Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Report says racism still `prevalent' in Australian sports

AFP , SYDNEY

Racism is still "prevalent" in all Australia's major sports, including among professionals, despite administrators' best efforts to stamp it out, a hard-hitting report released yesterday said.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission surveyed 17 sporting codes, examining the issue of racism and the programs that had been put in place to combat the problem.

Race discrimination commissioner Tom Calma said it found that racism existed and fear of discrimination remained a barrier to participation for people from Aboriginal or other ethnic backgrounds.

"It is clear that incidents of racial abuse and vilification are prevalent across all major sporting codes, involving professional sportspeople, amateurs, coaches and spectators," Calma said in a statement.

The report, entitled What's the Score?, said there was a mistaken belief that the battle against racism in sport had been won.

"But just when it seems as though racial and religious vilification laws and anti-discrimination policies in our national sporting codes are working effectively, along comes another racial incident by one of our sportspeople or commentators to remind us that the issue remains very much alive," it said.

The report favorably cited anti-discrimination policies implemented by codes such as cricket, soccer and rugby, but said participation rates among people from ethnic backgrounds remained low.

It cited Australian crowds' racial abuse of touring South African cricketers in 2005-2006, which resulted in the International Cricket Council updating its racial vilification policy.

In another case recounted in the report, former Wallaby Justin Harrison racially sledged his South African opponent in a 2005 Super 12 match.

"These incidents are not isolated ... Don't believe the spin doctors -- racism still exists in sport," it said.

Calma said stamping out racism would improve participation rates across the community.

"Our sporting organizations need to ensure that their policies and programs are focused on making sport fun, inclusive and fulfilling to those who take part -- then everyone is on a winning team," he said.

Australian cricket all-rounder Andrew Symonds was on the receiving end of racial abuse this month when he was taunted with monkey chants by spectators in the Indian city of Vadodara.

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