rolled out among League and Reserves players next year.

Amateur league boss Mark Shadiac said they were investigating "preventative strategies" to ensure there was not a "dominant male culture" at clubs.

"But this policy is much broader than that, it’s about child protection, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, code of conduct and making sure there are processes in place to deal with issues that arise," he said.

Sex in sport made national headlines last week when retired rugby league great Matthew Johns was publicly disgraced for his role in a group sex scandal involving a woman in NZ in 2002.

Public outrage followed days later when it was revealed Victorian amateur football side Prahran hired a female stripper to perform in its changerooms before a game on May 1.

Mr Shadiac said the Prahran incident served as a reminder for SA clubs to be "vigilant in our quest for creating an environment that is family friendly".

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Linda Matthews said while league-run programs would "change some people", standards had to be enforced by clubs.

"If the culture of a club is disrespectful and abusive, it's not going to help a lot," she said.

"Peer pressure is huge and that can over-ride even the best program."

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