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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

AFL Drug-Takers Named and Shamed

The three AFL players who have already tested positive - TWICE - to taking recreational drug are having their fates determined in Victoria's Supreme Court right now. At issue is whether or not they can be named in the media. The AFL and AFL players' union are arguing against it, while the media (led by The Age) are arguing for disclosure.

The gist of the case made by The Age is that the names of the three are already available on discussion forums on the internet. I've seen these names, but on legal advice, I can't provide a link. In fact, I'd be a real yahoo if I even alluded to which Australian sports discussion group people should narrow their search. No one wants a contempt of court charge.

White Line Fever
(Digital image: Michael Whitehead)
More discussion online at The Age

It's worth asking what the fuss is about. Why not name the players? Brendan Gale, head honcho at the AFL players guild, let slip the real reasons:

"Association president Brendan Gale has said in an affidavit that identifying the players could prejudice their abilities to renew or renegotiate playing contracts." (The Age, 23/5/06)

Got that? The players' marketability would go down if clubs properly factored in the risks of injury, poor performance, illegal activities, loss of sponsorship or match suspensions associated with drug-use. So, the answer is to hide that information from clubs! Outrageous, hypocritical and dangerous.

Contrast that with the position on Rugby Union's breaking Wendell Sailor scandal. Wendell tested positive to cocaine last month, the public knew about it and Wendell was suspended pending further testing. If he's found positive, he gets banned from elite sport for two years. End of story.

What do we get? Massive leniency (no naming/shaming until the third offence) for the players plus they get to limit our free speech in order to artificially inflate their market prices! Trampling on basic human rights in order to make an ill-gotten buck ... we'd only tolerate that for our beloved football stars.

Rest assured, if the injunction on my free speech is lifted, I will immediately name and shame the players. If you want to be first in the know, I suggest you register your email address over their on the right and get the scoop. Of course, the courts in Victoria have a history of siding with AFL players, so it's entirely possible that the injunction will stand. In which case, the three in question - and hundreds like them - will be snorting their way to the bank.

*** UPDATE ***

For those of you playing at home, it's not looking good. Here's a quick summary: The names of the players were somehow obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald and placed on its website. Within hours, legal action saw that removed. But not before thousands of people saw it. The AFL and AFLPA have dropped legal action against the ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency) but are pursuing the injunction stopping the media from further naming the players. But it was too late; the cat's out of the bag and the names were duly listed and discussed on online discussion boards up and down the country.

The Age (among others) has argued that the names are already public so there's no point stopping the newspapers printing it. However, the barrister for the AFL, Will Houghton, QC, is now arguing that the "cat's out the bag" argument doesn't wash, on the grounds that:

... the dissemination of the names had been "quite limited", existing only of their narrow release by a media monitoring organisation, a brief mention of one of them by a caller to a pay TV show and their appearance on the internet.

Mr Houghton said the internet argument relied on by the newspaper could not be sustained.

He said chat rooms such as those which speculated on the identity of the players contained no more than "informal ramblings".


"It is a far cry from dissemination in a serious form of media," Mr Houghton said.

"These chat rooms do not purport to report the facts." (The Age, 24/5/2006)

Yeah, the internet isn't a serious form of media, more of a fad. It's not "really" public unless it's been tapped out in Morse code by ham radio operators, or pressed onto 78s.

Unfortunately, given the average age of judges in the Supreme Court, this style of argumentum ad antiquitatem might just get up.

*** UPDATE ***

The Victorian County Court's Justice Murray Kellam has reserved his decision on whether to keep the ban on free speech in place permanently. This means he will be mulling it over (pardon the expression) during the coming weeks. He will have to way up such meaty issues as whether putting the players' names on the Sydney Morning Herald website, mentioning them on pay TV and having them bandied about various online discussion forums counts as "escaping into the public domain". While this might seem like a no-brainer to anyone but the AFL, its players' union and those in its employ ... no, wait, it really is a no-brainer. Sheesh!

Other tough issues include: Should hapless clubs be denied the right to factor in the financial risks of drug abuse when spending millions of dollars on star players? Is it right that footballers are entitled to two consequence-free drug binges ("free kicks" as it were)? Can it be justified to gag free speech in this state to ensure that these professional athletes can engage in criminal acts? What about sponsors and club members being embarrassed by disgraceful the players' drug-induced behaviour - but not being able to anything about it until they've tested positive three times? And lastly, is it in the public interest for anti-footballer bloggers to be denied such a rich vein of ridicule and derision?

In any case, I'll be sure to follow this story closely so the wave of mockery and self-righteous indignation can begin as soon possible. Either way.

