The AFL Player Spectator Current AFL Threat Level

Millionaires with a Year Ten Education
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pissy Tarrant Lashes Out At Media

A petulant Chris Tarrant (of the troubled Collingwood FC) has gone on the offensive after reading a less-than-flattering piece in The Australian about his legendary drinking binges. In a brave display of machismo, his manager even mentioned defamation action. Uh oh!

Many people were shocked to learn the Tarrant reads the broadsheets at all. More likely, he has a media monitoring service scouring the globe for references to himself, sending him clippings (Hi Mrs Tarrant, if you're reading!). Hell, along with police statements, these newspaper reports are probably the only way he can fill in those "missing hours" on weekends.

"What did you get up to on Saturday, Taz?"

"Dunno - let me just flick through mX ... Yeah, 'parrantly I was at Motel.".

The piece in question - extensively reproduced below due to the Murdoch press's reluctance to leave material online - certainly painted a picture of a "Rock and Roll Lifestyle":

TWO weeks after he was involved in a drunken brawl outside a Port Melbourne nightclub, Chris Tarrant was back at the bar. This time there was no fight and no police investigation.

Tarrant appeared to have trouble standing but didn't find trouble. As he stumbled on to the pavement outside to make his way home the only thing thumping was the music.


Tarrant left no later than 2am.

A few nights later, Tarrant was spotted at a Jet concert, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other. Whatever the lessons of Tarrant's infamous Pie fight with team-mate Ben Johnson, the out-of-form forward hasn't let it curb his rock 'n roll lifestyle.

When these instances are brought to the attention of Collingwood officials, you can hear their exasperation on the other end of the phone line. A part of them wants to know the latest Taz tale but mostly, they'd rather not.

Whatever Tarrant gets up to in his spare time is best kept between Tarrant and the barman. A remarkable Saturday night is when Tarrant heads home early; not when he stays out late.


Tarrant has played poorly for the past three weeks and tested the patience of his team-mates and coach.

He was fined $5000, as was Johnson, for involving himself in a car park brawl at 3am. He has been mooted for trade but does not accept that an AFL playing contract, alcohol and regular late nights make for a combustive mix. (The Australian, 18/8/2006)

Hardly character assassination, but enough to see hairy-chested talk of lawsuits bandied around. What really got Tarrant's entourage steamed was the allegation that Tarrant was at a Jet concert with a drink and smoke:
Tarrant's manager Paul Connors said the report was incorrect and the player was with him on the night he was alleged to have been at the concert.

"Quite frankly it is defamatory, unless there's a significant retraction and apology in the paper tomorrow we will be considering our legal position," Connors told radio station 3AW. (The Australian, 18/8/2006)

Really? Defamation action? Could they argue with a straight face that this actually worsened Tarrant's reputation in the eyes of the public? Rival broadsheet The Age noted:
Tarrant's manager Paul Connors demanded a retraction, saying the player had not even attended the concert and instead had been at his house for dinner that evening. The Australian ran a small correction yesterday, but it did not satisfy Connors. "We will be meeting with our lawyers on Monday, the apology fell short of what we expected," he said yesterday. (Psst, The Age, 20/8/2006)

I couldn't find any references to this "correction" or lodging of papers with the Victorian County Court, but I'll continue to keep an eye on developments.

Poor Chris. Under siege from all fronts. It must be tough being a massively wealthy, famous and worshipped young man with all that free time. That's why you need friends like Eddie McGuire to step up to bat for you:
... McGuire said the scrutiny on Tarrant, sidelined by shin splints, was "totally unfair".


"We understand that Collingwood sells papers ... I run a media company, I know what the attraction of Collingwood is.

"But it is unfair at times when the scrutiny goes onto these young men. While it's a big story for the media, big stories come and go ... but the football clubs and even their families have to deal with the aftermath of that and we have to be very careful that we don't push these highly strung young athletes at times too far." (The Australian, 19/8/2006)

Can we presume that "highly strung" is Eddie's codeword for "psychologically-damaged", "anti-social" and "mal-adjusted"? Eddie's all about making excuses for his footballers' behaviour, because they might win him a Premiership. What a shallow, avaricious little man.

Chris Tarrant also got much-needed support from the venerable silver-back of the Collingwood troop, Nathan Buckley. In a positive sign, Buckley conceded that the media scrutiny (perhaps including this website) was working:
Buckley confirmed the playing group had met this week and resolved to stay away from nightclubs until the end of the finals campaign.

"We needed to get together and reinforce the values of the team," he said.

"We needed to discuss how we were going to control the situations that are, by and large, out of our control, and that is the environment we found ourselves as a club and a playing group.

"Part of that is taking ourselves out of that environment.

"We discussed that and we hope not to have a continuation of what we have been seeing and reading."

He said the pressure and scrutiny on AFL footballers was intensifying every year.

"I just think it is a vicious cycle at the moment that I don't enjoy and I'm sure most of the other players don't enjoy," he said. (Herald-Sun, 20/8/2006)

Yeah, I bet they don't like the scrutiny. Remember back in the day, when players could enjoy a night out by getting shit-faced, going the biff in the carpark and then taking turns on a young woman in the toilets - and none of it got in the papers? Ahhh, memories ...

