Football’s punishment paradox and integrity matters

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’.


About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Jeffery my boy, you’ve nailed it.

    Your complementary jeroboam of sparking Claytons is in the mail.

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Too true JD.
    An all too common thread in the conversations with fellow knackers at last week’s launch was the disenchantment many felt with the AFL. You can only fool all of the people for so long.

  3. Cat ftom the Country says

    The shenanigans of the AFL are sending mixed nessage right enough.
    Break a sporting code’s regulations and you will get a slap on the wrist, ulnless you come ftom another culture then we will crucify you.
    I feel for Ahmed Saad. His was a spur of the moment mistake. Essendon’s went on for almost a year. There is no justice in AFL!
    I can understand why so many have jumped ship.

    Perhaps the AFL need a new motto. They could take on Rotary’s 4 Way Test.
    1 Is it the truth?
    2 Is it fair to all concerned?
    3 Will it build better friendships and good will?
    4 Will it be beneficial to all?

    Now that would be something for which the the AFL can subscribe.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Jeff as correct spot on article ever written well done

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    Are we seriously shocked AFL corruption goes all the way to the top? Greed, Narcisism.

    They all must go; get people in who have the best interests of the game at heart.

  6. Thanks all for the supportive comments Knackers.

    I think it is our duty to call out both the AFL and the clubs for disrespecting the game and the fans which ultimately pay these suits their fat pay cheques. And the media who at times appear just as compromised.

    I agree with you Andrew – if it was me I’d be calling ‘side away’ and let’s start again. The frustrating thing is the millions who support the game, despite everything, are utterly powerless to affect change. And the clubs just vote in/support whoever or whatever they think will make the most bucks.

    Sure we can vote with our feet and switch off the TV, but who is that going to hurt more? The game has too many supporters by the short and curlies.

    Vive la revolution… not gonna happen I’m afraid.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Ahmet Saad = Big W shoplifter
    Geoff Shaw = Essendon

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    And let’s hope we don’t see C Brown riding the boundary anytime soon (ever) on Channel AFL

  9. This comment was barred by the Almanac legal eagles.

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