United fans fight racial slur ban

Jay (middle left) and Caleb (middle right) cheering on Western United with the active support group. (supplied)

When Western United takes to the pitch for their first home games at Tarneit in coming weeks, three devoted green and black supporters won’t be among them after copping 18 month bans for alleged racial abuse. Gerald Lynch spoke to the devastated fans who say their appeals to prove themselves innocent of wrongdoing at a recent game have fallen on deaf ears.

During a match between Western United FC Women and Perth Glory FC Women on December 22, Football Australia officials say they were alerted to a serious incident involving alleged racial vilification directed at a Perth Glory FC player by spectators.

Three Werribee locals and Western United members were identified as the culprits, but they are adamant that the FA has wrongly accused and reprimanded them.

Caleb Trimble, 30, was enjoying the match at City Vista in Caroline Springs with his close friends Andrew Tran, 30, who has level two autism, and Jay Sutcliffe, 28, who is in the battle of his life with stage four bowel cancer, when they were approached by an FA official and questioned about racist comments.

After trying to help officials pinpoint the offender, Caleb couldn’t believe it when a letter arrived at his house, informing him that he and his friends were being accused of being the culprits.

“I was completely shocked and appalled to find out that I had been accused of racist language,” Caleb said.

“Jay, Andrew, and myself were chanting, cheering and supporting our team with passion, but in no way, shape or form did any of us use the language that we are being accused of.

“Later on in the game we had security come up to us to ask us some questions about what had happened over there. We relayed all of the information that we had to them along with providing our details to help them out.”

The three men worked with security and FA officials who approached them, believing they were merely assisting with the investigation as they were in the vicinity of the incident, until letters arrived detailing the gravity of the situation.

Caleb claims the officals accused them of directing a racial slur at one of the Perth Glory players.

“I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the fact that the Perth Glory players were subjected to such disgusting language and behaviour at one of our home games and I am of the firm belief that no one should have to deal with such things at all, let alone playing the sport that they love,“ he said.

Facing an 18 month ban, Jay Sutcliffe fears he may have seen his last game of football.

“In April 2023, I was suddenly diagnosed with incurable and terminal stage four bowel cancer,” he said.

“This ban is actually quite terrifying for me as there is a good chance I won’t live another 18 months, which would mean I’ve seen my last game of live football.

“Football is one of the highlights of my life at the moment. It helps me feel normal for 90 minutes a week and I would be absolutely devastated if I were never able to attend a game again for something I had no part in.”

Jay said he couldn’t make sense of how he came to be accused, saying the information the trio was told doesn’t match up.

“I fully deny taking part in any sort of anti-social, discriminatory or racist behaviour,” he said.

“They told us our comments were audible via the broadcast of the match, and after carefully reviewing the footage from when these comments were made, between the 22nd and 27th minute of the game, I could not hear myself, Caleb or Andrew make any comments other than supportive comments towards Hannah Keane and Chloe Logarzo regarding their shots at goal.

“As a foundation member of Western United, and as one of the people who helped start the Western Service crew active support, I understand the importance of inclusivity to help grow and support football in Australia.

”I have attended hundreds of games and become friends with supporters, club staff and players of various cultures, backgrounds and identities and I would never do anything to put them in a position where they feel vilified for simply being who they are.

“Western United and the community we are starting to build around the club mean everything to me and I will always try and make anyone involved with our sport feel as welcome as possible.“

A spokesperson for the FA said a strict zero racism policy is enforced.

“As the governing body of football in Australia, we hold a firm stance against any form of racial vilification or anti-social behaviour,” the spokesperson said.

“The actions of these individuals not only breached the A-League Terms of Admission and our Spectator Code of Behaviour but fundamentally contradicted the values of respect and inclusivity that Football Australia stands for.

“In response, Football Australia issued an 18 month ban to these spectators, effective immediately. This ban encompasses all matches sanctioned by Football Australia, including National Team matches, Australia Cup matches, A-Leagues matches, National Second Tier matches, and National Premier League matches. We are committed to ensuring that football remains a sport that unites communities and offers a safe and respectful environment for all.“

“An official at the match identified the three persons in question at the time of the incident. The facts gathered during the investigation confirmed names and details of the incident, which led to their respective bans.“

Star Weekly understands officials from Western United and FA were set to meet this week to discuss the ban.

Star Weekly approached Western United for comment.