Heavy-handed AFL loses the plot over betting officials
The AFL, that over-officious sporting body which struts its self-importance like a hired goon from Underbelly, has gone completely power mad, imposing ruthless penalties on officials who placed some of the world’s smallest bets.
Get this. AFL Timekeeper Matthew Hollington has been stood down for five weeks for placing a $5 bet on an AFL game in 2009, when he was a trainee timekeeper.
AFL interchange steward John Wise has been booted out for the remainder of season 2010 for placing $9 worth of bets in the 2009 season, all in $1 and $2 denominations.
Goal umpire Chris Appleton has been sidelined for the rest of 2010 for betting $60 on last year’s grand final on a mate’s behalf, despite the fact he was watching the match in the pub and had no role whatsoever in the game.
What the hey, they might as well have chopped the perpetrators’ toes and fingers off too.
As I write this, there is a presser taking place at AFL HQ in Melbourne. Undoubtedly, a smug spokesperson will be spruiking loudly and proudly that these penalties send a message to those AFL officials or players who would sully the integrity of the greatest game on earth by wagering money upon it, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.
The headlines in tomorrow’s papers will be Port Adelaide assistant coach Matthew Primus, who’s been outed for two weeks for a $20 NAB Cup bet on a game in which Port was not playing.
And OK, yes, sure, fine. Obviously it’s important that those close to the game do not bet on it, for a host of reasons more obvious than Sam Newman’s facelifts.
But the AFL didn’t have to play crazed headmaster and suspend a bunch of small-time officials to make its point. Primus’s head would have been enough. The rest were just massive overkill.
There is obviously a huge subtext to all of this. Sports betting in Australia has grown astronomically and largely unchecked in recent years, and its full effects are yet to be properly documented. As other journos have pointed out, it’s only a matter of time before the Big One hits, as in, a major case of match fixing.
But robbing an interchange steward of his job for betting a few gold coins isn’t going to change the likelihood of that happening.
Oh, and while the AFL harps on about its integrity, would now be a good time to point out the massive income it receives in “product fees” from licensed bookies?
Product fees, typically, are 10 per cent of bookies’ profits on a particular sport, remitted straight back to the sport’s governing body.
I’ve just gotten off the phone from a bookmaker friend of mine, and his extremely conservative estimate was that the AFL gets $2 million a year from said fees.
Perhaps the AFL could invest some of that bounty in a well-conceived series of preventative anti-gambling measures, instead of shooting its own officials from the hip.
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