Of course, all of this talk of a ban on Collingwood players in nightclubs seems at odds with their decision to purchase The Beach nightclub in Albert Park, for $7 million (or 7 Buckleys, in Collingwood currency).

Gifted wordsmith and diarist Jonathan Green (of The Age) had dipped his quill in a particularly-vicious poison when he penned this barb-laden riposte:
The Collingwood Football Club did the only sensible thing for an organisation continually undermined by what seems to be a rabid culture of undisciplined binge drinking: it bought a pub. Faced with a playing list heavy with aggressive drunks and a running sore of bad publicity, the next step was obvious: bring the drinking and the brawling and the drunk-driving and the bitch-slapping in-house. Thus it was that the Pies forked out $7 million for their own Albert Park nightclub, The Beach.

It won't be long before fans, locals and club diehards alike can enjoy a quiet beer in the convivial surrounds of the 4am licensed Tarrant/Johnson Bar or treat the girlfriend to a bag of chips and a shandy in the Alan Didak Lounge. Pull up in the Cameron Cloke car park for one of the club's signature "Braindamage" nights or just dance away amid the flashing lights and flailing haymakers of the Dane Swan disco.

At the end of the evening why not use the free in-house phone to dial 1300-MIL-LANE for a lift home? It's a car-pool service run with an emphasis on speed and erratic lane changes by club legends Chad Morrison and Brodie Holland.

Football hasn't seen the like since North Melbourne — in a comparatively modest venture — unveiled the Wayne Carey toilet back in 2002. (The Age, 19/8/2006)

(NB: hyperlinks added by me, to ensure people "get" the references.)

Wow. I am in awe. I've been bagging footballers for 18 months, but it never occurred to me to publish Darren Millane jokes. I've long-enjoyed Green's prose, but he has now been elevated to genius status. I prostrate myself before The Master. Please, sir, can we have another?

Citations: The Australian, 18/8/2006; The Australian, 18/8/2006; The Australian, 19/8/2006; Herald-Sun, 20/8/2006; The Age, 19/8/2006

Word Count: 1421

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pie In Nightclub Altercation With Model

Regular commentator Ben Wallace wrote in to let us know about a skirmish at a Melbourne nightclub involving a Collingwood player and his model girlfriend. No, not that one! This is new. Let's see how the Hun is running the story:

COLLINGWOOD young gun Alan Didak was forced to leave an A-list nightclub after a confrontation with another patron following a fiery spat with his model girlfriend.
Didak, touted as a possible All-Australian after a stellar season, allegedly lunged at a man at Boutique in Prahran just before midnight on Saturday. Witnesses told the Herald Sun he and girlfriend Cassie Lane had been in a public screaming match.

The argument was said to have been heard by many regular patrons.

"It was obvious they were having a huge fight," one club patron told the Herald Sun.

A witness said the screaming match started after Lane began talking to another man. Didak, 23, then allegedly lunged towards the man.

Witnesses said security staff stepped in to defuse any possible trouble.(Herald-Sun, 14/8/2006)

We've seen how these public blues between footballers and the women in their lives often end up in court. It's not unexpected that you'd be frightened at the prospect of a pummeling from an enormous professional grid iron footballer. What a sec - did I say grid iron? Why, yes. Ms Cassie Lane has the dubious honour of representing New York in the Lingerie Bowl 2004. (Given how boring American football is, the poor sex-starved Americans get a little half-time show in the super bowl in case there are no wardrobe malfunctions to keep them, err, titillated.)

Now, I don't have any images of the actual stoush, but I'm surely not alone in hoping it involved the visually-pleasing spectacle of Ms Lane in full glamazon battle-dress stepping up ... something like this:

Sources: Times of India and Driver's Match Photos

I'm not sure that Boutique is the kind of club where lingerie football attire is accepted, but I'm sure if Ms Lane showed up in it there'd be no problems at the door. Hell, a quick perusal of her body of work suggests this outfit is the most substantial one in her wardrobe!

Where's all the agro coming from? I don't think it's just the fact that she's played football at a higher level than him. It seems to me that if you go out with someone who makes a living arousing people sexually (lingerie modelling, online nude spreads, Ralph magazine features) and providing the public with wank-fodder, then you really shouldn't be the jealous type. Am I wise beyond my years? Hardly. It's just common sense.

Still, I was disappointed with the response of the Collingwood Football Club to the incident:
Collingwood Football Club CEO Greg Swann last night said Didak had done nothing wrong in the eyes of the club on Saturday night. When asked if the club would be making a statement, Mr Swann said: "Nothing happened, so why would we? (Herald-Sun, 14/8/2006)

Because it's market sensitive information, you dolt! This is exactly the kind of news that clubs should be releasing to the market under "continuous disclosure" rules. Whether or not Didak is likely to be charged could influence prices on Collingwood's contracts significantly.

