James Hird and I have very few things in common but one similarity is that neither of us will be coaching Essendon next year.
The similarities end though, in that he will be paid for not doing that and I continue to receive no payment from the club whilst I maintain my distance from them.
I note that Essendon will post a loss for 2013, in part due to the $2M fine they received from the AFL. If they wanted to save money, I would have happily volunteered to not coach the club for a far smaller amount than Hird will receive for doing the same thing.
To call the latest instalment of this sorry saga a joke, a sham and a farce is to give it credit it doesn’t deserve.
The dealings behind the scenes put to shame any corporate wheeling and dealings I have seen or been associated with in corporate life and would earn the respect of unscrupulous car salesmen, real estate agents and politicians.
In an effort to make this ugly issue go away before the season’s showpiece, the AFL finals, the league administrators and Commission rushed through a deal that has come back and placed large teeth firmly in their behinds.
The AFL has effectively been outwitted by their employees, by the very people who are supposed to be subject to the rules of the Commission. Essendon, credit where it is due, have trumped their masters and done as they please. The threat of significant legal action against an organisation well known for wanting to do private deals in lieu of public and legal brawls, meant Essendon have done better out of this than they should have.
The fines are immaterial, as this money gets drip fed back to clubs in monthly instalments, so that is all window dressing and funny accounting. The Melbourne tanking fines are a clear indication that fines are meaningless.
The suspensions of Hird and Corcoran were headlines, but to be paid whilst not doing your job, (much as it must have severely irritated Hird to have any semblance of dirt on his cape) means nothing. Hird as recently as last night has been publically assured by his Chairman that he will return to coach the club in 2015, and there’s no way that Mark Thomson (fined but then in receipt of a salary increase) would stand in his way.
The AFL CEO, as is his want, belittles and ridicules anyone who says that he is not in possession of the facts, then quietly finds out he is wrong about Hird being paid. The compromise? A lump sum as a pre-Christmas gift?!
If this was a corporate situation, the Board will have been removed or at best, the CEO asked to step aside. Failing in your duty of care to the organisation or, worse, your employees, can get you jailed or barred from holding director positions in the business world. Better administrators than Demetriou have fallen far whilst still showing better displays of competence in their roles. As he starts what will surely be his yearlong farewell, his credibility and prospects for a significant leadership role post this one would have reduced I am sure.
What is out of the AFL’s hands is what the AFL always dreads. They don’t like things they can’t manage or influence. ASADA are on the horizon, and WADA don’t look in a mood to deal with the AFL the way the AFL is used to managing affairs that impact them. Already, the AFL has taken a knock with their suspension of St Kilda’s Saad being challenged by ASADA for its (supposed) leniency. This does not augur well for the Essendon players.
My estemmed colleague Craig Little posed a number of important and very good questions in the 2013 Footy Almanac regarding Stephen Dank.
What substances were the players given? And why don’t Essendon know? Simple questions that should have simple answers. These two are the cornerstones of the problem. To blame this lack of knowledge on the silence of a single man is simplistic and means there’s a chance the Switkowski report may have been light-on in its criticisms.
We don’t know what they took. We do know James Hird will get a full year’s salary whilst being barred from performing his role. We do know that Mark Thompson will take on a more senior role and salary in 2014. We do know that all action against Bruce Reid went away. We do know that Essendon will mount a vigorous defence of their termination of The Weapon. We do know Paul Little hates to lose.
In a bizarre way, you have to admire Essendon. They have fought for what they believe is right, showed breathtaking arrogance, outwitted the AFL in legal arguments and come out of this well. The asterix against their 2013 ladder position will eventually be like the one against Murali’s wickets.
When Essendon sacked Matthew Knights and appointed James Hird, they started the return of Essendon as the villain. Under Knights, the club was no longer feared and hated, more pitied and passed by. The Hird coup signified a closing of ranks, a refusal to care what others thought of them and a desire for an us-against-them attitude that had been so successful under Sheedy.
In the long run, the players will suffer. Livelihoods will be innocently lost, careers cut short, health possibly compromised.
The club however will blithely carry on. They have shown they don’t care, they have shown they will fight, but most of all, they have got away with it as a club, so far.
If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.