South Bunbury Football Club women’s team players quit over allegations of racist and sexist behavior

More than half of a women’s football team in the Western Australia region have quit over what they describe as racist and sexist behavior at their own club, including the ‘vulgar’ comment of a club leader on strippers.

Twelve players and their coach from the South Bunbury Football Club women’s team left mid-season.

In one incident, a male club executive was forced to apologize after mentioning being at a strip club when the women’s season kicked off.

It is alleged that he said “he needed bigger pants” to contain his excitement at being in a room full of “pretty girls”.

The team walkout came after an incident on the pitch in May where a rival player, Noongar’s man Hayden Yarran, was racially vilified by one of South Bunbury’s male league players.

This led to the women’s three-time coach Maxwell Jetta resigning in protest at his club’s handling of the incident.

The players had their faces painted before the game as a sign of solidarity with their coach.(ABC Southwest: Sam Bold)

The South Bunbury women’s team wore black t-shirts with Mr Jetta’s initials and knelt to the ground during their match in a show of support on June 5.

The call to action was organized by assistant coach and vice-captain Kate Fielding, who later received a four-week suspension for breaching multiple codes of conduct.

At least 12 other players have since left the club, including Ms Fielding.

A group of women pose for a photo on a soccer field
The South Bunbury women’s team wear shirts with the initials of former manager Maxwell Jetta.(ABC Southwest: Sam Bold)

Ms Fielding said she was not told specifically the reason for the suspension, but claimed it was due to her involvement in the protest.

“The club’s response to our attempt to do something was appalling, they hardly let us do anything,” she said.

“I have a strong stance against racism and I’m happy to talk about it and make myself known and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m the one serving a four-week suspension.”

“Discouraged” players flee

The ABC spoke to several players, including Amber Boyd who was also part of the team’s management group.

A group of girls playing football
The South Bunbury women’s team played their first game without their leadership core this weekend.(ABC Southwest: Ellie Honeybone)

She said the events that took place forced her to give up the sport altogether and return to football.

“They’re now trying to build a reputation for themselves saying ‘that’s not who we are’, but the way they do it is to ignore the real problem,” Ms Boyd said.

“They don’t take responsibility…and they don’t own what one of their players said [the racist remark].”

Three women on a football oval, one of which catches a yellow ball
Ms. Fielding (middle) is a three-time Prime Minister, winner of the Optus Medal and twice winner of the Life Membership Award.(ABC Southwest: Sam Bold)

Karyn Beeson was leaving the club after almost four years and said she was heartbroken by everything that had happened.

She said the club could have done “so much more” but “bury their head in the sand” over the racial vilification incident.

“All my time I have believed that the club stands for equality and has certain morals and values ​​that I myself believe in,” Ms Beeson said.

“Over the past six months, the club has shown a lack of priority for these moral values.

“We are working so hard as a society in 2022 to raise awareness [racial vilification] and it’s just disappointing to see that the club hasn’t followed through or embraced the change we’ve fought so hard for.”

A woman in a red sweater holding a yellow soccer ball
Former South Bunbury Football Club women’s captain Kate Fielding said she was shocked and embarrassed by her club.(Instagram: @southbunburyfc_women)

Ms Fielding said the club held training on racial defamation ahead of the on-pitch incident which she described as a ‘tick the box’ seminar.

“It’s been a real battle over the last three years, we’ve had a lot of success on the pitch but off the pitch it’s been tough,” Ms Fielding said.

‘Disgusting’ comments from a stripper

Ms Fielding said she had raised concerns with club officials about ‘disgusting’ and ‘vulgar’ comments made by men at the club about the women’s team.

She said the women’s team were likened to “strippers” by a male member of the club when the season launched earlier this year.

In an official complaint to the club seen by the ABC, Ms Fielding said the man also told the women he ‘needed bigger pants’ because he was ‘getting too excited’.

The fence along a football oval
The South Bunbury Tigers play at Hands Oval in the WA town of Bunbury.(ABC Southwest: Ellie Honeybone)

“In 2022, I just don’t know how these kinds of comments are still being made,” Ms Fielding said.

The man had to apologize to the women’s team after the incident.

But Ms Boyd said it was not an easy process.

“We went around in circles, and we were saying we just wanted an apology from this guy who upset us and they just didn’t see how that was a solution,” she said.

“It was just very frustrating.”

Ms Boyd said it was disappointing that a club as old as South Bunbury, which was celebrating its 125th anniversary, was not taking the lead on issues surrounding racism and sexism towards the women’s club.

Three girls wearing sports shirts come out of the locker room
The players come out of the locker room with face paint to show their support for Mr. Yarran and Mr. Jetta.(ABC Southwest: Sam Bold)

South West Football League chairman Barry Tate said that although the league had not become involved in club affairs he was concerned.

“It is very worrying to see what is happening at South Bunbury Football Club and to see the number of players gaining clearances for other clubs over the last seven days,” he said.

Mr Tate said the allegations that the sexual comments were aimed at female players were ‘alarming’ but was unaware of all the information and would speak to the club.

The club sends a letter to the sponsors

South Bunbury Football Club president Leigh Wright declined to comment on alleged sexist behavior against her players.

But in an initial statement to the ABC, the club said that while it would not be drawn on specifics, Ms Fielding’s suspension came after repeated and continued disrespect to the club and officials.

Wet empty seats on a soccer field
Hands Oval spectators will face a smaller than usual women’s football team this weekend.(ABC Southwest: Ellie Honeybone)

The club have confirmed that nine players have requested transfers to other clubs.

“We wish the players all the best for their future football endeavors and sincerely thank them for their contribution to the club,” the statement read.

In a letter sent to sponsors on Thursday afternoon, the club said when the women’s team asked if they could wear black t-shirts in a stance against racism, they were told they couldn’t because this had to be approved by the board and sponsors. .

The statement said Ms Fielding’s actions were “premeditated” and in direct contradiction to the team leaders’ instructions.

A man wearing a black polo shirt standing in a garden
Maxwell Jetta has resigned as manager over his club’s handling of racial abuse.(ABC Southwest: Dinushi Dias)

The club was fined $200 by the South West Football League Tribunal for the racist abuse suffered by Mr Yarran and ordered to repeat the racial vilification seminar.

The club was also ordered by the league this week to issue a formal apology to Mr Yarran and his club.

Solidarity further

A local netball team has also taken a colorful stance against racism.

The Eaton Boomers netball team played in yellow, black and red armbands and took a knee during their weekend game.

A photo of women kneeling in a gym
Local netball teams took a knee during their recent games in support of the South Bunbury women’s football team.(Supplied: Eaton Boomers)

Eaton Boomers netball club chairwoman Eleanor Yates said she wanted to show her support for Mr Yarran, Mr Jetta and the South Bunbury women’s football team.

“We really wanted to send a powerful message that fundamentally in our community this will not be tolerated,” she said.

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