Port Adelaide will cancel the membership of a fan who threw a banana towards indigenous star Eddie Betts after the incident plunged the AFL once more into racism controversy.
The supporter was seen waving her middle finger at Betts before throwing the banana in his direction during Saturday night’s match between rivals Adelaide and Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.
Port Adelaide chairman David Koch said the club had identified the woman but had not yet managed to contact her as her phone was switched off.
“Above anything else I hope it was not racially motivated,” said Koch. “If it is I would be absolutely disgusted.”
Koch had also reached out to Betts, who endorsed the club’s planned approach to offer the young woman counselling.
Koch said the woman’s membership would be cancelled for 2017, and stood ready to take further action once they had spoken with her.
“We’re trying to investigate further into the motivation for doing that and why on earth anyone would think of doing it,” said Koch.
The racist practice of throwing bananas towards black soccer players has a long history in Europe.
Koch suggested he wasn’t willing to see it the act as racist until a club investigation had concluded.
“She looks like a mid-20-year-old young lady. We need to talk to her to determine whether the severity of the penalty needs to be extended,” he said.
“If it was racially motivated, not only would she be banned for life from the club, we would encourage her to come and sit with our players, our Aboriginal players and try to understand what these actions mean to them.
“If it wasn’t, it would be unfair to crucify a young lady.”
Koch claimed support from Betts for the club’s actions.
“Eddie is not only an incredible football player but an amazing human being,” he said.
“His response was … ‘I hope (the club is) not taking it personally, it’s across every club.
“He understands like us … that the lasting good, if any good can come from this, is to make sure no football crowd, no workplace, no family thinks this is acceptable behaviour.”
Koch asserted Port Adelaide, which has eight currently-listed indigenous players including Patrick Ryder and Chad Wingard, had “league-leading award-winning” Aboriginal support programs.
The AFL has reached out to the Power, offering “whatever assistance is required for the club to deal with the matter”.
“Such behaviour in any form will not be tolerated and the game must be a welcoming environment for all players and supporters,” an AFL statement read.
Both clubs have condemned the act.
Adelaide captain Taylor Walker Tweeted, “Absolutely disgusting! Shouldn’t ever be allowed back into enjoy the football. Very disappointing”.
The incident comes after much of the AFL’s 2015 season was marred by booing and racial vilification of Sydney’s indigenous star Adam Goodes.
Goodes, the 2006 Brownlow Medalist, retired at season’s end and declined a lap of honour on grand final day.