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A open letter in response to the alleged racism and abuse suffered by Chinese Aussie rules players

NewsWritten by Jon Hopper
President The Guangzhou Scorpions Australian Rules Football Club

As president of The Guangzhou Scorpions Australian Rules Football Club, the hosts of the Australia Day Aussie Rules carnival that is at the centre of this alleged incident I feel compelled to respond to the comments made and correct the inaccuracies in the recent Herald Sun / news.com.au article "Chinese Aussie rules players suffer abuse, racism" as well as the subsequent dialogue that has ensued across various social networking platforms.

Firstly and most importantly there was absolutely no abuse or racism of any player, official or spectator during the days events and the assertions being made are completely inaccurate. The video clip that is at the centre of the issue shows a Guangzhou Scorpions player on the receiving end of some pretty serious sledging from an unseen spectator, it would be fair to say that the language used is profane and would be deemed inappropriate by many. However the word heard on the vision audio is "fat" and it is clearly being directed at a specific player, with his guernsey number being called out several times during the clip. The comment was in no way racist and most importantly in the context of these discussions was certainly not directed at a Chinese player, as is being suggested.

There are more than 2 hours of video clips posted of the days games (http://www.soku.com/search_video/q_SCAFL). Should those that have chosen to enter this debate take the time to review all the available vision, as opposed to a selected 1:17 clip, they will see 6 Aussie rules teams consisting of players from more than 10 countries participating and celebrating the game of Australian rules football. A truly multicultural day in which old friendships were cemented and new ones created in the best traditions of sports all over the world.

The Australia Day celebrations and footy carnival that took place in Guangzhou China on January 26th were organised and hosted by The Guangzhou Scorpions and volunteers from the Australian community. It was not has been reported hosted by the Australian Consulate and while Ms. Jill Collins Australian Consul General in Guangzhou was present and was kind enough to say a few words she was not there in any official capacity. She is simply a Scorpions fan.

The Australia Day footy carnival was the first round of the 2013 South China Australian Football League (SCAFL). SCAFL was created two years ago as a way to promote the game in the region and to provide a platform and structure around which regular games between local teams could be organised. From it's inception SCAFL has been about the promotion of the game as much as it has been about expat Australians playing football. A minimum 25% non Australian rule was put in place to ensure that all teams embraced this concept. I am proud to say that all teams within SCAFL have far surpassed this minimum requirement with teams on occasion fielding squads that have more non Australians than Australians.

Beyond the Australia Day event The Guangzhou Scorpions fully supports the activities of the AFL in the region and last year played a small part in assisting with the AFL talent academy. Subsequently we have been the vehicle through which those young athletes choosing to pursue their interest in our game have been able to play. Providing kits, transportation, refreshments and hiring match venues. Without the input of The Scorpions and specifically the expats that have contributed their time and money to keep the club running these young athletes would have no opportunity to play Aussie rules and would now be kicking a soccer ball around or shooting hoops. These are the same expats now being accused of racism and exclusion, nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition the SCAFL teams from both Hong Kong and Macau both help run active and very strong Auskick programmes bringing together young players from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures. Again something that should be and is celebrated. In an upcoming SCAFL round to be played in Hong Kong on May 18th the seniors will be joined by Auskickers from Macau, Hong Kong, China and Singapore.

The Dongguan Football Club players and management were invited to the Australia Day celebration as guests of The Guangzhou Scorpions. The idea was to give these young men an opportunity to experience the atmosphere of a real game and possibly participate for the first time in a live match situation. Prior to this they had not played a single game. When this idea was floated to the other SCAFL clubs I am again proud to say that they embraced the concept whole heartedly and without exception welcomed players from the DFC into their teams, encouraged them and gave them serious game time.

While DFC are not currently part of SCAFL they were offered the opportunity to join in 2014 should they meet the required eligibility criteria. These are very simple; they must to be able to host games, currently they do not have a suitable oval and they must be able to field a team for the away games to be played in Hong Kong and Macau. All involved understand that this difficult for a team of local Chinese students however SCAFL is in reality an "international" competition that is hosted across three regions Hong Kong, Macau and China allowing all participating teams to host games in their home towns. So the ability to travel is essential.

Every team commented on the great attitude the DFC boys showed, their enthusiasm and on occasions their footy skills. A number of the teams went as far as to throw out an open invitation for the DFC boys to join them whenever SCAFL was in China. The consensus was how great it was to see so many local Chinese participating in the game. In this respect the management of the DFC should be commended, in all other areas their attitude and actions leave me bewildered.

While it is unclear to me what the underlying agenda of the DFC management is. I am absolutely clear on the agenda of The Guangzhou Scorpions and other SCAFL teams.

Put simply it is to promote the game of Australian Rules Football in Southern China and in conjunction with the other Asian footy clubs across the whole of the Asian region.

Given that we are all volunteers that have full time responsibilities and give of time freely and generously I am proud of the way that we have gone about and what has been achieved since the inception of SCAFL. It has been a pleasure to see the game grow during this time.

Our club, our league and our game are open to anybody that wishes to join us in this great game. Any suggestions that this is not the case are simply not true.


Jon Hopper
President The Guangzhou Scorpions Australian Rules Football Club

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