Good sorts, bad sports and what’s really inappropriate in footy

By Ruth Limkin

I’m the first to applaud when people or organisations promote a culture of respect for women.

But I’m at a loss as to why Peter Peters, the media manager for Manly Sea Eagles, was suspended for calling a female reporter a ‘good sort’. His subsequent parting of ways with the club, with redundancy package, is apparently due to more than just this statement. However, that he was even suspended for making that statement in the first place, beggars belief.

Perhaps calling an attractive female reporter ‘a good sort’ is a stark departure from a culture that Manly Sea Eagles has carefully cultivated – one which respects women, and which strictly avoids their objectification? After all, it’s not like the Manly Sea Eagles have cheerleaders dressed in skimpy outfits that barely cover their breasts.  Oh hang on. They do.

Then, when I was reading about Peters’ situation on the Daily Telegraph website, there was a side bar showing content from Footy Social. It featured comments from footballers answering the question, “What would be your ultimate night out?”

Leaving aside whether we really need to solicit such information from footballers, ready to be served up so easily to fans young and old,  I noticed one comment in particular.

The answer to the ultimate night out was given as follows: “Probably start down the pub and have a few beers and a bet with a few of the boys and just relax. Then it’s always a good night when all of the boys get together and we go to a club and hit some place up. Well [sic] stay in the corner and have a ball. You see the boys in a whole new light and a lot of them get a whole lot more comfortable around you and they do things that they normally wouldn’t. We have a good group of guys that stick together and there is always a few who will go out on the weekend and you can always have a good night.”

In other words, Footy Social was promoting the concept of having a few beers and gambling, and then going to a nightclub where you can drink more and lose your inhibitions.

Football does indeed have an image problem. Club managers could certainly clean up the culture and environment that footballers both inhabit and create. I’m just not sure that suspending a media manager for a relatively benign comment is of any use. It may even be counter-productive. An overreaction in club discipline can create disdain around the disciplinary process itself and cause a loss of respect for any boundaries that club officials later put in place.

By the way, in an ironic coincidence, the footballer who made the comment above was Adam Watmough. He’s from Manly Sea Eagles.

I just hope that next time, when Adam goes out for a few drinks, a gamble, and then a few more drinks, he doesn’t call anyone ‘a good sort’. There’ll be hell to pay.

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ruth@ruthlimkin.com