Boy, 11, faces Oz racism tribunal

AN 11-year-old boy who allegedly called another player a “nigger” during a junior Aussie Rules match in Geelong will face a tribunal hearing today.

Ronan, an 11-year-old Portarlington player, was playing in an U12 match in early July when he was racially abused, according to his parents. Ronan’s step-mother, Lucy, says he was too upset to speak after the game.

“He was gutted,” she said. “He was crying, he was red in the face.

You know how little kids cry, they breathe in and out (quickly), they can’t speak.”

The player will now front a junior Bellarine Football League tribunal after mediation between the two players and their clubs, Portarlington and Drysdale, failed. Football Geelong chief executive Lee Hartman says the player denies making the racial taunt.

“Nine times out of 10, mediation is as far as it normally goes. On this occasion, it wasn’t the case and the aggrieved party didn’t feel the mediation was satisfactory,” he said.

Ronan’s father, Ben, told media he and his son would have dropped the issue if the other player had apologised.

He has received a written apology from the other club, but wants a verbal apology from the offending player and the boy suspended.

“I know that the boy who said this probably doesn’t even understand what he said,” Ben said.

“The only thing that I was saying to them (opposing team) is that they should make him understand that what (he) said ... is hurtful, it’s not the right thing to do. All he had to do was a simple apology for my son to understand that (people) do not do things like this and get away with it.”

It’s the latest racial vilification case in Australian Rules across all levels in the 2011 season.

Last month spectators in Bendigo and Geelong abused players in local leagues while the AFL banned Western Bulldogs forward Justin Sherman for four games for racially vilifying a Gold Coast player.

Ronan’s story prompted AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou to reaffirm the league’s efforts to stamp out racism across all levels of the sport. “We’ve got people in place through our existing means to make sure the appropriate people look at these forms of racial vilification,” he said in Melbourne. “That includes a mediation process to be conducted confidentially. Our view is any form of racial vilification at any level at any age group on any football field — on any sporting field, or even in society — is unacceptable.”

Hartman said Football Geelong carried out the AFL’s racial training and education program with all its clubs.

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