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Monday, February 19, 2007

Spread Your Bets - Footballers Caught Out

It's all so ... tawdry. A betting scandal has engulfed the ranks of the Australian Football League, with four players being named for wagering on matches. While the details are slowly emerging, a carefully choreographed piece of theatre unfolds to ensure damage is contained.

First announced five weeks ago, the AFL has been investigating the use of betting accounts in the players' own names with Betfair and Tabcorp. It's expected the inquiry - headed by AFL investigators Allan Roberts and Bill Kneebone - will expand to include other betting agencies, taking two weeks to conclude.

As pointed out by various bookies, the players can easily use the accounts of their friends and families. The fact that they overlooked this basic precaution speaks volumes of the players' stupidity, arrogance and confidence in getting away with it. Further, it suggests that a larger group of players who did have the nous to hide their dodgy wagering behind false names remain undetected.

For the record, here are the greedy idiots named so far:

Adelaide Crows midfielder Simon Goodwin, Melbourne's Daniel Ward, Swans youngster Keiren Jack and Kangaroos ruckman David Hale have been named as the four players being investigated by the AFL for betting on senior matches in the 2006 season. (ABC Online, 17/2/2007)

(Regulars might remember Simon Goodwin as the mulitple-award winning footballer who assaulted a photographer and made threats to kill after being photographed wild-eyed and out of control at 11am. Don't worry though, this won't affect his leadership potential.)

The problem with footballers punting on footy matches is obvious. Equally clear is the temptation: like bourbon and coke, jet skis and bleached blonde grid girls, gambling is one of the great bogan indulgences. Giving way too much cash to bored and listless footballers while expecting them not to wager is foolhardy in the extreme.

Hence, the AFL has a very clear policy on gambling, which it rams home with a blistering series of player seminars, online statements, monitoring of wagering activities, various kinds of "tut-tut" noises and legally-binding contracts. All of which counts for nowt. (Makes you wonder about the kind of traction other policies - like those around drug abuse, racism and misogyny - are getting with players.)

There is a Gambling Workshop at the induction camp for the newly drafted players and players are warned at annual visits to clubs by AFLPA staff.

The AFL players code of conduct states footballers are prohibited from betting "on any aspect of an AFL match".

"The AFL regulations also prohibit the passing on of information that is not publicly available concerning teams playing in any match (including the actual or likely composition of the team, players injuries, the form of players and tactics) unless given in a bona fide media interview," it states. (, 17/2/07)

Interestingly, under this policy, players are not allowed to participate in the AFL Misbehaviour Market (betting on AFL player court appearances), since this would entail informing on "the actual or likely composition of the team". Even though the criminal justice systems conspires to ensure that players are never ever inconvenienced, there's still a chance one will slip through the net and actually miss a game because of the latest bashing, rape, drink-driving, domestic violence etc incident.

This is, of course, publicity the AFL doesn't want. It has deals with the betting companies to get a slice of the wagering action. (Why? Surely the results of a footy match are public information? If you want proof-positive of the immense power wielded by footy officials in the country, just contemplate how they manage to screw hard-headed businesses into handing over money for free.) Naturally, the AFL doesn't want anything to jeopardise the flow of cash into their coffers. This is behind The Tisers speculation that "it is believed the AFL wanted the issue hushed up until they were in a position to announce the players' penalties, believed to be hefty fines." (The Adelaide Advertiser, 17/2/07).

There's also the mystery as to why the clubs came out and named their players so quickly once the story broke that "unnamed players" were punting. (Compare and contrast with the handling of drug abuser identities - which is actually a criminal matter as well as a violation of the toothless AFL Code of Conduct.) One theory is that a story about "unnamed players" at certain clubs would lead to speculation (and evidence!) flowing out in an uncontrolled fashion. You know, people phoning up the talk-back radio saying "I saw such-and-such at the TAB", nasty rumours published on footy hate-blogs. That kind of thing. No, better to put a firebreak around the issue, hang a couple of the more stupid players out to dry and let the rest slink off quietly.

More of footy's dirty secrets escape. More evidence of the lawless, arrogant and "special" nature of Aussie Rules' elite. More undermining of the League's ability to control its players. More spin, managed information release and big-money machinations from the chiefs. More reason to hold the entire AFL in contempt and disgust.

*** UPDATE ***

The players in question seem to have avoided any suspension or serious penalty at all. In fact, the only things suspended were half the value of the fines:

The league handed down fines of $55,000 to three players who bet on AFL matches, while a fourth received a reprimand.