*** UPDATE ***

Further breaking news ... it seems the injunction may be lifted so that the Federal Police can get to the bottom of how the names were leaked in the first place.

THE Australian Federal Police says it cannot properly investigate how the names of three alleged drug-taking AFL players reached the media because of a court order suppressing the players' identities.

The force wants the order changed, saying potential witnesses have expressed fear that the injunction might prevent them from co-operating with police.

"This fear is currently impeding the orderly progress of the investigation," says an affidavit sworn by Richard Boughton, a senior lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor. (The Age, 8/6/2006)

I'm sure that Franz Kafka is holed up in an ethereal bureaucratic insectorium, smiling down on this farce.

*** UPDATE ***

In a triumph for drug-taking Aussie Rules players, a Victorian court has permanently gagged the media from revealing the names of the three who twice tested positive:
Justice Murray Kellam today said he would uphold an application for a permanent injunction suppressing the players' names.


In a published summary of his decision, Justice Kellam said AFL footballers had agreed to be tested out of competition in the interests of the code's illicit drugs policy, but on the proviso that the first two positive tests were confidential.

"The public interest does not require, nor is it served by, the breach of such confidentiality," he said.

Justice Kellam said media interests argued that information about the players' identities was already public, and it revealed criminal conduct on their behalf.

He said there was no evidence the material had been disseminated to the public at large.


Outside the Supreme Court, AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said: "This decision enables the AFL to continue its fight against illicit drugs."

Anderson said keeping the players' names suppressed had nothing to do with protecting the AFL's brand. (The Age, 30/8/2006)

So, who wins from this? For starters, the players can now take drugs without fear of public sanction. Secondly, the various hangers-on (officials, managers, agents, advisers etc) can all continue to suckle freely on their million dollar teats. Thirdly, the players' drug dealers. These guys are trying to make a living and, in many cases, support crippling habits of their own. Flogging cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and crystal meth to dumb, massively-overpaid and desperate users is a very lucrative earner. During the trial, the court paid scant attention to this issue and, in my view, we haven't heard enough about the drug dealers and what would be best for them.

Fourthly, the individual clubs - and the AFL as a whole - will also benefit from this decision. Consider the one drug that the courts permit the public to hear about - alcohol. Remember what happened to Chad Morrison and Jay Shulz? Reports of their alcohol abuse cost their clubs cold, hard cash from their sponsors. Imagine the AFL's panic at the thought of other drugs frightening the sponsors and damaging the bottom line. While I'm sure the AFL would love to "bury" reports of alcohol abuse too, those matters must still be dealt with publicly (for the moment).

Who loses? First and foremost, the free press. We have a situation whereby the Supreme Court is forbidding the media from reporting on true, provable facts of interest to the public. Specifically, the court is telling the media what is (or in this case, isn't) in "the public interest". You may agree (or not) with the judge on this point, but it is still highly-undesirable to have this kind of censorship. While it's not the first time censorship has been used to prop up commercial interests, every time it does a little piece of our liberty is eroded away.

Secondly, the upshot of this will - in my opinion - result in an increase in drug abuse by AFL players. The public naming and shaming is a strong deterrent - that's why it's "Step 3" on the AFL's program. The AFL could have introduced this as "Step 1", but instead opted for appeasement and second and third chances. This will likely result in more off-field misbehaviour and drug-fuelled aggro. In short, the general public is going to face an increase risk of personal injury (bashings and rapes) due to the effective carte blanche the players have got.

Like many people, I am dismayed at this decision, in particular the signal it sends to the players about their tolerated behaviours and to the AFL about how their right to run a successful game is balanced against the public's right to free speech and personal safety. Sadly, this perversion of liberty is what we can expect when the warped values of tribalism and commercialism get in to bed together. It's disappointing that the court chose not to protect the public's liberty in this regard.

*** UPDATE ***

There's still strong interest in the identity of those three players; AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson gave up a big clue last month in a clumsy slip. The BigFooty community picked up on it (kudos bionicsasquach).

My non-legal opinion is that Mr Anderson has (perhaps inadvertently) breached Justice Kellam's ban on "disseminating any material tending to identify any AFL player who has tested positive on one or two occasions". But hey - what would I know?

I left this one alone since I didn't want to fall foul of the same injunction, but after a month it's still up on the BigFooty forum so I guess it's okay.

Citations: The Age, 24/5/2006; The Age, 8/6/2006; The Age, 30/8/2006

Word Count: 2009

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Profile: Wayne Carey

Wayne Carey was a supremely-talented footballer who's off-field behaviour and character flaws saw him brought down like a modern, shabby Shakespearean tragedy. In this next instalment in the Speccy Profile series, we examine the life and times of Wayne Carey as more evidence for our case that being good at footy does not make you a good human being.

