The Australian Football League (AFL) and the Collingwood Football Club have condemned a banner reading “Go Pies! Stop the Mosques” during a popular football game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Friday night, which was placed by far-right group United Patriots Front.
The banner, featuring the badge of the United Patriots Front, was taken down in the middle of the game while the men responsible were removed from the grounds.
The banner displayed at the game between Collingwood Football Club, nicknamed as the Pies, and Richmond Football Club was “divisive, ignorant and deeply offensive”, AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said on Saturday.
"Our game has a history of egalitarianism and inclusion, and we must make sure that it continues to be a place where all Australians feel welcome," he added.
"The sentiment on that banner, and the use of our game to push divisive and ignorant commentary will be rejected by our supporters and our clubs."
Collingwood FC said in a statement they were appalled by the banner and that “there is no place at Collingwood, or in our game, for such behaviour”.
Some AFL players, including Nic Naitanui, Majak Daw and Ahmed Saad, acted quick to discredit the banner and condemn it on social media.
— Nic Naitanui (@RealNaitanui) April 1, 2016
Islam, the fastest growing religion in Australia, is the third largest religion in Australia with more than 500,000 Muslims living in a population of 23 million.
Collingwood President Eddie McGuire, also a popular TV host, suggested the fans responsible should be banned for life.
"We're sick to death of people using the Collingwood Football Club and the AFL to absolute vile hatred," he told reporters on Saturday.
"We're all sick of it and we've had enough and we're appalled by it."
McGuire advised to “get rid of these idiots” who are responsible in wanting to “hijack what’s good in life”, as cited by local news.
The AFL, Australia’s most successful professional football league, condemned the behaviour on Twitter.
The AFL condemns the behaviour in the strongest terms and such actions have no place in society, and not in our game.
— AFL House (@AFL_House) April 1, 2016
The AFL has had several Muslim players on the big screen, with Bachar Houli being the latest icon. He is known to have played for Essendon FC and Richmond FC after entering the AFL in 2006.