Castigate – the AFL scandal

 

 

From an uncannily innocuous inception similar to the matter of fact break in that incited the Watergate Scandal (Nixon and “Deep Throat’; what an unfortunate coincidence) the Castigate scandal is about to blow the AFL open. No doubt there are plans being identified and executed at this very moment to make the whole unfortunate business disappear as quickly as a Collingwood suspension at appeal, but this one is real and is a worst-case scenario for Andrew Demetriou and his spin doctors.

 

What started out as a bit of a good old fashioned shellacking down at the old Shell Stadium has slowly gained momentum through the seemingly normal blood-letting process that any club in Melbourne’s position would undertake. With Dean Bailey pilloried from both within and outside the club the ‘Castigate’ headline is derived.

 

After taking it on the chin and paying the ultimate, but not unexpected price, Bailey has let something slip out. Whether by mistake or on purpose it matters not for the lid to Pandora’s box is well and truly ajar and the only way for the AFL to manage the situation is through a full, open and robust investigation rather than attempting to wave the magic wand and make it disappear.

 

The statement by Bailey that “I had no hesitation at all in the first two years in ensuring the club was well placed for draft picks,” and “I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club and I did it. I put players in different positions.” (Herald Sun – 2nd August 2011) must be of course be of great concern to the AFL hierarchy.

 

Part of Adrian Anderson’s response is quoted as “Well obviously that would be something that would concern us. But in this case, in my discussion with Dean anyway, I can’t see anything even close to an admission that has taken place in this particular case.” (Herald Sun – 2nd August 2011). Great it’s all settled then. We can let the matter rest.

 

This may well be adequate to suffice the perceived needs of the governing body of a high profile business expecting to get its own way through a contrived mixture of bully and bluff but I would argue that there are peripheral matters directly affected by any action that a coach, such as Bailey in this instance, has undertaken while executing his duties to his employer, whether they are formally identified in the job description or not.

 

For example the AFL has recently taken a very open chest-beating stand on the issue of investigating, punishing and exposing official football stakeholders who are seen to bring the game into disrepute through gambling on games, or parts thereof. This appears more than a little hypocritical as they still encourage the push selling of footy betting with their encouraging live odds to be placed on scoreboards or during given during broadcasts of any game.

 

So the question should be asked. If tanking has occurred how has it affected the returns to the average ‘Joe’ or ‘Jenny’ punter who have in good faith place bets on match results, or parts thereof?

 

I would argue that any statement from an AFL official, with a very obvious vested interest, noting that they as an individual are satisfied that ever thing is kosher has no credibility until the tanking issue is tested by an independent body through the appropriate instruments. Fortunately in the Australian democracy that exists outside the cloisters of the AFL such a body and instruments exist. They are of course the Federal Police working under the aspects of common law. A few people under oath in a court of law may get a reluctant larynx or two moving.

 

I have often stated that it is only a matter of time before the AFL’s management practices will take it to a point where there will be an apparent conflict between some of those activities and common law. The time is now. I have often mirthfully been labelled by some Knackers as a conspiracy theorist. That I may well be but I can see, think and I certainly am not a luddite.

 

An opportunity currently exists for a couple of the wannabe space cadet journalists, in the ilk of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodard to get their teeth into this one. But here comes the conspiracy bit again. ‘Can’t help myself, bad habits’. Who will be brave or in corruptible enough to have a crack at this one. What pressure would be applied and from where to stop any scrutiny, and what is really at stake here.

 

With the priority draft system in place for a considerable time the starting point would be to dissect the process and outcomes and ask a few questions which could include:

 

Which clubs have received priority picks in the past?;

Where did they finish prior to and after the priority pick?;

What games did they lose during the season and when?;

Who did they get?

And perhaps further, what bets were placed on their team as well as the opposition, and by whom, during the seasons the clubs received priority picks?

I believe the point that Adrian Anderson makes regarding the future of the priority draft system being under review is as close to an admission of a problem you will get from such an unaccountable body.

If ‘tanking’ has not occurred, as Adrian Anderson states, then he, his peers and officials at clubs that have received priority picks have nothing to fear. One of the niggling questions that has clouded the AFL’s integrity will be answered and everyone can move on.