No one would deny that Wayne Carey in his heyday was like the Mike Tyson of Aussie Rules football: fast, strong, aggressive and blighted with a curiously high-pitched voice. He was born in Wagga Wagga in 1971 and began his footy career in South Australia before being picked up by North Melbourne. (Although hailing from NSW, Wayne was allowed to represent South Australia in the State of Origin on the grounds that, as King of the Westies, Adelaide was his spiritual home.) His family background suggests a genetic talent for football - despite one leg being longer than the other - and being a prick, with his nephew Kade Carey attracting all the wrong sort of attention.

Wayne played for the Kangaroos for most of career and despite being quite dim managed to rise to the rank of captain and secure a number of honours including club Best and Fairest and captaincy of the All-Australian team. (This hardly reflects well on the honours, does it?) His arrogance and abrasiveness meant that field umpires withheld crucial votes, ensuring he never won the game's highest honour, the Brownlow Medal.

Gormless Rooboy Caught in the Headlights

Off-field, he was involved in the usual pub brawling and fighting associated with footballers. He also seemed strangely well-connected to Melbourne's underworld, giving character evidence at the trial of one high-profile (later slain) hitman, drug dealer and gangster (Melbourne Crime's dossier on Wayne makes for interesting reading.)

But it was with the ladies that Wayne Carey had the most problems. The first incident that saw him cop a high-profile guilty plea was back in 1996:

The assault occurred when Carey and a group of friends were walking down King Street after a night out [at 9am]. They approached the woman, who was with a female friend. Carey grabbed her breast and said, "Why don't you get a bigger set of tits?".

Carey's two footballer friends argued: "That sort of thing happens a hundred times a night in a night club. I'm not saying I condone it but ... I've seen how blokes act with women." The article later stated that the general view amongst Carey's colleagues was that he had been victimised by the media because he is a high profile football star.(Green Left Weekly, 19/2/1996)

Thanks to that special brand of justice reserved by Melbourne's magistrates for star footballers, he managed to avoid a sentence, or even a conviction! We can't help but wonder if this signal - that he can sexually assault women in broad daylight and get away with it - might not have contributed to what was to follow.

In March 2002, it became apparent to his club that Wayne was carrying on an affair with Kelli Stevens, the wife of his team-mate Anthony Stevens. Lurid rumours circulated that the pair were caught having sex in the toilets (a "dunny shag" in the vernacular) at a mutual friend's birthday party. Wayne was keen to set the record straight:

"No, there was definitely no sex in the toilet. The situation was in front of 120 people. I went to the toilet and, in front of all those people, Kelli walked in after me in front of her husband, in front of everyone there. Anthony waited for her to come out, which was a few seconds later, and the night was ended." (The Sydney Morning Herald, 28/12/2002)

At this point, the Roo Boys staged what amounted to a mutiny: either Carey (club captain) was out, or the team wouldn't take to the field. Management relented, and just like that, Wayne's career was over. He went from earning a reported $1.5 million dollars a year to being "on suicide watch" (as his manager, Ricky Nixon, famously stated) home at Wagga Wagga. The saga played out in the nations tabloids for months. Wayne, his wife Sally, Anthony and Kelli Stevens all helped boost circulation figures for various women's magazines with their contributions.

After this, Wayne tried (unsuccessfully) to re-launch his career in North America as a punter in the NFL. He mooched around for the rest of the year and signed up with the Adelaide Crows. Things didn't work out, and he only played 27 games for his new club. No doubt his new-found team-mates weren't thrilled at the prospect of having such a man in their midst. They came up with some sort of line about injuries and bundled him out of the game for good. The sad sack that he is, Wayne pathetically did free "volunteer" work at various clubs, fetching towels and the like, just to be near the action. Now his girly voice graces a little-watched football show on pay TV, providing monosyllabic sound bites (known as "special comments" in the trade).

It's difficult to convey the impact of the Carey-Stevens affair on the Melbourne psyche. It was the story of the year. As one talkback caller put it: "September 11th last year ... and now this." It was simply that big a deal. (Not sleeping around, mind you; but doing so with a team-mate's wife.) Wayne became "The Slogger from Wagga" (because of his predilicition for slogging it to other people's wives). He is still the butt of many jokes and remains a favourite target of cartoonists. Which is probably why many were not surprised at one comes next.

