Football isn’t a thing that exists outside of society.
It doesn’t operate in some alternate universe.
It’s part of society – and a significant part of it too.
And there’s no escaping the fact that society has a problem with the way it treats women.
One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
One in two Australian women has experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime.
These statistics are a dark stain on our nation.
This is not a ‘women’s issue’. This is a societal issue.
And it is through this lens that we should view the case involving AFL footballer Jordan De Goey.
The Collingwood forward has been charged with one count of indecent assault over an alleged incident from 2015.
He’s one of two men charged in relation to the incident.
Collingwood said the matter was investigated by the AFL Integrity Unit and Victoria Police in 2018 and no charges were laid.
But earlier this month Victoria Police charged De Goey with indecent assault.
The Magpies and the AFL have allowed him to keep playing while the legal process takes its course.
The right thing to do is to stand De Goey down until the matter is resolved.
The presumption of innocence is a sacred legal principle, but there’s a solution that protects the player’s innocence while also understanding the wider problem.
Last year, the National Rugby League introduced a no-fault stand down rule for players facing serious criminal offences. Under the rule, a player cannot play until the completion of the case.
When the rule was rolled out, Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter Beattie said if the rule hadn’t been put in place “this game would’ve withered and died”.
The time has come for the AFL to introduce its own no-fault stand down policy for charges involving women and other serious charges.
This has nothing to do with making a judgment but everything to do with recognising the fact that the AFL belongs to a society that has deeply entrenched problems with its treatment women.
Sadly, these problems are not going away.
When De Goey played against Geelong on Thursday night it would have been useful if someone in the commentary box had offered up the no-fault stand down policy as a discussion point – after all, most workplaces have strict policies when it comes to these matters.
A more diverse media would go a long way in diffusing the hero-worshipping that’s all too common in the AFL.
We need different voices, different experiences and different perspectives on the game to add value to the broadcast and reflect what’s actually going on in society.
The AFL is a competition for all of us to enjoy.
A no-fault stand down rule would not only protect the player during a stressful time but also offer a small mark of respect for the lived experience of many women.
Journalist, TV and radio presenter, columnist and author of Breaking the Mould – Taking a Hammer to Sexism in Sport