I see we're in for a long and painful process of educating clubs as to the responsible dissemination of information material to market prices.


Alan Didak gave away a few pointers about his argument's with Cassie Lane in an earlier interview:
Didak freely admits [Lane] intimidates him.

"She's a really smart girl, so when we have the odd argument, she uses big words to distract me and outsmart me, which frustrates me even more," he laughs. "It's good you know, because every now and then, she'll bring out this fact and I can sort of see the truth behind it." (The Age, 12/5/2006)

Why wouldn't he be intimidated? She's taller, older, smarter, better educated, played football at a higher level, better looking and more famous.

Could this explain the very odd - and public - argument at Boutique? Perhaps that's what happened the other night: too many big words and Didak got frustrated. Hence all the bellowing and intimidation. I wonder what some of those big words were? Anyone at the club - or adjoining suburbs - care to share?

Meanwhile, the rest of the interview contains wonderful stories of toilet-based pranking, Didak's failed website, the news that Cassie is studying - wait for it - PR and heaps of new-age sentimentality about how he's grown up. Geez, what was he like when he was still an arse-clown?

Citations: Herald-Sun, 14/8/2006; Herald-Sun, 14/8/2006; The Age, 12/5/2006

Word Count: 810

Tags: footy, sleaze

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AFL Versus The Commentators

The current round of re-negotiations of radio rights has resulted in an unusual lack of unity among football's elite, with AFL officials calling names of those who call the games. Politics may make for strange bedfellows, but big business sees you kicked out of bed for farting - even when you both just chowed down on the same enormous and dangerously-spicy vindaloo.

As usual, The Age led with notification of the outbreak of hostilities:

AFL clubs unhappy with the standard of football commentary have complained to the competition's governing body about negative, self-indulgent and poorly prepared commentators.

They believe the culprits are trashing the AFL brand, and its chief executive, Andrew Demetriou, said last night he had taken the clubs' concerns on board.

He told The Age he would be raising it with the game's broadcasters, all entering new agreements with the AFL from 2007. (The Age, 11/8/2006)

The clubs beating up the commentators? You could imagine the bind this puts poor old Eddie McGuire in. On the one hand, he's a club president and has to present a unified front to the AFL. On the other hand, he's paid to make money for shareholders in commercial media - plus they're all his mates and he wants them to like him and keep inviting him to their boozers. What to do, hey Eddie? The answer: keep uncharacteristically quiet. Let's all hope he approaches his other conflicts of interest (and crises of conscience) with similar aplomb.

Anyway, it's great to see that the AFL has recognised it's brand is in jeopardy. You know, with all the court cases, drunken attacks, driving offences, drug abuse and what not. What's worrying - profoundly disconcerting, really - is that they reckon the source is the poor quality of game commentary on commercial radio. Right. Is this deflection? A chance to screw the broadcasters for a better price? Or is it an effort to signal that they will accept lower prices from licencees in return for "proper" (ie more favourable) comment? Disturbing, no?

But let's look a little more closely at the specific allegations made against the current crop of callers:
[Malcolm] Blight was one commentator singled out for not always having done his pre-game homework.

However, it was a discussion about Rex Hunt and how his personal problems had hijacked 3AW's coverage of round-eight matches.

This prompted what became, according to Mr Demetriou, a "passionate discussion".

Several clubs also pointed to some hypocrisy among commentators when discussing the personal lives of footballers.

"It began with Rex Hunt, but it became a pretty general and passionate discussion, with quite a few clubs worried that commentators from time to time trashed the brand," said Mr Demetriou, who himself last season upset the Sydney Swans by criticising their style of play.

"That was the general consensus. Seven or eight clubs raised concerns.

"They felt that commentators too often talked about themselves and not about the game. Clubs felt they were being bagged unfairly, and that the umpires were too often castigated. Just when we're taking one step forward, then it's two steps backward.


Fremantle chief executive Cameron Schwab confirmed that his club had led the charge on raising concerns with the AFL commentary.

"How the game is presented has a huge bearing on how people perceive the game," said Mr Schwab.

"We don't want to sanitise football commentary, but too often it's self-indulgent, matey, and displays a lack of homework.(The Age, 11/8/2006)

Naturally, a bunch of opinionated, overpaid, over-inflated, middle-aged men weren't about to take this lying down. No siree, they were in the papers the very next day. Channel Nine's Gary Lyon led the charge:
... Lyon said a deterioration in the standard of the game had forced commentators to be more creative with their callings.

"We get a lot of people that say they love the fact that we can have a laugh and joke," he said.

"Maybe one or twice we might have stepped over the line, but I reckon on 95 per cent of occasions we respect the game, which is the most important thing."

Lyon said clubs needed to take responsibility for improving the quality of football.

"If the game was great, there wouldn't be an issue, you'd just call it and be entertained, but the unfortunately, the game in a lot of instances is crap. It's not much fun to call." (The Age, 12/8/2006)

Ah, so it's the game's fault that they have to resort to such shenanigans in order to make the whole thing bearable.

