One of Australia’s biggest bodies has reportedly delivered a major snub to the Voice, dashing hopes it will be promoted in front of millions of viewers.
Sky News host Chris Kenny says former Australian rules footballer Michael Long wishes to visit London to ask King Charles to “endorse the Voice”.
Both the AFL and NRL declared in May support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum, with grand finals for both codes to take place before the October 14 vote.
Nine papers reported on Wednesday top government officials expected the events to deliver the Yes campaign’s message to millions of viewers.
But an AFL spokesman has told Nine newspapers the country’s biggest sporting body had declined to run Voice displays on game day – Saturday September 30.
The directive from the commission reportedly was that the AFL would not be actively campaigning during the September finals series.
High-level sources familiar with the commission’s decision said clubs and individual players would still be free to do so, if they chose.
Yes campaign sources told Nine a grand final day push could risk a backlash from fans who did not support the mixing of sport and politics.
“People just want to watch the footy,” one of the sources told Nine, while another said the AFL’s decision would not be breached.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has previously hit out at so-called “elites” in the AFL and NRL over their public support for the Yes campaign earlier this year.
“Their fans are really scratching their head as to why the elites within the sport (…) are taking a position in to the Voice,” Mr Dutton said.
The Voice campaign has garnered support from multiple high-profile current and former players, including Essedon’s Michael Long.
Long is currently walking from Melbourne to Canberra to drum up support for the Voice, and this week said he would also petition the King.
As for the NRL, who have also backed the Voice publicly, a spokesperson told Nine papers grand final plans had not been “finalised”.
A source familiar with the league’s plans said the NRL was developing plans to support the Yes campaign with an event(s) prior to the vote.
“The AFL is better at the optics, no question, but they’re currently making excuses to not get on board,” the source said.
Labor sources further alleged to the media that the decision to hold the referendum on October 14 was at least partly driven by the grand finals.
A range of ideas to promote the Voice during the events were reportedly discussed, including boundary line advertising and a recitation.