This year has seen a dramatic growth in the diverse nature of the game we love so much, footy. We have seen a major step in including a section of footy supporters and players that had in the past been relegated to nothing more than onlookers, with the establishment of the Women’ League in AFL. The clubs that have been the ones leading the change feel not only honoured to be a part of the beginning of what will hopefully be an exciting part of the AFL, but it gives these clubs a chance to become more focused on the needs of their entire supporter base, not just a gendered part. It means that women, girls, females are now a vital component in the game of AFL in all areas. Carlton, one of the clubs fielding a women’s team, saw the need to enlist the voices of its women supporters on a personal connection by hosting a Carlton Listens to Women forum at Ikon Park on Thursday 11th August 2017. I was privileged to be a part of that.
As myself and other passionate Carlton women sat in the George Harris function room, we listened to Kate Jenkins (Sex Discrimination Commissioner and a Board member of Carlton FC), we listened to Mary Crooks (Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust and Board sub-committee member of the Carlton FC) and we listened to Steven Trigg, CEO and Mark LoGuidice, President of Carlton FC. We listened as each outlined the reasoning behind this forum and what its purpose was. Being the skeptic that I am, I was, well skeptical, not anymore. After the speeches, we women had the chance to dicuss in groups what is it we, the women in Carlton thought about not only footy but the club as well.
Carlton FC as a whole, its players, coaches, administrators want to listen to the women who support Carlton, who are members of the club to find out what they can do to ensure that the club creates a sense of belonging to a club that is over 150 years old. That it is a club of diversity in all areas from ethnicity, race, religion and gender. That it empowers women to embrace the Carlton FC as being a one that respects women across the board, that it encourages women who can now look to Carlton with a renewed respect because they too are respected.
Family violence is becoming prevalent in our society to the point where not a day goes by when a woman is made to feel unsafe in her home by the hands of someone who should make her feel quite the opposite. When a sporting club that has been in the past so firmly male dominated, reaches out to its female supporters to really listen to what they want from the club to be part of the club, you have to admire what they are doing and embrace it.
For what they are doing is changing the attitudes of everyone involved in the sport. By becoming more inclusive, more encouraging and more engaging with its members collectively, Carlton are paving the way to become a great club again, not just on the field. Sure we all want to see another silver trophy in the cabinet at Ikon Park, but we all want to know that we are part of that, no matter our ethnicity or gender.
Carlton have made great strides in their quest to becoming a club that is great again, that is a leader in the AFL and not just a hanger-on. There is a renewed sense of what can be achieved if you work collectively, Brendon Bolton states that, the players state that, the coaches state that, and the Carlton FC as a whole state that. Exciting times ahead my friends, exciting times ahead.
#BOUND BY BLUE