Bradley Hatter chose the first day of AFL season to launch his new initiative: a truly inclusive football club: the “Melbourne All Football League”.
“I want it to be a welcoming place for all footballers – not just for AFL players. The true sporting spirit doesn’t exclude anyone, but is inclusive. We want to include all codes of football in Australia, including soccer, in our club. In fact, we plan to go even further than that: this will be a club for any sport whatsoever.”
Mr Hatter recently resigned as coach of the Dinglybell Football club in Melbourne’s outer east. He said that he was fed up with the restrictive, exclusive rules that were imposed on the club by the Victorian AFL Association.
“That’s not the sporting spirit. The sporting spirit says everyone is welcome, with no limitations or expectations. We won’t turn anyone away. We won’t put demands or set limitations on who could or could not be part of this club.”
One of the members of his new club, Jenny Simonsez, demonstrates just how seriously Mr Hatter takes that position. Ms Simonsez said that she doesn’t even like football.
“I’ve always felt excluded as a football hater in Melbourne,” she said. “Now at last, I have found a football club that I can join and not be expected to like football or even follow it. Brad is a true visionary. This is the way of the future.”
Mr Hatter says that his new football club also welcomes basketballers, cyclists, and table tennis players.
“I don’t ask questions about what sport you follow. We don’t use brand names in the new Melbourne AFL”.
Nor do they have club colours. According to Mr Hatter and his club members, team colours are just another way of creating difference and excluding “the other”.
“We don’t have a uniform, or colours, or team outfit. Everyone is an individual here. If anyone wants to adopt colours for our inclusive Football club, then I guess the most appropriate would be a rainbow!” he joked.
The new club is having some difficulty getting recognition as an Incorporated Body by Consumer Affairs Victoria, as they steadfastly refuse to appoint officers such as President, Secretary or Treasurer.
“We don’t want anything to do with hierarchy in our club. If you turn up, and its your first time, you have as much say in how this club is run as those who come every Saturday.”
The Melbourne All Football Club doesn’t play against other teams – part of their policy is not to be involved in competitive games. So what do they do on Saturday mornings?
“We do everything,” says Johnny Star, an enthusiastic member of the new inclusive club. “We get a whole lot of balls, footballs, soccerballs, cricket balls, volleyballs, and even a few racquets and bats, and throw them into the ring and everyone can do what they like. No one keeps score either. It’s really liberating. An opportunity to express your individuality without the constrictions of having to be a team player.”
At this stage, there has been no response from the Victorian AFL Association. Off the record, however, one highly placed AFL official has said: “It’s stupid. It’s self-centred. It won’t last because they are just a bunch of individuals doing their own thing.”
Mr Hatter says that’s the point.