Systematic racism in Australian football league

One of Australia’s biggest sporting clubs, Australian Football League (AFL) giant Collingwood, has a culture of “systemic racism”, a report has found.

The independent review said the Australian Rules football club had for years dismissed and punished people for speaking out about the issue.

Collingwood, also known as the Magpies, said it would “strive to be better”.

Its president said the club had made mistakes but wished to move on, citing new anti-racism policies.

Collingwood had commissioned the review after a former player, Héritier Lumumba, spoke out about his experience.

Mr Lumumba, who has Brazilian and Congolese-Angolan heritage, said he was nicknamed “chimp” by his teammates, and ostracised by team leaders after alleged incidents of racism at the club. He is currently suing Collingwood and the AFL.

Findings from the report, filed in December, have become public after being leaked to Australian media.

The AFL – Australia’s richest and best-attended professional league – has said it is working to stamp out racism in the sport, after a series of controversies.

Titled “Do Better”, the report said that Collingwood’s response to racism had failed in many areas. It found:

  • The club’s attitude to dealing with racist incidents was to “deny, double-down and deflect”
  • Collingwood was more likely to respond to a racist incident when it was raised by the media than by a complaint within the club
  • Action taken to tackle racism was often done to protect the club’s brand
  • Until recently, the club had no policies in place to deal with racism or to make perpetrators accountable.

“All of this comes back to the leadership of the Collingwood Football Club – particularly its board – and the need for it to set the vision and values of the club and to drive structural change,” the report said.

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