Australian football team fined after Josh Cavallo hit with ‘unacceptable’ homophobic fan abuse

Joshua Cavallo wears a white and black patterned football jersey as he warms up before a match

Australian football team Melbourne Victory is facing a steep fine over homophobic abuse directed at gay footballer Josh Cavallo.

The A-League club has been fined $5,000 AUD (£2,650) by Football Australia after fans hurled hateful abuse at Josh Cavallo when his team Adelaide United played Melbourne Victory on 8 January.

James Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, condemned the homophobic abuse and thanked Cavallo for his “courage in calling out this unacceptable behaviour”.

“This is a case of a small number of individuals acting in a way that does not reflect the values of our sport,” he said.

“To be clear, the actions of the spectators responsible for using homophobic slurs against Josh Cavallo were completely unacceptable.”

In a statement, Football Australia said it had considered Victory’s prompt statement denouncing fans’ behaviour and its commitment to banning “any individuals identified as having engaged in the conduct from attending future matches” when issuing the fine.

It added that the money will be used to “further invest in LGBTQ+ awareness and education initiatives” in the sport.

Johnson said the governing body looks at all incidents on a “case-by-case basis” and takes into consideration the “totality of the situation and behaviours”.

Melbourne Victory hadn’t been “sitting on its hands” and has taken a “strong stance against anti-social behaviour” both before and after the homophobic incident, he added.

Josh Cavallo runs alongside a football while wearing a red jersey

Josh Cavallo plays during the round nine A-League Men’s match between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United on 8 January 2022. (Getty/Graham Denholm)

Josh Cavallo, who came out in October, swiftly condemned the actions of the individuals at the January match in a statement on Twitter.

He said there were “no words” to express how “disappointed” he was after fans lobbed slurs and booed him from the stands.

“As a society, it shows we still face these problems in 2022,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable.”

Cavallo received further abuse on social media.

He called upon social media giants Instagram and Twitter to tackle online bullying as no one should “have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received”.

Police have reportedly been asked by Adelaide United to investigate death threats, abuse and disturbing messages directed at Josh Cavallo through social media.