Adelaide star Simon Goodwin received the harshest penalty, slugged $40,000, although half was suspended pending any future breach of the AFL's gambling laws.


But the AFL's bark could lack any investigative bite, with football operations manager Adrian Anderson admitting the league only has access to betting information from two companies - Tabcorp and Betfair.


Adelaide said Goodwin would remain in the club's leadership group and not be punished further.


While there were no bans this time, Anderson said any player caught from now on would be suspended, or in the most extreme case banned from playing AFL. (SMH, 1/3/2007)

So they nearly got it right: full fines plus suspensions from play plus demotion for those in "leadership" positions. The message seems to be that they'll get it right next time. Maybe. I have my doubts. Perhaps the message sent is "Guys, we don't want the grief and bad press so make sure you place bets through a friend at one of the dozens of other betting outlets." This betting is probably unstoppable: Cashed up bogans like a punt and footballers will not be told what to do.

Citations: ABC Online, 17/2/2007;, 17/2/07; The Adelaide Advertiser, 17/2/07; SMH, 1/3/2007

Word Count: 1122

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  • You ask why the AFL/Clubs named/didn't hide the names of the Betters compared to those found using Drugs. The answer goes to the heart of why the Betters are in trouble and thats because the AFL has a contract/policy to not name the players caught for drugs. They have no such contract on the drugs issue. This is the point! The AFL Players have a contract not to bet on AFL and thats why their in trouble.

    So anyone saying they should name the players caught for drugs, can't use this as an argument!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 pm, February 20, 2007  

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  • Geez, Moll, do you even read your own comments before hitting publish? Before we can even begin to debate the ethics around this, readers will need to know what Molly is saying. Having some experience in this regard, I've provided a translation into standard English:

    You ask why the AFL clubs named the bettors instead of those found using drugs. The answer goes the heart of why the bettors are in trouble and that's because the AFL has a policy not to name the players caught for drugs [until the third offence]. They have no such contract on the gambling issue. This is the point! The AFL players have a contract not to bet on the AFL that's why they're in trouble.

    So, Molly, is that what you meant?

    In which case I respond by noting that if AFL footballers are as keen on wagering on as they are (evidently) keen on drugs, then expect their union to negotiate similar "silence clauses" in their future enterprise bargaining.

    Of course, AFL Corporate is much more concerned with player gambling than drugs, since player gambling directly threatens their revenue. So the AFLPA won't be able to get quite as sweet a deal.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:02 pm, February 20, 2007  

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  • Dude, if I was good at english and the likes, I probably would do more blogging then I do podcasting. Does my poor english in comments annoy you?

    And to answer your first question. No.

    Seeings as it is established that I am dumb, could you explain "since player gambling directly threatens their revenue"? I must of missed something as I don't get it.

    PS. Perhaps you should offer Audio Commenting as I do on my AFL Podcast. Perhaps then you would hear more from the players you bag as according to you most of them can't read or write (a point I strongly disagree with).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:42 pm, February 21, 2007  

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  • No need to get tetchy ... just saying that you could proof read your comments and maybe run them through a word processor or at least a spell checker first. I don't say this to mock - I say this because I welcome your comments but worry that the quality of your prose is getting in the way of making your point.

    I have considered podcasting (and audio comments) but I'm not sure it would increase my audience. In any case, I doubt footballers would be capable of/allowed to comment on my blog. They have ghost-writers and PR flaks for that. (If any footballers wish to send in an audio file comment, I'm happy to transcribe/host it.)

    Next, I thought it was a fair translation - where did I go wrong? (For instance you say "they have no such contract on the drugs issue" but I'm sure you meant "gambling issue", right?)

    Lastly, let me elaborate on the threats to AFL revenue.

    Lots of people bet on (aspects of) AFL matches. This results in a stream of cash for the bookies. Somehow, the AFL has convinced those bookies to hand over a cut of the bookies' earnings to the AFL. At the mo', the AFL's cut is worth about $10 million a year.

    (I have spoken with gambling operators who are amazed by this arrangement.)

    When the public finds out players are betting on AFL matches, people become suspicious. They feel they are not getting good odds and that "insider trading" is happening and they are being ripped off to feather the nests of footballers. This means there are fewer people gambling, less often and with smaller amounts.

    The resulting drop in revenue for the bookmakers entails a smaller cut for the AFL.

    By Blogger Greg, at 5:07 pm, February 21, 2007  

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  • It seems like their are alot of sports gambling scandals in the sports world these days. I don't think that athletes should be betting on their own matches.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 pm, December 25, 2007  

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