 

If tanking has occurred there is an issue of public interest important enough to be investigated with the same commitment that any other one involving alleged corrupt business practices would be pursued The questions need asking immediately.

 

I trust that there is enough integrity in our legal system to give this one a real shake, but the cynic in me says that nothing will happen because if the matter is put through the ringer the mess will contaminate many, will be very unpalatable, and the outfall will eventually cause grief to the untouchables.

 

Comments

  1. Skip of Skipton says:

    Collingwood’s rapid descent and rise surrounding their drafting of Thomas (2) and Pendlebury (5) in ’05 looks the most suspicious to me.

  2. Dave Nadel says:

    I would have thought three years of tanking on Carlton’s part was more serious. The problem is that it is not the same as match fixing. Clubs tank for one reason and one reason only. So that they can get better draft picks. If that screws up gamblers I couldn’t care less. The clubs’ responsibility is to their supporters not to bookies and punters.

    If you don’t want tanking, go back to zoned footy, which would bring the game closer to the supporters. So long as you have preferential drafts clubs will manipulate the system to improve their draft prospects. If, God forbid, you think that the principal point of the game is gambling, go away and bet on the horses. The principal point of football is to win – ask Dean Bailey and Neil Craig and clubs can and will exploit legal loopholes – they have been doing it since the VFA was formed in 1877.

  3. If you’re on the board or the coaching panel at a club that’s going nowhere at Usain Bolt speed, it’s not a bad piece of spin-doctoring if you can convince the masses that the reason your mob are stone motherless last isn’t because you’re the worst team in the competition, but because it’s all part of some Baldrickesque ‘cunning plan’ to do a number on the AFL. It gives an illusion of being in control. (Cue ‘The Emperors New Clothes.’)

    It may have happened at various clubs (although crap teams losing really isn’t conclusive evidence of much) but a lot of the talk about tanking has the first letter about three short on the alphabet (or three keys too far to the right if you’re typing it). And if they are right about Melbourne throwing games, there is precious little evidence that their skullduggery will bear fruit any time soon.

  4. Mark Doyle says:

    Phantom, you cannot be serious as a former tennis player was want to scream at umpires. This issue of “tanking” is a beatup! Comparisons with Watergate and recent player betting incidents are spurious.

    Notwithstanding a clubs access to both high and priority draft selections, the real issue for an AFL club to be successful is the quality of it’s administration, recruiting, coaching and the provision of adequate resources for sports medicine and sports science.

    It is not necessary for a club to have top 5 or priority draft selections to be successful. Geelong’s recent success is a good example.

    Also, I believe the definition and parametres of what is “tanking” are not clear. I do not believe it to be match fixing. It is more likely to be nothing more than sensible future planning when a club realises it is unlikely to play finals and it is decided to focus on an early pre-season and player development. This is neither contrary to AFL rules nor immoral nor unethical.

    Finally, we do not need any legal investigation, which would be a waste of money and counter productive.

    Let us just enjoy the footy which is culminating in a great finals series!

    Go Cats!

  5. Skip of Skipton says:

    Dave, Carlton never tanked (they were genuinely useless) until the latter stages of ’07 when it became apparent that to do otherwise would be self-harming.
    The politburo had re-jigged the rules for priority pick eligibility in ’06, (following Collingwood’s ‘smash and grab’ in ’05) determining that two consecutive seasons with 4 wins or less was the new criterion. It was too late in stopping Carlton; but Melbourne, because of their victory in the R22 ’07 ‘Kreuzer Cup’, ended up (sans the benefit of hindsight) denying themselves a priority pick the following year.
    As for gambling, it is caveat emptor, and anyone with any discernment would steer clear when the pestilent odour of tanking is about.
    I’ve always thought that zones and a draft could co-exist. Each club can nominate 1 recruit from their zone, and then onto the draft.

  6. Skip of Skipton says:

    This weeks Brisbane vs. Adelaide match is a classic example of one to avoid because of the tanking factor. It is in neithers interest to win. It’s a minus 8 point game! The possible difference between pick 8 and pick 12 or 14 is at stake. And if this draft is as shallow as they say then that could be a bigger difference than it looks on paper.

