Meddling hands

On Tuesday the Herald Sun ran with this particular article.

Reaction, as can be seen in the article itself, was overwhelmingly negative. AFL Chief Andrew Demetriou was quick to get on the front foot, dismissing the article as poor journalism and saying he had been asked a hypothetical question and his response had been construed to imply the league was actually trying to get Franklin to the Giants. This is all well and good, except that in his rebuttal Demetriou effectively confirmed the aspect everyone was up in arms about anyway.

While a fired-up Demetriou confirmed the AFL could make Franklin an ambassador, he said the League would play no part in supplying any incentive for the Hawks star to leave the club.

“If they were to procure him and our commercial people came to me and said he would be good value as an ambassador then we would consider it,” Demetriou told SEN on Tuesday morning.

“But under no circumstance is the AFL interested in inducing any player to go to any other club; we wouldn’t do it.”

I love this. We’re not saying we’d help GWS secure Franklin. Not at all. What we are saying is that if he just happened to choose to go to GWS, then we would consider paying him an additional stack of money. I don’t know how clever Franklin is but I’m sure he or somebody close to him could join those dots together. If this interview was broadcast on television you can just picture Demetriou staring down the middle of the camera, smiling and winking, while Franklin watched from his living room.

Demetriou insists the AFL does not help clubs lure players away from other clubs, and in the same sentence states that the league would consider paying him as an ambassador if he joined a particular club. It’s either very brazen or horrifically clumsy. How can such a concession be seen as anything but a lure? If he happened to join this club, then we would consider paying him additional money. No promises though.

The qualifier that the ambassador question wouldn’t be addressed until after he signed is irrelevant. The seed has been planted. Franklin knows that if he chose to leave Hawthorn for the Giants, then there is a possibility he could get paid by both the Giants and the AFL. It’s farcical. It’s a joke, and Hawthorn, its fans, and I think football fans in general, have grounds to be concerned. It doesn’t even matter if Franklin leaves Hawthorn or not. It doesn’t even matter if he joins the Giants and doesn’t receive money from the AFL. What matters is he said it, and whether he intended to or not, he has provided additional incentive for Franklin to consider the Giants.

Why is Demetriou talking about it? Why are they commenting on player movement? They shouldn’t be talking about where they hope players play. They shouldn’t be talking about what could potentially happen if player x joins club y. They shouldn’t be sticking their nose in it. They are meant to oversee and administer the competition, but they seem to be getting more and more involved these days. It’s a competition. We have some teams, we have some rules. We let them compete, we step in when something particularly egregious happens, but for the most part we sit back with these predefined parameters and we see what happens. Instead the competition feels more and more like a reality television show. It operates under the guise of reality, but there are clearly visible strings and they are always being pulled. Some contestants are getting more screen time than others, the rules apply to some but not others, and the producers are giving a helping hand to some at the expense of others.

The whole “ambassador” issue is just another example of administrative meddling. Why do we need ambassadors? Why does the AFL need to pay certain players to be ambassadors? Why does the AFL consider paying players to be ambassadors when they play for specific clubs or in specific markets? What does an ambassador do? Surely the players themselves are “ambassadors” for the game anyway. Surely Franklin can be an ambassador for the game at any club? Why does he have to be at a particular club before an additional ambassador payment is considered?

In fact why is the league paying any player? The clubs pay the players. The fact the league even considers for a second, let alone actually does, pay players extra money outside of the salary cap for merely playing for a particular team or in a particular area, is offensive to the notion of an even competition. It doesn’t matter what guise they do it under, or what justification is offered, it’s wrong. It was wrong for the league to pay Folau any money outside of the Giants’ Total Player Payments Cap under the justification of growing the game in Western Sydney. It is wrong of the league to do the same with Hunt at the Gold Coast, and it was wrong of the league to pay Lockett money when he joined Sydney all those years ago. It doesn’t matter how important Sydney, or any suburb, city or state is to the game, as it is far less important than the integrity of the league.

