AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has called on the code’s supporters to lead the game out of the divisive Adam Goodes booing controversy.
McLachlan admitted on Friday that he couldn’t tell fans how to behave but said they ultimately owned the game and it needed them to show leadership on the issue.
Relentless vilification of Goodes from fans of rival clubs in recent months has prompted Sydney to give their dual Brownlow Medal winner indefinite leave as he’s shaken by what the club says is a disgraceful reaction to his outspokenness on race matters.
Goodes won’t play against Adelaide at the SCG on Saturday, but could be back for the following round’s away game against Geelong.
“I can’t tell the supporters how to behave. Our game has always been an outlet for people to express themselves,” McLachlan said.
“Ultimately I do have incredible faith in our supporters, but also … they’ve defined the respect in our game. And it’s changed and iterated over generations.”
McLachlan cited examples of outstanding crowd behaviour in recent times.
“No one can make 90,000 people stand in silence on Anzac Day, complete silence in reflection,” McLachlan said.
“No one can make 300,000 people over a round of footy a few weeks ago behave the way they did that just had extraordinary healing qualities for a family, a footy club, a state.
“No one can make supporters do that, but I just have great confidence in their ability to work through this issue, have their views and then ultimately respect the wishes of the players, the clubs, the industry, that Adam be given and environment to come back and play.
“Because I don’t think anyone, if they are feeling hurt and feeling they are the victim of racist behaviour, whatever your views no one should feel like that.
“And there is a point where you go `regardless of how we got here, I respect that’s how you’re feeling … and I’ll let you play’.”
“I want to look forward and look to our supporters to lead us out of here. Maybe test the test next week or whenever that comes.
“This is a game ultimately owned by our supporters and ultimately we need their leadership on this issue.”