So, to recap, the AFL and the clubs are upset that AFL commentators:

  • Don't do their homework. (Ie are ignorant, lazy and misinformed.)

  • Are hypocritical.(Ie condemn bad behaviour while doing it themselves.)

  • Trash the AFL brand. (Ie cause the AFL brand to be worth less money.)

  • Too often talk about themselves. (Ie instead of the game.)

  • Bag clubs unfairly. (Ie don't hold all clubs to the same standards.)

  • Too often self-indulgent. (Ie gratifying themselves, not listeners.)

  • Too matey. (Ie too many in-jokes and point-scoring.)
Here's a thought experiment. Have a look at that list. Now ask yourself what would happen if you put a group of has-been footballers in front of a captive audience. Now take another look at the list. Now take a look at this list:

  • Malcolm Blight

  • Gary Lyon

  • Rex Hunt

  • Sam Newman

  • Brian Taylor

  • etc
How can the AFL criticise a pack of former footballers (and various pretenders and "mates") for atrocious, self-indulgent, lazy, boorish obnoxiousness? Sure, maybe those at the AFL haven't made this link (lack of homework)? Maybe they don't care (hypocrisy)? Or maybe they're being unfair in setting their standards by distinguishing between former and current players?

Nah. For years, the AFL has promoted a culture of scorn, arrogance, contempt and aggression. They made money out of it. Defended it in public. Foisted more and more of it on us. And now they have to listen to all that ill-informed bile directed at themselves.

I can't be the only person enjoying the sweet, sweet deliciousness of the irony of the AFL having it's horribly ill-conceived bastard children turn on it like that.

Hey Andrew Demetriou! Andy! Hear that? That rustling sound? That, my friend, is the sound of your chickens coming home to roost.

*** Update ***

This isn't strictly relevant to my point - that most commentators are former footballers and hence it's a bit rich for the AFL to complain about their lack of professionalism - but is still bloody funny. It involves former player and fisherman Rex Hunt. Here's Rexy-baby out of the blocks:
"The AFL appears to not only want to control the game, which I don't think they are at the minute by the way, but they appear to want to control what is said and broadcast and printed about its so-called product," a fired-up Hunt said yesterday.


"... I have a responsibility to the game. That may be well, but I don't have a responsibility to tell untruth to say the game is marvellous when it's crap."

Hunt said some of the games played this season had been "cheap, nasty and downright boring". "Some of the chippy, crappy stuff is an insult to the people who pay for the game."

Hunt believes the AFL will try to control what commentators say about the game. "It is clear in the negotiations between the broadcasting people for radio that the AFL want a certain criteria. I'm concerned for the game and the next crop of broadcasting puppets … who has to try for six hours to talk up a game that has become boring and far-fetched from the good old-fashioned spirit of Aussie rules.

"I'm sad to say that after nearly 40 years in the game and 27 behind this microphone, I honestly believe that 3AW is a real chance to lose the football to a station that will be dictated to by the AFL. The saddest thing of all, of course, is that the game we all love will be no longer be the people's game, it will be the AFL's game and woe betide anyone who has the hide to criticise it." (The Age, 13/8/2006)

At this point, 3AW station management took Rex aside and slapped him around a bit. They are in the middle of negotiations for the rights to call AFL matches and Rex's outburst was hardly helping. A contrite Rex had to slink off to AFL House, cap in hand, tugging his forelock and generally offering to be a good "broadcasting puppet" (his words, not mine):
CONTROVERSIAL Melbourne 3AW football caller Rex Hunt has accepted he was incorrect in suggesting the AFL was trying to censor him.

After being summoned to a meeting yesterday with AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, Hunt said: "I was mis-informed and assured the AFL was not trying to gag me.

"They took offence that I said they were trying to control what was said."


"I was given a rap over the knuckles by station management, which I accept," Hunt said.

"I look forward to working for 3AW and the AFL for the next three years because we are confident the new radio deal will see our partnership continue. (The Australian, 16/8/2006)

Before you feel too sorry for Rex - a chronic sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease - for all that gagging, humiliation and dressing-down in public, please keep in mind that he may have a different reaction to such attention.

Good on ya, Rex. Keep on swingin', mate!

Citations: The Age, 11/8/2006; The Age, 11/8/2006; The Age, 13/8/2006; The Australian, 16/8/2006

Word Count: 1639

Tags: footy, media

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Aussie Rules Misbehaviour Market - An Introduction

As part of The Speccy's campaign for a commercial online betting service for AFL players' court appearances, we started a proof-of-concept prediction market, where anyone can play for free. This post introduces the Aussie Rules Misbehaviour Market (ARM) to help you get started.

First off, why are we doing this? The short answer is that prediction markets like this help people make informed choices. By providing a simple mechanism to share and aggregate information about likely future player misbehaviour, the community benefits in getting the best possible tip-offs. For example, if the odds dramatically shorten for one particular club, you may want to avoid their favoured drinking establishments. In effect, we're using the "wisdom of crowds" to provide a more specific and reliable AFL Footballer Threat Indicator.