Almost unbelievably, Sally Carey put aside the shame, humiliation and advice from everyone and agreed to take the philandering Wayne back. What's more, they started a family. However, Wayne's true colours shone through when rumours of more infidelity were confirmed. Wayne admitted that his marriage was over while his wife was heavily-pregnant with their first child:

Carey confirmed the split in a statement yesterday as reports continued to surface about his friendship with model Kate Neilson, 24.
She and Carey live only minutes apart in Port Melbourne and have been seen visiting each other's homes. Carey went public on his marriage split yesterday after his father-in-law warned him to stay away.
A smiling Carey, 34, shrugged off the turmoil as he arrived in Darwin yesterday. The former Roos champion laughed off a warning by his father-in-law Terry McMahon that he would be "going out in a box" if he visited Mr McMahon's Wagga Wagga home where Sally was staying.

"It's all funny," Carey said. "Don't worry about it." (Herald-Sun, 24/6/2006)

Kate Neilson (pictured below) is what's known as a "Grid Girl". This means her job is to promote motorsports by appealing sexually to bogans. So good is she at making bogans aroused that she won a national competition - and attention from Wayne "The Bogan King" Carey.

Source: Herald-Sun

What sort of a man gropes a woman in broad daylight and insults her for not pleasing him visually? What sort of a man shags his team-mate's wife? What sort of a man hangs out with killers and drug-dealers? What sort of a man cheats on his heavily-pregnant wife with bleached-blonde bogan-bait?

One of the greatest Aussie Rules Footballers ever, that's who. A washed up, hollow, balding failure of a human being at 34. A man remembered for the staggering price he paid for believing that he could do whatever he want. Truly, Wayne Carey is the quintessential footballer.

*** UPDATE ***

BREAKING NEWS: Reports are coming in that last night (Sunday) Wayne Carey was "maced" by police after they were called to a domestic disturbance at his Port Melbourne apartment. Details are sketchy, but The Age quotes a neighbour "It was Wayne all right. Look, I'm not gonna give too much away, but Wayne was in handcuffs and had been maced." The Hun reports that "Police took him to St Kilda police station about 8.30pm."

It appears at this stage that Carey called police to remove his girlfriend, Kate Neilson (pictured working as "grid girl" above). Police stated that a second woman was present, but no details yet to the sequence of arrivals to Carey's place.

It's too early to judge at this stage, since we don't yet know the ins and outs of it all. Recent events show that being capsicum sprayed by Victorian police does not necessarily mean one is extremely violent. Even accounting for "his rather magnanimously (sic) huge size", in the (somewhat unfortunate) words of Senior Constable Wilson.

We'll keep you posted as the story develops.

*** UPDATE ***

As promised, the gory details of Wayne Carey's Port Melbourne incident (including security footage), shock revelations of last year's Miami incident and breaking news of drug allegations at Carey's celebrity party are all covered in the write-up.


Wikipedia article on Wayne Carey's career.

Melbourne Crime - Dossier on Wayne Carey
"Kangaroo Caught" (Bulletin, 20/3/2002)

"The Media and Women's Rights" (Green Left Weekly, 19/2/1996)

"The Carey Affair" (Sydney Morning Herald, 28/12/2002)

Wayne Carey Jokes

Wayne Carey Cartoons

"Wayne Carey: It's Over With Wife Sally" (Herald-Sun, 24/2/2006)

"Wayne Carey Retires" (7.30 Report, 24/6/2004)

"Young Talent In The Ranks" (AFL Player Spectator, 25/01/2005)

"Footy Thugs Cop Soft Sentence" (AFL Player Spectator, 13/2/2006)

Word Count: 1424

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Hanging Chad - Sponsorship and the AFL

It's been nearly two weeks since Chad Morrison of Collingwood copped his massive $20,000 fine. While I agree with money being stripped from AFL footballers - particularly when they're bloody, selfish, life-threatening idiots - I'll surprise my regular readers (thanks for the recent donation, by the way!) by saying I can't support the underlying logic of the Collingwood Football Club on this one.

But first, let's get the facts of the boozer's bust.

Collingwood footballer Chad Morrison has had his licence cancelled for six months due to a drink-driving offence.

The club released a statement saying Morrison was breath-tested in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond on Saturday night [22/4/2006] and allegedly returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.093.

Morrison also received an on-the-spot fine of $314.(ABC Sport, 24/4/2006)

It's also worth noting that Chad is old (28), not playing games this season and (seems to me) on the way out. Hardly a star player. And - here's the crux - the TAC is a Collingwood sponsor.

Since Richmond's infamous Sgt Jay "I know nothing" Shulz incident of one year ago, the footy clubs have been walking on egg shells over losing valuable TAC sponsorship money. You can almost feel the rage in the Collingwood boardroom at having hundreds of thousands of dollars a year jeopardised by a washed-out has-been that they probably didn't even want.