  7. Of course tanking happened, regardless of what the politburo says. The incentive/reward for not winning enough games and getting the extra priority pick were just too great. Good objective, incompetently executed. As Angry thinly implied, just get rid of it once the GCS/WSG folly is implemented.
    Case closed. No one died except for Melbourne Footy Club. They got some short term ‘elixir of youth’ magic potion when they needed a heart transplant.

  8. When I was young the church told me
    A mortal sin was wanking
    But in my mind a far worse sin
    Is AFL teams tanking

  9. Phantom – a vexed issue in these times of AFL socialism. There needs to be a mechanism to get crap teams off the bottom, but even the draft doesn’t stop teams from struggling (North, Dogs, Port et al). Perhaps a simple lottery system for the bottom eight teams solves the problem such that the team that finishes last isn’t guaranteed the first pick.

    Unleash Sly of the Underworld onto this story.

  10. I refer back to the bit about J and J placing the compulsory bet one a game with the belief that both teams are out to win.

    If it was the case that one club that was travelling in darkness, and not necessarily Melbourne, could see a few bright lights up ahead and made a decision to veer off course to get to those bright lights I argue that that is technically match fixing.

    We all scorn the Pakis for their alleged dirty deeds but are blind to any sort of match fixing in Australia because we would hate to believe that our great game is corrupt.

    Why is this? Is it because we are naively blind or stupid or does it move through the murky edges of xenophobia.

    I am aware that something needs to be done if the 18 team system is to attain and maintain viability – no arguement there, but am just pointing out some quite apparent aspects of concern.

    To use semantics tanking is match fixing. Get it, tanking is match fixing and when we have an officially sanctioned system of betting on games or part thereof, the match fixing is highly incompatable with fair anfd legal process.

    Of course the issue will be glossed over by people with vested interests. But I maintain the arguement that we need to dig deep into the match fixing (tanking) issue in AFL football. Until we do the game is tainted.

    As i write this I am looking out the window (Dips). The sun is rising in the east and from what I see I am of the belief that it is morning. Some may try to convince me otherwise but I know what I see.

    Tanking is match fixing. Match fixing is a crime.

  11. John Mosig says:

    Phanto – it’s only a crime if you get caught. And no one has been caught here. Ask Angry Adrian. He said he was satisfied. So there you have it. Or maybe he’s guilty of one of Gigs’ mortal sins.

    I notice no one has accused the Tigers of tanking. Probably for one simple reason, they don’t have to.

    And what’s the case for charging an administration with sabotaging a team with poor draft picks – see above and add Terry Wallace & Greg Miller.

  12. lee donovan says:

    bring back the zones-I look forward to Freo getting half of WA every year

  13. The NRL took the lead on dealing with cheats.
    The AFL must make a strong statement.
    I propose stripping Melbourne of those wooden spoons immediately!

  14. Phantom

    There are more examples of tanking in the AFL than what appeared in the Battle of the Bulge.

  15. MEMO TO AFL OSTRICHES AND NAVEL GAZERS:
    This tanking issue is starting to gain a bit of momentum. “From little things big things grow”

    You don’t necessarily have to eat a prune to start a movement.

  16. Andrew Fithall says:

    Maybe someone can point me in the right direction, but I cannot find anywhere in the laws of the game where it says that it must be the objective of the competing teams to endeavour to win the game. What law proscribes “tanking”? In horse racing and professional running there are specific laws about running on merit and “every chance to win”. I can find nothing equivalent in Australian Football rules.

    On the other hand – this is specifically written in the rules:

    Purpose of Laws
    These Laws explain how a Match of Australian Football is played and seek to attain the following objectives:

    (a) to ensure that the game of Australian Football is played in a fair manner and a spirit of true sportsmanship…

    I would say that Collingwood winning easily at half time but beating Gold Coast by only the half time margin would be in the spirit of this law and true sportsmanship. Geelong beating Melbourne by 30 goals would be contrary to this law. What is the penalty?