If the league is going to directly or indirectly influence players joining certain clubs then we may as well not have a competition. If the league is going to manipulate mechanisms like the draft, player payments and player payment caps, in order to engineer particular outcomes, then what is the point of everyone else playing along? These things exist in order to keep the competition as even as possible. What is the point of having them if the AFL breaches their intent whenever it suits them?

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?


  1. The Wrap says

    Come on now. Why are we still debating the credibility of the AFL and Demetriou’s role in it? George Pell and the Vatican have more integrity right now. Look, if Scully’s old man can be worth two hundred K as a recruiter, I’m he for tiggy. And what was all that crap about Israel Folau?

    Poor old Kurk Tippett’s only mistake was that he didn’t go to or come from an AFL sanctioned club. And before you reach for the keyboard, Sydney & Adelaide are licensed clubs. GWS & GCFC are sanctified – oops, sanctioned – clubs.

    But as I started out, the man has the hide of a rhino and words aren’t going pull down. Help may be on the way. I hear they’re balloting spots on the grassy knoll. We just have to lure him into position.

    Anyone got any ideas? But make it soon, PLEASE. C’mon Jeff, you used to chew up petty tyrants like this before breakfast. It’s your marquee player that’s being poached, after all.

  2. I heard that Bob Brown has been employed by Hawthorn to “Save the Franklin”

    But seriously, this has all happened before – see Ablett to Gold Coast Suns

  3. No, Dips, it hasn’t. The AFL had nothing to do with Ablett heading north, Demetriou said so.

  4. Mark Doyle says

    This is another predictable article on this website by a person who is ignorant and naive about professional sport. This article is also an example of poor quality journalism and research which relies on poor quality Herald Sun journalism by an illinformed and inarticulate mickey mouse journalist such as Mark Robinson.
    I am also bemused at the ‘Comment Responses’ which are generally nothing more than cheap shots from the peanut gallery.
    I appreciate and understand that 95% of football supporters are only interested in the celebrity lives of their favourite players and 99% of sports journalists are only interested in the best beat-up of the week, but some of us are interested in the performance and skill of the players and the quality of management and administration of the AFL and the clubs.
    The AFL is the best football competition in the world. It is also the fairest competition because all clubs have an equal opportunity to be successful because of the draft and the salary cap.
    The 2013 footy season promises to be a great contest with 12 or 13 clubs having a realistic opportunity to make the final top eight and 6 or 7 clubs having a realistic opportunity to make the final top four.

  5. Sean, not sure if you’ve been slagged off by Mark Doyle before. I hadn’t until just then – I’m a peanut! David Downer, eat your heart out.

  6. Ben Footner says

    Gees, has the AFL got it’s own propaganda dept now? I can see it now, a bunker filled with rows of uniformed men trawling the interweb in defence of their ‘Beloved Leader’.

    Well done Mark, you have done your comrads proud in defending the creed against us evil and ill informed commoners.

  7. Mark – what is your response to the key questions raised in this article: should the AFL be paying players to be an amabassador outside of the salary cap? And does this impact the competition and the clubs unfairly?


  8. Adam Ritchie says

    I’ll be honest I’m not sure if Mark is being serious here. His comment is so indignant to the point where I wonder if it is actually a clever joke at our expense. Regardless, I think there is a big difference between articles on “celebrity lives” and the “beat-up of the week” and the AFL publicly admitting it would consider paying a player additional money outside of the salary cap if he happened to join a particular team. I think that is a serious issue worthy of discussion.

    I’d put forth the same questions Dips has above me.

  9. “95% of football supporters are only interested in the celebrity lives of their favourite players”

    Did you also know that 86% of all statistics are made up on the spot? And are you suggesting that 95,000 / 100,000 people at the “G” for last year’s grand final only cared about where Jude Bolton was going for dinner that night, rather than the skills on show in the game?

    And as for the fairness of the competition due to drafting rules and salary cap, you should try asking a Melbourne supporter if they feel like they’ve had a good deal the last two years…

    What does my opinion matter though, I’m just a member of the peanut gallery.

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