Sunshine Heights Western Tigers soccer club hope penalties imposed on players after a violent brawl in June will mark a turning point for racism in sport.
The brawl took place between the Tigers and Tullamarine City FC, with three ambulances and nine police cars attending, and began after a racist taunt against a Tigers player.
The club last week appealed against a Football Federation Victoria (FFV) decision to suspend one of its players, Deng Thuc, until the end of the year, as well as charges of producing weapons that lost the club 10 championship points.
The appeal heard a spectator racially abused Mr Thuc and when he told her to “shut up”, he was chased and assaulted by six people.
Mr Thuc was heard to have removed a corner post and used it in self-defence against the attackers, and was taken to hospital, unconscious, with serious injuries.
While this was occurring, a second, more violent brawl broke out between players from both sides and spectators.
It was alleged a baseball bat was produced and that chairs were smashed and used as weapons in the melee.
The FFV reduced Mr Thuc’s penalty to a five-week suspension in line with players suspended from Tullamarine.
The appeals board restored seven points to the club to bring match the point penalties imposed on Tullamarine.
But the Tigers did not appeal an 18-month suspension against player Maliac Thon, who was heard to have kicked a referee in the stomach.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Ike Nwokolo, who represented the club, welcomed the findings.
“There is no doubt that what happened had gotten out of control and that both teams have to wear some responsibility,” Mr Nwokolo said.
“However, we believe that if the original racist remarks had been dealt with by the referee when it was reported to him, the incident would never have happened.
“Only a zero tolerance towards racism is acceptable. It is no longer okay for referees or other officials to allow racist comments to go unchallenged anymore, whether those comments come from team members or spectators.”
In a statement, the club said it would prepare for a return to competition and work with the FFV for a safer and more welcoming environment.
The police investigation of the incident continues.