  17. Rick Kane says:

    I’m with you on this one Mr Phantom. I believe I wrote a quite passionate piece about tanking for this website after Melbourne did what it did two years ago.

    At its core, the Draft is merely a mechanism for sharing the up and coming talented youth as fairly as possible across all teams. But teams and the media fixate on it as if of and by itself it is the elixir to a footy club’s problems. Are there any academic (quantitative and qualitative) investigations into the positive cause and effects of clubs getting ‘better’ draft picks? Without qualified analysis, we are all speculating in the wind. And that is a core problem. Teams like Melbourne (and many others besides) think and plan superficially, as if Draft selection #1 will redeem them. That is the point at which the notion of tanking becomes an alluring option. Like a tin pot gambler they risk the integrity of their history and the meaning of the contest to secure another roll of the dice. And based on what? Simplistic and under informed reasoning, that’s what. It is gambling by any other name. And it needs to be called for what it is.

    But more than that, it is counter-intuitive to the reasons we love and follow footy. A simplistic argument might be that you must lose the battle to win the war (and I do apologise for using war as metaphor because if there is something I despair more about than how gambling is slowly strangling football beauty’s life-blood, it is how footy attempts to tie itself to the values and principles of war). Tanking is not about losing a battle, it is about disregarding the basic principles you stand for. It is saying that honour and service are secondary to cunning and short cuts. Tanking didn’t bring about Bailey’s downfall but it certainly didn’t cover him or Melbourne in glory.

    Cheers

  18. Chalkdog says:

    Conspiracy v Stuff Up
    Its usually a stuff up. But in this case I smell a rat that looks like a conspiracy to me.

    When the News Ltd owned NRL investigated the News Ltd owned Melb Storm over payment irregularities there could only be one outcome. The one News Ltd wanted.

    Now the AFL are challenged on multiple fronts ie Tanking & players being wooed while still under contract what do they do?
    Call an independant enquiry into the matters?
    Set their own Integrity Dept onto the matter?
    Say nothing until the facts are revealed?

    None of the above. They roll out Andrews head kicker who tells us all its good for the game and that “there’s nothing to see here so we should all move on!”

    It beggars belief. Even coloful footbal identities think it stinks and we know how fast and loose some of them can be with the rules….

  19. Point taken Andrew but I am unable to accept the soft approach.

    When someone bets on a result they expect a result to be achieved without match fixing.

    Tanking is match fixing. Match fixing is a crime. Tanking is a crime. There needs to be an investigation by the Federal Police. This is a very big issue.

  20. Skip of Skipton says:

    Phantom, did you see Greg Baum’s article in Friday’s Age on Collingwood’s TANK in ’05?

  21. Skip of Skipton says:

    The compensation to Collingwood for a Thomas or Pendlebury leaving to soak in the mega-coin of a GWS money spree should be nought. Zero. Pfft, and Zip. Zero Kelvin!

  22. Nice one Skip.

    I haven’t seen it, But I will. There are afew on to it. Obviously the Age subscribe to the Knacker Blog.

    This one is not going away till the AFL get honest.

    My father once said to me.

    “When you are on to something you bite it like a dog on a leg. When your teeth get through the trousers and hit flesh you continue to bite till your teeth hit bone. When they hit bone you continue to bite till they meet teeth”

    The AFL is in big trouble over this. They know.

  23. Greg is a good writer on any subject with no impact on Collingwood.

    While we’re on the subject of dodgy Collingwood late-season efforts, I think we may now be ready to take a look at finals-bound Collingwood sides somehow managing to lose to Essendon in late 06 and Richmond in late 07. In each case the opposition were Carlton’s main competition for the wooden spoon.

    I’ve heard worse conspiracy theories….

  24. Phantom,

    I’ll let you have tanking is match fixing, cause I can’t think of any reason why it isn’t. But where is the line? Coaches picking yoof over maturity once finals are out of the picture…could they be accused of tanking? Or is it only when players are played out of position?

    I guess it’s clear for others, but I find the whole business murky. It may be a Pandora’s box to open, but I wager in more ways than we suspect. Sure, we might rat out a few who actively tried to lose games, and so we damn well should*, but is it possible that make it even less acceptable than it already is for teams to bottom out?