The benefits for the individual punter come in bragging rights and the self-satisfaction that comes from out-punting everyone else. Of course, it's also good practice for when commercial wagering on AFL players in court starts up - and people are betting with real money.

The market itself is pretty straightforward to understand and operate, thanks to our partners at CrowdIQ. Each club has 1000 contracts (for a total of 16,000). Each contract will "pay out" $100 to the holder if and when that club is the first to have a player in court. All the rest pay out zero. All contracts are freely-traded in the interim at what ever price and volume participants wish. The price of a contract goes up and down over its lifetime, driven by buyers and sellers. The price is determined by how likely it is to pay out ie for that club to be the first with a player in court.

If the price of a contract on Collingwood is presently $20, that means that the market estimates the chances of Collingwood being the first club in court is 20%. If you reckon it's actually more - say 50% - then you should bid $21 and buy up as many as you can. If you think the chances are really much lower - say 5% - then you should sell any Collingwood contracts you own. (You could also try short selling, laying a Dutch Book or related strategies.)

There are many factors that will influence the price of a particular club's contract:

  • Adding/dropping notorious players from the list

  • "Free weekends" due to injuries or split rounds

  • Lack of availability of cocaine

  • Elimination in the finals

  • Emotionally tough matches (drubbings and nail-biters)

  • New batch of particularly strong crystal meth in town

  • Team bonding sessions

  • Schoolies week

  • Sharp price movements in other clubs

This last one occurs because - in theory - all the probabilities should add to one. That means that if price increases for one club (ie odds shorten), then they must come down (ie odds lengthen) for the others. Savvy punters will take advantage of that fact in fine-tuning their portfolio.

Of course, there's a wealth of private information that influences prices too. This is where the punters' ability to sniff out rumours, anticipate crises and generally keep in touch with events comes to the fore. This is where it pays to keep an ear to the ground. So, if you're a door bitch, drug dealer, footy slut, trainer, barman, journo, hooker, bouncer, priest or police officer - you get an unfair advantage over the rest of us.

Most of the time, the contract prices will reflect the general assessment of the lawlessness of each club. As such, they reflect a kind of broad-based reputation. Things get volatile when a scandal or criminal incident breaks. It could play out in a number of different ways. Suppose the matter is kept under wraps for a few days; only insiders will know and will have an opportunity to make a few judicious trades before it goes public. Once a player has been charged, it's almost certain they'll be in court. The price for that club will get close to $100, while all others tend to $0.

On other occasions, there may be a delay between an incident going public and the laying of charges - think Dean Brogan or Tarrant/Johnson - and there will be much speculation and volatility in the prices. Other times, it will be a dead cert that the player will be in court once it breaks (like Michael Gardiner) and the market acts like a raffle.

A couple of other matters about the structuring of the market.

The initial prices for the contracts are set by IPO (Initial Public Offering) via a Dutch auction. This means that people can bid silently up until this weekend ie Sunday, 13th of August on how many contracts they wish to buy. The system will automatically allocate them to punters, based on this auction. After this period, all contracts will be in flux and will be traded in the usual fashion.

So if you reckon each club is as bad as the next, then the "fair price" is $6.25 ($100/16) per contract. You may wish to set each club at a discount or premium to that "base rate" based on your assessments of their general lawlessness. Note: past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour, but it is no guarantee.

Contracts are "resolved" once a player appears (either in person or by a representative) in an Australian court facing criminal charges. To avoid contempt of court issues, this market does not allow speculation on any decisions or findings of the courts. It only pertains to new matters about incidents that have (allegedly) occurred prior to the start of the market. Therefore, re-appearances about older matters - such as sentencing, appeals etc - do not count.

The Speccy, as market manager, is responsible for deeming when a contract is resolved. We take all care in monitoring the media for this, but we are not infallible. Therefore, we're happy to take any tip-offs or leads about court events that we may have missed.

Once a contract is resolved, the market is closed, contracts "pay out" (winners are grinners) and a new market is established for the next round of speculation.

Ready? OK, check out the prices ... and happy punting!

Word Count: 1051

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Betting On AFL Players In Court

The constant stream of court appearances by our much-lauded AFL heroes seems to have no end in sight. Coaches admit they're powerless to control the players. Senior police are skeptical of efforts to bring them to justice. Magistrates, well, they just keep letting them back on the streets. There's only one thing a true-blue Aussie can do when confronted with this inevitable wave of assaults, traffic offences and general lawlessness: start a book on the bastards.

That's right - it's time that Australians can stand up, look these nongs in the eye and say "$50 says he'll be in court by the end of the year". In order to fire up a betting market, I submitted the idea to three leading online sports wagering firms:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have an idea for a wagering market in the AFL that is of potentially great interest to the punting public: betting on which club will next see a player presented to an Australian court to answer charges.

