Australians love to tell you that their’s is a country where everyone is given a fair go, but is that really true? Many in Australia were quick to criticise the South African quota system post-apartheid saying that this was unfair. It was, but integration had to take place and at the time this seemed the best way; yet 20 years later it should no longer exist, but that is a story for another day.
One of the most famous situations under the South African quota system happened in Perth when Jacques Rudolph an up and coming white cricketer at the time had been named in the Test Match team to take on Australia, but was then dropped and replaced by Shaun Ontong, a player of colour because of the number of players of colour required under the quota system had not been met. This was in no way Ontong’s fault and put him in a very awkward position.
Supersport’s rugby commentator Owen Nkumane was the first Black player – not coloured – to play for the Springboks, again as a result of the quota system, yet by his own admission he did not deserve to be in the team. In fact he has stated that his premature promotion ruined his rugby career, as he wasn’t ready and knew he was not in the team on merit.
Squads in sport can be about integration on any level, but teams should always be picked on merit. The best eleven, fifteen or however many make up a team in each sport should be the ones who take to the field, pitch or court. It should always be the best players going head to head, and even more so when fans and members of the public are paying to watch that sport.
Sadly in the National Premier Leagues Football competition in Western Australia selection is not based on merit, and currently a league that was supposed to be an improvement on its predecessor the State League, is suffering. Coaches are forced to field a team based on a points system whereby points are awarded to each player based on their age, and how long they have been at the said club. It is a system that is prejudiced against more experienced players, players who could help younger ones develop. It is a system that has seen some of the top players over 25 years of age walk away and opt to or be forced to play amateur football, and the game is suffering for it. It is a sad situation when last year’s Fairest and Best in the State who won a car from sponsors McInerney Ford is no longer playing in the competition. It also raises the issue as to whether this year’s winner really is the best player.
When this move to an age related points system was mooted Not The Footy Show spoke to employment law representatives who advised that it was a move that was illegal. We also highlighted that it would be the clubs who were held accountable as they were the employers, and Football West, the game’s governing body who was enforcing the rule, would not be the ones to take the flack in legal terms.
Now some will say that dance is not a sport, but having had Rudolf Nureyev featured on the cover of Time magazine alongside the caption, “Is this the World’s Greatest Athlete” the issue is open for debate. It is interesting to look at the case of American born ballet dancer Kimberley Glasco who sued the National Ballet of Canada.
Glasco had been appointed by her fellow peers as one of two representatives to speak on behalf of the dancers at board level, she spoke up about the dancers concerns that wages were dropping but work was increasing. As one of the higher paid earners she was likely to suffer the least, but she still spoke up for her fellow dancers. She rocked the boat. The Ballet company then took the option of firing her claiming she was too old at 38 years of age. She filed an unfair labor practise complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and also sued for libel and slander as the National ballet had labelled her “deadwood.”
While the case was pending her lawyers applied to an arbitrator for interim re-instatement arguing that a ballerina – like any top sportsman – being prevented from dancing for any length of time risked losing her artistic skills, reputation and identity. The arbitrator ruled in favour of the dancer.
Just like footballers, ballet dancers are not supposed to speak up, they are not supposed to have opinions and the National Ballet tried to label Glasco as a trouble maker, and she was even said “to lack class” for taking her grievance into the public domain. However the public and her fellow dancers rallied behind her, after all the greatest of them all Margot Fonteyn had danced at the Royal Ballet until she was 59 years old. Just as Ryan Giggs played Premier League football at 40, Dino Zoff won the World Cup aged 40, Reg Davies made his debut for Western Australia’s state team at 42 years of age, age is not necessarily a restriction.
The National Ballet went to the courts and to arbitration on five occasions, with four different lawyers, and lost on every occasion. In 2000 Glasco received a substantial payment in exchange for her waiving her right to return to the ballet company.
The courts ruled that the rights of dismissal were based on non-artistic reasons. This can easily be translated to the football field, where currently the ability to play at the highest level is being restricted based on reasons that have nothing to do with ability or skill in that field.
This is not good for the game, it is not good for society as a whole. Is it really being fair and living up to the Australian ideal that everyone is given “a fair go?” The question is will anyone do anything about it and stand up to the powers that be as Glasco did?
It was Martin Luther King who said “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The selection of any one in any position should always be based on merit and merit alone, to make decisions based on any other factor does all a disservice, and at present individuals have been lost to the game and the game as a whole is suffering because of discrimination.