The Australian Football League (AFL) has been praised for continuing not to schedule matches on Good Friday, despite mounting pressure from clubs and other sporting codes.
Last week North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow defended the league’s stance, giving it his full support.
Swallow is a committed Christian, who hails from Western Australia and attended Rehoboth Christian College in Perth’s southern suburbs.
“I just don’t think football should be played on Good Friday. It should be left a day where there’s no football at all,” Swallow said.
The AFL’s chief executive officer, Andrew Demetriou, is also against playing matches on Good Friday, but state football leagues have not followed the AFL’s lead.
In 2011 the Western Australian Football League (WAFL) held two matches on Good Friday for the first time in its 127-year history.
It continued to do so in 2012 and 2013.
Perth Catholic and WAFL boundary umpire Michael Harrington said it was important that more AFL players take a stand against playing football on Good Friday.
“I think it’s something we just have to continue to actively oppose, as long as it’s on the agenda,” he said.
“The more they hear voices against it, hopefully the greater chance they’ll do away with it in the WAFL.”
Mr Harrington said he was confident the WAFL would revert to its previous policy of not scheduling matches on Good Friday.
“If we continue to rally hard enough, then it’s probably only a matter of time before we can have it taken away from WA fixturing,” he said.
“There’s often different things that are trialed such as different rules during the pre-season. Some of these trialed changes end up being incorporated into the regular season … but others end up being canned altogether, as their trial has shown that they end up being inappropriate.
“I don’t think it will necessarily ever be a permanent fixture, as I would hope that at some point this “footy on Good Friday trial” will be seen for its genuine impudence, and canned like all other inappropriate experiments.”
Four AFL clubs, including North Melbourne, have strongly urged the AFL to allow them to play on Good Friday for several years.
If the clubs were successful in their bid, the North Melbourne skipper would have a major dilemma.
“We respect Andrew’s stance given his religious beliefs and background but we will continue to push for a Good Friday match now and into the future,” chief executive officer Carl Dilena said on the club’s website.
Proponents of playing football on Good Friday argue that other sports, such as rugby and soccer, have no issues scheduling games on the day.
The National Rugby League has held matches on Good Friday most seasons since the mid-1990s.
Mr Harrington said the AFL should be supported by the Christian community for continuing to uphold Good Friday as a day of religious significance.
“We’re not rugby, I think we’re a bit better than that. We’re a stand-alone code, independent of rugby, and I think we can set a pretty good example,” he said.
“From a state league perspective, we should be pointing to the current, and hopefully permanent, position of the AFL. They are the beacon and we should be rallying behind them.”