Melbourne’s sporting world has had some unfortunate run-ins with racism in the last year. The attack on Menachem Vorchheimer by a group of Ocean Grove footballers (one of whom was later awarded ‘best and fairest’ by the club) on October 14 last year got things started and McKinnon Cricket Club kept the ball rolling when a number of their players made anti-Semitic comments on Facebook around August (the club expelled a number of players and the Victorian Turf Cricket Association suspended others).
Now, Melbourne Knights Stadium in the multicultural suburb of Sunshine has scored a racially vilifying hat trick by playing host to a neo-Nazi concert on Saturday night. In a political climate which could be charitably described as ‘racially tense’, this was probably not a good thing.
The yearly event – a tribute to deceased British fascist Ian Stuart Donaldson (lead singer of musically-challenged white power band Skrewdriver) – was organised by Blood & Honour and the Southern Cross Hammerskins, local branches of international networks responsible for numerous racist assaults, murders and bombings. Last year’s concert at the Birmingham Hotel in Fitzroy resulted in a racist attack on a young black woman who was walking by. She was surrounded by fascists who held her against her will and made her repeat racial slurs regarding her heritage. The subsequent publicity (and a community boycott) has seen a marked decrease in punk gigs and patronage at the pub.
Anti-fascists (including FightDemBack!, of which I am a member) discovered the venue of this year’s gig at around 4pm on Saturday and, in the hopes that the venue would follow the example of the Sherwood Elks Lodge in Oregon (who had cancelled a Hammerskins gig the week previous at the last minute), began calling anyone they could find associated with the club. The bookings manager denied all knowledge. The responses of Melbourne Knights junior coaches to requests to pass the information up the food chain ran the gamut from abject indifference through to sympathy with the neo-Nazis. One coach referred to his caller as a “dirty Jew” and hung up.
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The bookings manager at the Melbourne Croatian Social Club (who own the stadium) again denied on Monday morning that the event took place. They say that the only event at the club over the weekend was a group watching the Croatia Vs. Israel game at 4.15 am on Sunday morning. But a Victoria Police spokesperson confirmed to Crikey that the event had indeed taken place at the club and was “closely monitored”.
Football Federation Victoria investigated the incident and found the Melbourne Knights were unaware. The same, according to FFV, could not be said of the social club. FFV says that the social club claimed it was a simple rock concert, and actually wanted them to clear out so they could watch their game. There is no indication that the club wanted them to leave because they had draped swastikas about the place.
At this stage, it remains unclear what action, if any, will be taken against the club.