    For me, it’s the Phyrrhic victories that are the worst. Bouts like the Kruezer Cup are to be avoided at all costs. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I never want to see a game played in our competition where losing is a smart thing to do. Cascading drafts (Richmond gets pick 1 in 2015, pick 18 in 2016, pick 2 in 2017, and so forth) or a weighted lottery might not be perfect, but surely there is something out there better than the priority pick.

    You are right though Phantom. The whole thing stinks, and having all these big wins and non-competitive games right now….it’s a worry. Bring back the final four?

    Cheers.

    *I’ve also heard of a game in ’99, Cats v Freo, which Freo supposedly “threw”

  25. Skip of Skipton says:

    Most artfully tanked by the Lions there today. They have another very tankable contest vs. the Gold Coast next week too!

  26. Dave Nadel says:

    Tanking is not match fixing. Match fixing is tampering with the result of a game to for purposes of winning money in a bet, Tanking is clubs making selection or interchange decisions likely to end up in defeats and the club finishing in a ladder position which will give it draft advantages.

    Match fixing involves wrecking the competition fot the benefit of corrupt gamblers and bookies. Tanking involves the clubs themselves damaging the competition for the future competitive advantage of their clubs.

    Match fixing is a crime. Tanking is the result of poor administration of the competition.

    The way to get rid of tanking is to change the recruitment system. Either by bringing back zoning (which could be done in a way that is not in retraint of trade and which does not breach Crockett’s ruling in the matter of Foschini) or by keeping the draft but instituting a draw between the bottom six clubs for draft order so that there is no advantage in finishing last. I prefer the return of zoning but the draft draw requires less change and is more likely to win AFL support.

    Much of the fuss about tanking isn’t about unfair draft advantages reaped by Melbourne and Carlton (and on one-off occasions by Collingwood and Hawthorn, it is about the fact that tanked game disadvantages punters. My response to this is tough sh*t. If I had my way neither Sportsbet nor the TAB would carry Footy Bets. I would prefer Football betting restricted to wagers between friends and tipping comps.

  27. Yeah I agree – what happens to people betting on matches, fails the patent Malcolm Blight Rat’s Tossbag Test by the biggest margin so far recorded.

  28. Simplistic semantic smokescreen Dave.

    Tanking is match fixing. The desired outcome is a red herring.

    Tanking is match fixing; match fixing is a crime; therefore match fixing is a crime and should be investigated.

    I am currently seeking advice regarding the process for me as a citizen of Australia to lodge a complaint requesting an investigation.

    ‘The mouse that roared’

    (No doubt you would approve of a lone comerade standing up to the bougeoisie establishment)

  29. Dave Nadel says:

    The best of luck you, Comrade Walker, but we have different agendas. I am not interested in the fate of gamblers, I don’t particularly like clubs getting unfair advantage ( particularly when, depite JG’s post, Carlton have been the most successful tankers) but what I am really interested in is abolishing the draft.

    Pre-Foschini, drafting meant that most players in Melbourne played for their local club which was usually also the club they barracked for. Country drafting was a bit more problematic and Interstate recruitment was a matter of money that was often unfair to the players original clubs. Zoning would need to be done differently in the modern world with 18 clubs in five states. It would also need to allow players to refuse zoned offers to comply with Foschini. But it could be done and, it would not only abolish tanking, it would also bring professional football closer to its grass roots.

    Just to stave off anti-Pies comments my hostitlty to the draft is not a hostility to an equalised competition, but I believe that the Salary Cap rather than the Draft is the main cause of the equalised competition.

  30. Dave Nadel says:

    I must improve my typing and proof reading. The post I was referring to was posted by John Butler (JB) not John Gutler (JG)

  31. Yes Dave, bring back the zone system.

    The Geelong Falcons are producing some beauties and we aren’t getting them all.

    I am also not one to support gambling. My gambling example is just a means to an end. It appears the gambling section of the world is one of the few that the AFL takes seriously. The AFL currently needs a shake up. All I will do is ask the question.

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