When footballers raise funds to defend a rape trial

St Kilda footballer Stephen Milne leaving the Magistrates Court.

St Kilda footballer Stephen Milne leaving the Magistrates Court. Photo: Justin McManus JZM


Last Sunday, it was revealed members of the St Kilda football team were attempting to help fund former teammate Stephen Milne’s legal defence. Milne - an alleged rapist referred to regularly by the media as ‘troubled’ - will front court in August 2014 relating to sexual assault charges dating back to 2004.

His former teammates have approached club sponsors, coterie members and prominent supporters in a bid to finance Milne’s legal team. In an email used to solicit the funds, Milne was described as a ‘loyal servant’ and a ‘proud man’. One can presume the latter means he is too proud to ask for help, while the former is a reference to the years of loyalty he’s given The Club - loyalty that deserves to re-paid now by The Powers That Be.

Stephen Milne and his wife Melissa Rudling leave court.

Stephen Milne and his wife Melissa Rudling leave court. Photo: Scott Barbour

While one member of the St Kilda Halo Coterie described the request as ‘a disgrace’, two other club benefactors defended the players, saying “they’re a close bunch and they’re obviously helping out a mate.” 


In the world of football, mateship is king. It matters little that Milne is financially well placed to fund his own defence because this isn’t about money. It’s about solidarity and closing ranks, ‘bros before hoes’ and a team united. Most galling about it though is how it once again reflects the lack of interest in supporting the victims of alleged crimes - particularly sexual ones - especially where masculine codes of power are concerned.

If the St Kilda members pursuing these fundraising goals are successful, they’re not just providing Milne with a defence. They’re telling his alleged victim (who, for better or worse, believes she has a case against him) that Milne has the weight of privilege and power on his side. It isn’t the first time a woman has come up against the enormous weight of the AFL.

In 2009, former Carlton Club president John Elliott revealed the club had paid ‘hush money’ over the years to women who claimed they’d been raped or assaulted by their players. In retaliation, Carlton banned Elliott.

For all the lip service it pays to tackling violence against women, the AFL has been fairly weak in its approach to actually achieving these goals. From various people, I have heard whispers of parts of the football culture that never make the news; parties in which women are corralled into private rooms for the pick of players swarming about; ‘pranks’ such as those outlined in Anna Krien’s excellent book Night Games, in which players do such vile things as shit into the shoes of women they’re fucking as part of a group; players notorious for targeting drunk women and raping them while they’re passed out.

And while I’m prepared to accept that some of these stories are untrue, logic tells me that not all of them are. Being a part of the AFL imbues its players with an enormous amount of privilege and entitlement, two of the key ingredients that drive rape culture. I will say this right now - I believe that the AFL and its coterie of teams is harbouring rapists, and that the methods they choose to address this are inadequate at best.

Whenever charges are brought against AFL players (and such a thing is rare - despite more than 30 allegations having been made against players over the years, only a handful have resulted in criminal charges and not a single one has resulted in conviction), discussion ensues about due process and the presumption of innocence before guilt.

I don’t know whether or not Milne has done the things he’s accused of, and I acknowledge that this is for a court to decide (while remembering that a verdict of Not Guilty does not necessarily mean She Lied). But I do know that, after initially bungling the case, Victoria Police have since decided there is sufficient evidence to pursue charges against Milne. This is an enormous victory for the victims of sexual violence, because it demonstrates to them that with the right political will, the law can be on their side.

Because I also know that a society that bends over backwards to ensure its sporting heroes are given the full respect of both the law and a ponderous public rarely extends the same respect to the alleged victims deserving of their own day in court. For all the accusations of bias against feminists and supporters of victims, there is little attempt made to hide the bias in those determined to make excuses for men accused of sex crimes.

To wit: that the cry of ‘innocent until proven guilty!’ is often a betrayal of another belief - that these men are the innocent victims of a lying woman and a feminist agenda to invade masculine annals of power and destroy them from the ground up. Stephen Milne’s mates’ attempts to fund his defence is just another example of footy boys sticking together, closing ranks and reinforcing the other code that often goes hand in hand with the code of football - that of silence. 



