It’s doubtful the good old boys at AFL House drink anything but the sponsor’s brew or from the top shelf, but perhaps the old non-alcoholic Clayton’s tipple would be more appropriate given the inebriated crisis management and non-penalising penalties that’ve become footy’s forte.
Of course commercial considerations dictate perception is everything to the AFL and its clubs, so practiced at spinning their way out of all manner of strife. Ironically, the great lengths and depths that administrators have delved to uphold a veneer of integrity has itself required a complete lack thereof.
And fittingly the price for playing us all for fools has been greater fallout.
Football folk have become so accustomed to the AFL’s ways there’s almost a glaze-eyed sense of resignation over the latest revelations of backroom deals and incompetency which have amounted to a bungled non-closure of the Essendon saga.
Notwithstanding, there’s a good deal of head scratching by the average Joe who’d think an offer of paid study leave and a two year contract extension would be a fantastical outcome for ultimately costing their employer $2m and a trashed reputation. Meanwhile Bomber Thompson, who it must be said did act with some integrity, had his $30,000 fine offset by a significant pay increase as Hird’s interim replacement.
Christmas is coming and it remains to be seen whether individual players will be served by ASADA, a mysterious body now appealing the 18 month penalty dispensed to Ahmed Saad for an over-the-counter energy drink only banned on match days. The circumstances differ, but Saad must be feeling lonely on a limb considering a known rogue operator’s unnecessary, dangerous and systematic program, so poorly run the lack of records and collusion to mislead has ASADA straining for evidence to punish believed Bomber transgressors.
It’s a perverse system of justice which sees the most serious breaches of AFL rules and integrity afforded the most delicately procured settlements. Such as Melbourne’s tanking that wasn’t, that for show demanded a Clayton’s $500,000 fine consequently reimbursed by the AFL.
A year ago Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg was found guilty of breaking salary cap and drafting rules, only to be back in charge six months later. Yep, that’ll send a message… Ya gotta be connected in this business.
It’s not just the much maligned governing body that expedites outcomes in order to ride out the daily news cycle.
Whilst Gold Coast was criticised for the delay in inevitably sacking Campbell Brown for breaking a teammate’s jaw for something to do with Rihanna (WTF?), there was a due process to be followed. Yet the attempt to tie it all up in a nice pretty bow escaped scrutiny.
Brown, who himself tweeted last year that a fatal king hit in King’s Cross was worthy of the death penalty, appeared more intent ensuring the narrative didn’t jeopardise any post career possibilities.
“I crossed the line a few times but I think I can walk away from the game with my head held high” said Brown.
And only by good fortune walks teammate Steve May.
Meanwhile, Suns CEO Travis Auld thought it important to note that Brown had not ‘king hit’ May. Well, Brown did have the courtesy not to whack May from behind, but it hardly lessened the potential gravity given Brown’s genealogy and demonstrated on-field capacity to inflict harm.
Whilst one empathises with the sudden closure of a footballer’s career, such pangs are mitigated by a purported 75% salary payment for not having to play. Once again, a negotiated and contrived penalty urges us to move on, after dinner Clayton’s all round.
As Ned Kelly said back in the days when punishment was exactly that;
‘Such is life’.