Their response was hanging Chad: cop a $20K fine or get dropped from the club. Sounds good, right? A club taking drink-driving seriously. Sending a signal. Role models. Spotlight. Et cetera.

The AFL Union, under Brendan Gale, issued a predictable "wah, wah not fair!" press release threatening to abandon the code of conduct:

However Gale added that in his view, for Collingwood to subsequently threaten termination of Morrison's employment or impose a fine of $20,000 was unfair, unreasonable and not commensurate with his offence.

"... if the rights of players cannot be protected under the code then we will review our commitment to it," concluded Gale. (AFLPA, 28/4/2006)

Before I explain why Comrade Gale is right, let me explain why he is wrong. Firstly, if the prospect of several hundred footballers running amok, bashing, marauding and raping their way up and down the countryside is a legitimate bargaining chip, then I guess I don't understand modern industrial relations. Secondly, he must concede that the $5,000 fine allowed under the Code of Conduct is manifestly inadequate. Fines are two-fold in purpose: disincentive and compensation. While it's not clear how much drink-driving has been deterred by the fines, at least some incidents are still occurring. It's hard to see how footballers - who earn an average of $10K per match - will be dissuaded by a piddling fine of that size. Five grand is a mere few days' (ahem) "work". How is that fair, reasonable and commensurate? And from the club's point of view, $5000 is hardly comparable to the ongoing sponsorship deals worth several million dollars over a number of years.

Which is precisely my objection, but the one Brendan Gale missed. Eddie and his buddies at the Lexus Nexus treated the matter as a standard commercial contractual matter. Chad put at-risk a certain amount of money. Collingwood moved to protect its valuable asset (relationship with TAC) at the expense of a near-worthless one (washed-up footballer) . End of story. It's nothing to do with this dickhead's reckless behaviour, poor judgement, selfishness, or even bringing himself, his club and the game into disrepute.

Certainly Collingwood would not have levied the fine were it not for the sponsorship deal. Collingwood - like all the clubs - seeks to maximise its value to sponsors. One way is through exclusivity arrangements. Collingwood, for example, would love to be sponsored by Red Rooster and would get more cash for such a deal if it could fine players for eating at KFC. But, for legal and practical reasons, it can't do this. Eating at KFC (stupid as it is) is not yet illegal and goes unmonitored by police. Ditto for shopping at rival outlets, using rival banks and so on. The backlash from supporters for such "owning the player" moves may also impact membership revenue.

By contrast, drink-driving is one area where the sponsor's wishes can be enforced by the law. But Collingwood is wrong to use this as a cover or excuse for downplaying the moral dimension to Chad's actions. The crime was not jeopardising Collingwood's cashflow. The crime was jeopardising the safety of road-users. For that, footballers must answer to the legal system, in most cases the specialist AFL Division of the Melbourne Magistrates Court. (Admittedly, the soft-serve justice dispensed to footy heroes in this town is patently inadequate, but it's absurd to suggest that clubs - motivated by sponsorship deals - will dole out a superior form of justice.)

The game of footy is not advanced by clubs fining players for stepping on sponsor's toes. Unless Collingwood announces a policy of $20,000 fines on players for all offences regardless of sponsorship deals, they come out looking like grubby, mercantile, desperate hypocrites.

*** UPDATE ***

It seems that Collingwood's rank strategy worked. The TAC announced that they will keep on sponsoring the team. Sigh. Remember when TAC was less about getting its senior executives into the corporate box at the 'G and more about reducing the road toll and looking after the injured? Think about that the next time you're paying your car rego.

*** UPDATE ***

Chad Morrison, formerly of the Magpies, copped his conviction today in the Melbourne Magistrates Court (AFL Division):
RECENTLY retired AFL footballer Chad Morrison has been fined $500 and had his licence suspended for drink-driving.

The former Collingwood utility blew 0.093 after being breath-tested while riding his motor scooter in Richmond in April ...

The 28-year-old, who was not in court, was also charged with breaching his motorcycle learners' permit conditions for riding with a passenger.

Magistrate Simon Garnett fined Morrison $500 and cancelled his licence for six months.(The Australian, 16/10/2006)

Chad retired at the end of this season. Was it in order to spare Eddie McGuire the shame of a record-smashing four court appearances in a month for his beloved Collingwood? Was it part of a contra-deal after his $20,000 "fine"? Or was he just clapped out, as a footballer?

In any case, without a licence he's going to be looking to Chris Tarrant to organsie his lifts from now on.

Citations: ABC Sport, 24/4/2006; AFLPA, 28/4/2006; The Australian, 16/10/2006

Word Count: 1113

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