  • I understand the angst to think people are funding to support an alleged rapist, "how could they!" but one should remember once the allegations are made, the legal process is an adversarial one and it takes over. Prosecutors try to go for a punishment far beyond what the facts suggest, and the defense the opposite side. And that battle is what is costly. If anyone accused of any crime doesn't have adequate defense, a prosecutor can over-reach the actual crime of the person by quite a bit - with state funded support to do so. And, while they did X, the could get punished for a severity not in line with the facts or truth of the situation. Try to separate the crime from the cost of a process.

    Date and time
    December 03, 2013, 5:23AM
    • No matter what crime a person my be accused, even one as heinous as sexual assault, they are still, I believe, entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I would hope my friends and family would afford me their support if I should ever be accused of a crime and, as a principle, we should not prejudge. Let the judicial process run and the facts and allegations be aired and tested. Should this man be guilty, then may the full force of the law fall upon him. Until then, let's not become hysterical simply because the nature of the alleged crime is a sex assault against a woman.

      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 9:01AM
    • I think you might be missing the point of the article.

      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 9:03AM
    • Agreed - the legal expense of a trial also falls on the innocent (or otherwise found not guilty). It is not supposed to be a consolation punishment to those who misunderstand the concept "innocent until proven guilty".

      Providing financial support to a friend who faces significant costs in a legal battle against the state isn't condoning what he is alleged to have done or presuming innocence any more than advocating for police action is presuming guilt. They're both steps to a trial where guilt is or isn't determined in the best way we can.

      No, not guilty doesn't mean she lied. It doesn't mean he got away with it. Both deserve the presumption of innocence.

      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 10:23AM
    • 100% agree. If the author of this article has problems with someone accused of a crime fundraising for their defence - take it up with the legal system.

      Money can and often does buy better legal defence, and our legal system revolves around that fact. If that worries you (and it probably should) then the problem is the legal system, not someone doing a whip-around to pay for their defence.

      Get a Grip
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 12:15PM
    • @ Warwick,

      How about, let's not use the word "hysterical" to belittle and silence women having a rational discussion about sexual assault.

      Red Pony
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 1:45PM
    • The point is not the guys are putting in money, its the fact that they contacted sponsers of their club and asked for donations and it is those sponsers that have come out saying they had been approached and want nothing to do with it.
      Just another case of dumb footballers, put in your own money if you feel the need but don't ask your employer to do it.
      It has nothing to do with guilty or not guilty. Clubs and their sponsers should have nothing to do with either present or past players legal problems.
      The article is just saying that they truely live in the world of their own and agree. Who goes and asks their employer to donate funds to an ex employees legal costs for any legal matter that has nothing to do with them. Nobody does that...

      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 3:02PM
  • This article makes absolutely no sense? You seem to be saying that it is somehow wrong for someone to defend themselves against accusations or alternatively go bankrupt paying their legal bills when accused.

    It also seems to suggest that the correct action when someone is accused of a crime is to assume they are guilty and treat them as such.

    Instead of taking sides we should all be there to support and encourage and impartial judicial process so that both parties get their day in court..

    Date and time
    December 03, 2013, 8:51AM
    • @Flingebunt

      I agree with you. I don't see a problem with people supporting someone that they believe to be innocent.

      Clementine, just because he is a footballer doesn't mean he is automatically guilty.

      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 10:16AM
    • "... just because he is a footballer doesn't mean he is automatically guilty."

      @Telfest: I'd suggest that because he is a footballer he is automatically NOT guilty. When have you seen any of these guys get convicted of anything.

      And as far as innocent until proven guilty goes, 'Milney', proud man that he is, was able to play on in spite of being charged with a serious criminal offence; Andrew Lovett however was sacked by St Kilda before his case even went to trial. So innocent until proven guilty works for some and not others it seems.

      Mr Eddy
      Date and time
      December 03, 2013, 11:57AM

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