This would make for a great market for the following reasons:

* Potentially all clubs could "come up" (winning isn't the right term)
* It's not perfectly random, with some clubs featuring more often than others
* There is about one event per month
* It is very difficult - and probably illegal - for an individual (player, police officer, judicial figure etc) to influence the outcome
* There is significant public speculation both informally and in the media
* The outcome is official, publicised and verifiable by anyone

Some subtleties:

* "Australian court" would consist of all State and Federal courts (eg Magistrates, County, Federal and High) - though probably not parliaments
* It would need to be restricted to criminal matters - planning disputes, civil suits and carparking fines should be excluded.
* If the player's identity is suppressed (eg the player is a minor or involved in incest) then it shouldn't count
* If two players are presented simultaneously then it should go in order of appearance in court documents
* The wager does not require the player to be found guilty or even enter a plea; appearance at court in the dock is all
* The player should be on the list of the club at the time of the offence (or charge), not the hearing

Extensions could include (subject to legal and ethical approval) betting on:

* The nature of the offence (eg traffic, drugs, assault, sex)
* The plea (guilty, not guilty)
* The outcome (guilty, not guilty)
* Duration that a particular club can go without any court appearances

I think this would be an exciting betting market that would see a groundswell of public interest and support. I look forward to wagering on these events in the near future.

So far, Centrebet and BetFair have indicated they are looking into the idea while SportsBet are yet to respond.

*** Update ***

Centrebet have kindly got back to me and indicated that there is no chance at all that they will be taking this up. So it's going to be play money only at this stage.

Buoyed by the interest, I approached the relevant ministers in the Victorian State Government, seeking their support:
Dear Minister,

No one has done more to promote the popularity and success of gambling in Victoria than the Bracks Government, with over one billion dollars a year flowing into state coffers - and many times more to the prudent investors in the big three gambling firms. Similarly, your government has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the AFL, providing much needed financial support for infrastructure and marketing.

Victoria, as the spiritual home of Aussie Rules football, is best placed to capitalise on taking a punt on all aspects of the footy. Therefore, I have proposed to a number of online betting services that Victorians should be able to wager on which club will next see a listed player make an appearance in court.

This exciting new gambling opportunity combines our love of the punt, footy and celebrity culture, with our reverence for the justice system. It also has significant community benefits, since the public will be able to use the odds to help plan a safe night out.

Both CentreBet and BetFair tell me they are actively looking into this proposal.

Can I count on your support?

I'm still waiting to here what Gambling Minister John Pandazopoulos and (former AFL player) Sports Minister Justin Madden have to say about the idea.

*** Update ***

The Honorable Justin Madden's Chief of Staff Phil Martin wrote back to me, neatly handballing this "new gambling opportunity" to the Panda. "Gambling"? I thought that seedy vice was replaced by the wholesome past-time of "gaming"?

Finally, I thought I'd better seek the support of the AFL and the AFL Players' Association:
Dear Sir or Madam,

I know that footy in this country hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with some aspects of online betting. But you can't deny that there is certainly widespread demand and it's proven hugely popular. There's even more we can do stimulate interest in the best game in the world. I have proposed to a number of online betting services that football supporters should be able to wager on which club will next see a listed player make an appearance in court.

Both CentreBet and BetFair tell me they are actively looking into this proposal.

Of course, it wouldn't be possible without the efforts of the players themselves. Can I count on the support of the AFL Players' Association in this exciting new endeavour?

To be honest, I'm not overly-optimistic about support from the bookies, the politicians or the players' union on this one. After all, AFL players are a very wealthy and influential group: you take them on at your own peril. Feel free to contact any of the above to lend your support to the initiative! Every bit helps.

There are significant public benefits to setting up such a market. Regular readers will know that here at The Speccy we take great pride in offering high quality information about the dangers normal citizens face at the hands of footy thugs through our world first AFL Threat Level Indicator. We also offer a selection of the finest AFL footballer deterrence and mitigation products (ranging from stun guns and pepper spray to first aid kits and STD self-diagnosis kits).

Continuing in this spirit of public service, we're pleased to announce that you can participate in "fantasy betting" (no real cash) at CrowdIQ's Aussie Rules Misbehaviour Market (ARM). There you can buy and sell contracts on which club is going to be in the poo next. We've prepared an introduction to how the market works for your benefit.

Whether you've got inside information, an knack for analysing trends (check The Speccy archives) or are just a good judge of character, sign up and get set for bragging rights. And yes, there will be another scandal soon - you can bet on it!

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

AFL Players In Late-Night Gang Bashing

The Australian Football League is losing its battle against violent, out-of-control players. This weekend sees yet another bashing; this time it's Collingwood's stars making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Forward Chris Tarrant and utility Ben Johnson have shown up just how weak and powerless clubs are in the face of Aussie Rules players doing exactly what they want.

Let's see how the press has been covering the sadly-predictable story:

Police are investigating the incident which left a 28-year-old man unconscious and needing hospital treatment after he tried to separate two men who were fighting.

The man was treated at the Austin Hospital for mouth and face lacerations.

