In 1964, the committee commissioned by US President Lyndon Johnson into the 1963 assasination of President John F Kennedy, which came to be known as the Warren Commission, presented its findings that Lee Harvey Oswald (and Jack Ruby) acted alone. The theory of the second gunman, the ’grassy knoll’ and any wider conspiracies were dismissed.
Since then, the Warren Commission has been held to ridicule in many sectors of the US and international community as being either naive or a conspiracy in itself. There were US comedians at the time who would simply read exerpts from the report as their act, so much was the finding seen as bizarre, almost comedic and certainly wrong.
Whilst any comparison of sport to death and tragedy is trivial and sensationalism, it is a reasonable link to say that the announcement of the outcomes of the long investigation by the AFL into the Melbourne tanking issue of 2009 is our Warren Commission.
The summary of the findings seems to be that: Melbourne didn’t do it, but they have been fined anyway; there were no deliberate actions taken to lose but the person responsible for coaching the club at the time is suspended; and that a bloke in charge made a silly comment and so loses his ability to act in his role for 12 months.
To say this is a travesty of justice is too much. In simpler terms, it just adds a whole lot more levels of stupid to the situation.
There will be all sorts of reasons given by people as to why the AFL copped out on this. Either the AFL didn’t want to admit this happened and be exposed to chasing other clubs who may have done the same thing in previous years. Or that they were worried by the spectre of gamblers who wished to pursue the retrieval of monies bet on games that weren’t legit. Or that having had a CEO, (interestingly absent from the proceeding throughout) deny in the strongest terms that it ever occurred, and then claim that anyone who was found guilty would be out of footy forever, be seen to be out of touch with his own rules, organisation and consituents, was beyond the pale.
For whatever reason you choose as to why the AFL acted the way they did, including economic realism and rationalism, it is simply one of the most baffling decisions ever taken by this organisation, which seems to be lurching from one reactive scandal to another.
Despite salary cap dodging, drugs, betting on games or the quiet departure of three senoir executives from the organisation in recent months, this decison simply ranks as the poorest and most gutless we have seen.
This is not Melbourne bashing, as many Dees supporters insisted and supported their club was tanking and are still happy to admit the club did set out to lose.
I do not wish to see a club that has worked hard to get itself back in the black punished. However, in my (admittedly limited) legal knowledge, “everyone else was doing it” is not a legitimate legal defense to breaking the law.
I attended the 2009 Richmond vs Melbourne game where a kick after the siren won the game for the Tigers and I have never heard so much laughing from supporters of both sides during a game. Melbourne supporters, bizarre and unacceptable as it was, actively supported a loss.
And before anyone turns this into a partisan supporter based argument, I absolutely admit that Terry Wallace is on the record as Richmond coach in saying he didn’t do anything to win a particular game during his tenure, that led to draft picks.
And for anyone to say that Carlton didn’t do it is simply living in fairyland.
But that’s not the point though as to who did it and who didn’t. The AFL chose to pursue one club in one season, and their findings would by any reasonable measure be found to be laughably short of what is required by a controlling organisation and ruling body.
In light of seemingly clear evidence (and the usual battening down of the hatches and clamming up that often happens when men in sport are confronted by their misdeeds), the AFL have chosen to publically hold themselves to ridicule.
How does someone be barred from acting in their chosen profession when the club they were responsible for has been found not to have acted improperly. And when that coach has already admitted upon his departure he did what he could for the betterment of the club in the long term? Bailey is the patsy in this saga, and his reputation besmirched.
The realist in me shouldn’t be surprised.The conspiracy theorist in me definitely isn’t.
But the football fan in me is sad, disappointed and frustated.
This is a rubbish and cowardly decision that defies all logic and cannot be justified. Worse, it treats its customers like idiots.
I can only hope that the $500K fine is put to good use at AFL House.
Either run some governance and ethics training or put it into grass roots Auskick and local footy. Because they are the people ignored by decisions likes this.