F*ck football. There, I said it.
When I tell you I am so fucking tired of hearing about football, it's the understatement of the year. I know it's ~un-Australian~ and has reverse-not-like-other-girls energy, but I am just sick. and. tired. Footy players are held up like the heroes of our society when they're really just overpaid, overgrown children who never cared to learn right from wrong. My deep-seated hatred for this sport, and more specifically, its role in society has come to head today after it has built exponentially over the past eighteen months. A lot of experts say that COVID has highlighted class division in our societies, and the NRL is a great example of that. The NRL has operated outside the rules throughout the entire pandemic, and what they continue to get away with is fucking outrageous. but it's not remotely surprising given they have the full support of the Government at every turn.
Nothing stops the footy
Brisbane went into a four day lockdown at the beginning of July. It was a planned three-day lockdown with one day's extension. And guess what happened the day following our release back into the world? A fucking footy game. At Suncorp Stadium. With full crowds. Any way you look at it, it's totally ridiculous. A stadium packed with people yelling and drinking and probably touching each other too much. A lot of critics claim that the lockdown was lifted just in time for the football, and while there's no proof to this, it does seem too convenient to be a coincidence.
The lockdown party
Just a few days later, we find out about a party of NRL players in Sydney in the midst of a strict lockdown and escalating COVID cases. NRL players who either didn't think the rules applied to them or just didn't care. They have been fined over $300 000 for flouting lockdown rules, after reportedly attempting to flee the scene when police arrived. Among the party goers was Jack de Belin, a name you might recognise from the sexual assault charge made against him that was dropped in May.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that the host of the illegal party, Paul Vaughan, has been fired from his NRL team. He went on NRL 360 (yes that is unfortunately a show that exists) to say how ~devastated~ and ~sorry~ he is, and to insist he's ~still a good person.~ And to that I say, who the fuck cares? He had three strikes to use, and he used them. Someone in an 'ordinary' job probably wouldn't have had that many. And while I know it's worth mentioning that in this specific instance someone did see consequences, that's the absolute exception for the rule. What is so newsworthy about 'employee breaks rules after multiple warnings, gets terminated'!? This should be normal.
InQueensland recently published an article that brought into question how much the Queensland Government paid to being the NRL to the state. The main point of the piece was surrounding box seat tickets that senior members of the Queensland Labor party were enjoying after this deal was made, but many people were completely unaware the Government actually paid to bring many of the NRL teams and games to Queensland in the first place. The Government will not disclose the amount they paid, but you can imagine it was a lot of cash. The Government paid to have this overprivileged and entitled pack move in to Queensland. Keep that in mind.
The players associated staff were moved into Novotel hotels in the Gold Coast and Brisbane, which resulted in one couple having to cancel part of their wedding, which was set to take place at the Novotel Surfers Paradise. NRL took precedent. Then media stories started pouring out about the players breaching quarantine, passing stuff to one another over balconies, and the Sunday Mail claimed that "NRL wives are being treated worse than prisoners," which I wholeheartedly fucking doubt.
A special rule for footy
After all of this, and after South East Queensland is put into the strictest lockdown yet, resulting in businesses closing and no social visits for any citizens, the NRL is going ahead in Brisbane. Three games were played at Suncorp today, with no crowds. After Dr Jeanette Young distinctly stated "there will be no football games" on Saturday, the NRL is hosting three games today. Dr Young addressed this at this morning's press conference, saying that the NRL presenter her with a COVID Safe plan that would mean the games were of minimal risk.
I am so, so sorry to every small business that is struggling and had to watch that announcement. The footy is not an essential service. Their special allowances comes down to money. The Government paid big bucks to bring games here and are looking for a return on investment, and the NRL itself needs to recoup the money they lost on live audiences with TV advertising. As a part-time supporter of the Labor Government, and someone who has felt comforted by their strict approaches to lockdown, this was an absolute slap in the face. This Government has spent the entirety of COVID claiming they are doing their absolute best to prioritise the health of Queensland citizens and pointing fingers at other Governments who prioritised the economy. And today they have given special dispensation to sports teams
How many small businesses were given the option to create a COVID Safe plan and open as usual during the strict lockdowns that are currently happening in Brisbane and Sydney, and that have been experienced by most major cities in Australia? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it's fucking none.
We asked our followers, who said:
"We've had a COVID Safe plan since we re-opened last year, but can't hold functions so I have no job"
"I work for a charity who has had to stop providing services"
"Let the fkn arts industry back first"
Getting away with murder
I will say for legal reasons that is just an expression and not a fact, but at this point I honestly wouldn't be surprised. Footy players are untouchable in our society, and the existence of these publicly adored athletes breeds rape culture. Football players have gotten away with harassment, assault, rape, unlawful, and unethical behaviour. Not only do they get away with it, but their clubs cover it up, support them through it, and make damn sure their job is waiting when they get back from those pesky court cases. Football encourages rape culture.
I worked for a brief time at a bar that only opened on game nights. I don't like to stereotype, but the crowd that the NRL brought in was absolutely horrendous. I would dread going to work for the week leading up to my shift on a game day. I would be leered at, harassed, touched, leant on, hit on, and completely demeaned each and every game night. And that's just my experience from one bar in one suburb. There was a stark difference in the patrons on an NRL night to another sport. Boxing fans were a bloody delight in comparison. There was also a difference depending on which team was playing. The worst offenders were fans of a certain Brisbane team that I won't name. But it's the one you're thinking.
Professional, widely televised sport is entertainment. But it's entertainment aimed at white men, making it worlds more valid in society than movies, YouTube, or TikTok. During COVID, Hollywood sets were shut down, cinemas were closed, and game arcades were non-existent. But special rules have been made for a football game. Fans claim that the footy is more than just entertainment, that it is a show of sportsmanship and athleticism, that it bring people together, that it is part of our very culture.
These players have so much power and influence. Kids look up to them, adults idolise them, and our society loves them. With influence comes responsibility, and currently that responsibility is being ignored. To the contrary, their managers and clubs are enabling them, enforcing the idea that they are above us all, that they live outside the rules. And if the Government also reinforces that, what hope do we have of anything changing?