Collingwood chief executive Greg Swann said Tarrant and Johnson voluntarily provided statements to police and had been fined $5,000 for breaking club rules. (ABC Sport, 2/8/2006)

What exactly transpired during the brawl? Still unclear, although The Age had a few more details:

Officers are investigating the alleged assault of a 28-year-old Bayswater North man outside a nightclub at Station Pier, Port Melbourne, about 3.30am (AEST) on Sunday.

Police said the 28-year-old was leaving a venue at Station Pier with four other men when they saw a brawl in progress.

He saw a man kicking another man, who was on the ground, police said, but when he tried to separate the pair, the 28-year-old was allegedly punched from behind and knocked unconscious.(The Age, 2/8/2006)

Another report had the whole incident stemming from frustration that Tarrant couldn't get a cab:
It is understood Tarrant and Johnson had been at a 21st birthday party before going on to the Ocean Blue nightclub at Station Pier.

Club sources said that at about 3.30am, Tarrant had been waiting for more than half an hour for a taxi when he called to a couple of men getting in a car to ask for a lift. An argument broke out, which soon escalated into a fight between the full-forward and the men from the car. Bystanders also became involved and it is understood someone ran upstairs into the bar to alert Johnson that Tarrant was in a fight. Johnson and a friend, who does not play in the AFL, ran outside and became involved in the brawl.(The Age, 3/8/2006)

How does asking for a lift end up with a brawl? One can only imagine that a pissed off, intoxicated, professional footballer perhaps isn't the most polite fellow on the block, and probably not used to waiting for anything. He almost certainly never hears the word "no". Hell, he's too dumb to know that AFL players have their own friggin' taxi service, complete with secret phone number, that gives them priority over everyone else - for free! What a moron.

And by way of context, keep in mind that this shameful episode occured as the AFL announced a massive 25% payrise for these knuckle-draggers. That's right; these guys are getting paid almost $750 million bucks over five years - most of it from fans, club members, taxpayers and viewers - to play footy. And what doe we get for our generosity? Yet another weekend of violence at the hands of spoilt, angry thickies.

Still, you'd think the clubs would come down hard on these boys, right? Well, for starters they copped a $5000 penalty for breaking club curfew. (To put that into perspective, that's about one week's wages for the average AFL player.) Here's what Collingwood Chief Executive Greg Swann had to say:
"There is certainly a level of anger (in the club), different people have different levels, but these two players will, as I said, be fined and the match committee will determine whether they play or not this week," he said.


Asked if the pair could be sacked for their involvement in the incident, Swann said: "We haven't ruled anything out.


"By suspending the players does that help us win this weekend, does it send a message long-term?" Swann said.

"All those things are things you've got to weigh up - ultimately the club is here to win games of football so the match committee will go for all those things." (The Age, 2/8/2006)

Here was a chance for a club to stand up to these arseholes, tell them that they were sick of picking up the pieces, spinning away transgressions, explaining to sponsors, smoothing things with their mates in the sport media. Here was a chance to - in Swann's own words - "send a message". A message that being good at footy cannot and should not make up for running amok like lawless pricks. Swann even acknowledged that they may have to endure short-term pain (loss of two players) for long-term gain (disciplined and focused players).

Then club President and general man-about-town Eddie McGuire stepped in. No, he didn't want to 'bone' the players like a couple of under-performing breakfast hosts. Eddie had a different idea. An idea that is so selfish, irresponsible and feckless that it could only be adopted by a brain-damaged media executive panicking as he realises he's taken the reins during an unprecedented corporate losing streak:
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was angry with the players and warned the pair they "owed" the club.

"They've got to front their teammates and their coach and they'd better get a kick on the weekend if they're selected," McGuire told The Age.

Indicating, however, that the club had little intention of dropping either player, McGuire added: "We're playing for the finals and they owe us. They're not getting the night off, you don't get a day off when you're playing the top side in a big game. They owe their supporters and they owe their teammates and they'd better get a kick."
(The Age, 3/8/06)

Get it? Instead of being made unwelcome through exclusion - sanctioned, suspended, threatened with sacking - they "have to" play in order to compensate the fans that they "owe" for breaking club rules. Yeah, those boys don't get a day off! How very convenient that this newfound "owing" concept just so happens to see Collingwood run with the list it would have wanted this weekend.

In other, unrelated news, Eddie announced that from now on, perennial poor performers on Channel Nine will be screened repeatedly as they "owe" the network. Expect to see Family Feud on endless repeat during prime time, making up for disappointing ratings. Others deemed to "owe" the network - and hence obliged to continue on indefinitely to make it up to advertisers - include Dancing on Ice, Business Sunday and Jessica Rowe. No getting let off the hook for you, young lady!

Eddie's Big Idea was echoed by hapless Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse:
"Why would I penalise our one million supporters, our 40,000 members, our partners in sponsorship and his teammates by leaving a player out of the side?" Malthouse said at the time. "I'll say one thing about discipline and that is you've got to be very careful because there are ways and means of administering it." (The Age, 3/8/06)

Oh, shut up Mick. I doubt you're so stupid that you can't see the reason why you would "bone" these two for the sake of everyone else. I understand you have to go along with Eddie's hare-brained ideas, but you could do it quietly and keep some dignity. (Mick understands discipline alright - do what Eddie says or cop it in the throat. Fancy having to take crap from both 20 year-old kids and an over-ambitious sports reporter! Poor bugger.)

