Yesterday, CEO of the Melbourne Football Club, Cameron Schwab announced that the Demons would part with major sponsor EnergyWatch.
The sponsorship, which was worth approximately $2 million a year to Melbourne, ended after CEO Ben Polis’ controversial Facebook posts were revealed by the Herald Sun yesterday.
The Demons called an emergency crisis meeting to decide the future of the sponsorship deal.
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou stated that Polis had put Melbourne in quite a predicament.
‘It has put the Melbourne Football Club in a terribly difficult situation. They obviously know our view, as would the general community, which wouldn’t tolerate those sorts of comments,’ he said.
Polis’ comments were reported to be both sexist and racist, aimed at Indigenous Australians, Asians, Muslims and women, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Polis even managed to sledge one of Melbourne’s players, Liam Jurrah. He claimed that Jurrah’s arrest over an alleged machete attack was good because it generated publicity for EnergyWatch.
He also wrote that when Jurrah ‘came to the Dees they thought he had tribal tats but it was a ring worm. He had never been to a doctor in his life, he comes from out back bit past Carrum Downs.’
The Melbourne Football Club labelled his comments ‘disgraceful and abhorrent.’
Polis told the Herald Sun that he was not a racist and all comments were ‘jokes’, but admitted that they were inappropriate.
‘You’re taking private comments in relation to something that I’m talking to friends about.’
‘In relation to Liam Jurrah … has it offended the Melbourne Football Club, well obviously the answer is yes, I think they will probably be very upset. I want to apologise to Liam Jurrah,’ he said.
Polis was made to stand down as CEO yesterday.
Although Melbourne has to find another sponsor, or a number of sponsors to produce $2 million annually, in a round-a-bout way it was a positive end to the week.
Obviously, the Demons wish that this had never occurred, but during this ordeal and in fact the whole week, Melbourne has shown solidarity and stood tall against racism today.
As Schwab said in a press conference that ‘the value we place on integrity and diversity means we cannot continue to work with EnergyWatch.’
‘If our club had chosen not to go down this track we would have been compromising everything that we’ve historically stood for, we would have compromised everything we stand for at this time and everything that we seek to stand for,’ he said.
The dumping of sponsorship hit Melbourne on top of the misinformed Grant Thomas’ claiming that Melbourne coach Mark Neeld treated Indigenous players at Melbourne differently.
A blog by Thomas on the ninemsn website suggested that Neeld addressed the Demons’ Indigenous players as a group during the pre-season and proceeded to meet all other players individually.
Neeld immediately phoned Thomas when word had spread about the article, and the paragraphs in question were removed immediately.
AFL community engagement officer and the key liaison with Indigenous players, Jason Mifsud, was revealed as the man who had spread the rumour to Thomas.
Mifsud offered his resignation to the league on Wednesday but it was rejected by Demetriou.
Mifsud apologised to Neeld on Tuesday for falsely accusing him. Mifsud has also received an official warning from the AFL due to his conduct, and will be counselled.
Mifsud did not name the man, but Aaron Davey has been identified as the alleged source of information for Mifsud.
Neeld has given his full support to Davey, who released a statement on Tuesday night denying his involvement.
‘I spoke with Aaron again … and I’m supportive of Aaron’s statement he put out.’
‘He has got my 100 per cent support,’ Neeld said.
Davey has been unable to contact Mifsud for days, in regards to what was said.
This follows Mifsud’s failure to return calls from Schwab for three weeks, after Melbourne was advised by, AFL football operations manager, Adrian Anderson that there was an issue.
There has been overwhelming support for the sacking of Mifsud, from the public, but Demetriou stands by his man.
‘I’ve got great faith in Jason Mifsud,’ he told SEN.
‘He made a mistake … he’s been hauled over the coals. He knows it’s wrong,’ he said.
The possible ramifications of the week’s events may become an issue for the AFL in the near future, but only time will tell. A slap on the wrist may not be enough punishment this time from the AFL.
Perhaps it could have handled this situation better, but Melbourne have done well in the face of adversity.
The Demons must now release their anger this week against West Coast.
Jake D’Amato is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe, and is part of the upstart editorial team. Follow him on Twitter: @jdamato32