So now we have the mighty Collingwood Football Club so desperate for a win it has been brought to its knees by a couple of violent, drunken kids who insist on flaunting club rules. Collingwood - in particular Mick Malthouse - is now their bitch, and everyone knows it. Poor Mick will be running, cap in hand, asking if he can get them another towel, fluff their pillows and check that they're drinks are still cold. It's not just Collingwood; indeed, all clubs are owned by a handful of their young players in their 20s. These guys can act with total impunity, knowing that nothing can shift them off the list. We've witnessed a dozen players this year in scandals that would have seen them dropped yesteryear. Not now - it's just a small financial penalty and away they go, extracting another $50,000 per year (on average). These paltry fines in place are so piss-weak that, effectively, a player has to play one match for free. Big deal.

We've seen a situation develop where no club is willing to take the hit and actually drop a player, so the players know they are untouchable. West Coast has already been preparing us for the return of Michael Gardiner. Dean Brogan's public king-hit hasn't dampened his career at all. It's like they live in two different worlds, where on-field performance can make-up for all manner of off-field scandal and lawlessness.

As Swann himself put it, "ultimately the club is here to win games of football". And with that spineless, grasping, attitude, the clubs have no choice but to pump these guys full of bravado and cash, bend over, drop trou and let them have their way.

*** UPDATE ***

Three developments in this sorry saga that should go on permanent record:

1. Mick Malthouse proudly showed off his new dog-collar and leash in public:

"The fact that Chris and Ben are crucial to the on-field success of Collingwood has influenced my decision. Had they been youngsters on the fringe of selection, I might have thought a playing ban was in order.

"I suspect I'll be criticised for admitting this - what's new? - but you are kidding yourself if you think it would happen differently anywhere else. Different players get treated differently.
Perhaps if we were 15th, like last year, I would be thinking differently." (The Age, 4/8/2006)

Very smart, Mick. You've just admitted to having no real control over your team. We can all look forward to more poor behaviour now that Mick's given away even the illusion of control.

2. It may turn out to that arrogance and contempt for the public kicked off the brawl:
The brawl is believed to have started after [Chris] Tarrant jumped into the back of a car with people he did not know after becoming frustrated by a long delay for taxis. (The Sunday Age, 6/8/2006)

Gee, who'd a thunk it? An AFL player - shocked that a cab wouldn't come to pick him, then staggered by disbelief that a member of the public could refuse to chauffeur him around - resorted to ugly, drunken violence. Expect to see more of this in light of Mick's roll-over.

3. Collingwood lost the crucial match. You know, the one where those two knobs "owed" the fans and so had to play? And guess who fluffed a kick at goal in the dying seconds of the match, locking in Collingwood's defeat?
With Adelaide ahead after a Trent Henschel goal at the 21-minute mark, [Chris] Tarrant's 55m shot after a free kick fell short and was rushed.

From there, Adelaide iced the clock. (FoxSports, 6/8/2006)

I wonder if he was still pissed from the night before? Perhaps his arms were tired from beating up strangers? I guess we'll never.

Still, I hope that Mick and Eddie - and Chris and Ben - all choke on their humble pie. For all their willingness to sell out decency in pursuit of a win, they still ended up losing. And now they've got a coterie of players who know they are untouchable, exposing the rest of us to more harm. Stupid, selfish idiots.

*** UPDATE ***

Well, the wheels of justice slowly creaked out another rotation with the news that Ben Johnson has been charged with assault:
Collingwood player Ben Johnson has been charged on summons with recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault. (Sportal, 16/10/2006)

He'll getting out his black suit, sunnies and hair-gel for his hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court (AFL Division) on Novemeber the 20th. Still, he's stared down Mick Malthouse in a battle of wills, so I doubt the prospect of a tongue-lashing from a mere magistrate is too much concern.

I wonder if Chris Tarrant will be organising a lift for him?

*** UPDATE ***

Here's a quote from Ben Johnson, expressing remorse at his dangerous violence and how he cried afterwards:

"I felt really sick and in a bit of a daze as well. I just wanted him to be all right," Johnson said yesterday.

"I definitely don't want people to think I go in and deliberately try to hurt someone like that, especially around that part of the body and knowing how dangerous it is. (FoxSports, 23/8/2007)

Is he talking about his vicious car park assault and kicking that left a young man with head injuries in hospital? No. Just a nasty on-field hip-and-shoulder. So why is he so worried about his reputation? Too bad his compassion doesn't extend to people he drunkenly bashes. What a shit.

Citations: ABC Sport, 2/8/2006; The Age, 2/8/2006; The Age, 3/8/2006; The Age, 2/8/2006; The Age, 3/8/06; The Age, 3/8/06; The Age, 4/8/2006; The Sunday Age, 6/8/2006; FoxSports, 6/8/2006; Sportal, 16/10/2006

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