Dead man walking V

Josh Bornstein has an op-ed in the Herald Sun pointing to the AFLs corporate governance problems.*

So why has the AFL’s integrity system fallen into disrepute? The answer is not complicated: the AFL has tried to do too much. It has been torn between its core role of managing AFL business, including protecting its brand, and, on the other hand, investigating and deliberating on the Essendon story. It has tried to be business manager, administrator, investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. Something had to give.

What does he say about Demetriou?

During this period, Andrew Demetriou oscillated between the roles of CEO, media commentator, spokesperson for the prosecution, spokesperson for the disciplinary tribunal and so on. His efforts became tortured and almost comical.

Bear in mind that in April Demetriou was reported as saying: “I’m shocked by the complexity of the substances … It’s a terribly disturbing situation … when we are talking about the health and welfare of young men … (stepping down) is an option he has to consider … I’ve got briefings that are more advanced than what’s in the public domain.”

Later in the year, Demetriou then saw no problem in sitting on the AFL Commission to hear the charges. Really?

So here are the things the AFL lacks; Separation of decision making, lines of accountability, transparency, and integrity. How do we know?

It is now clear James Hird’s supposed punishment was a well-paid sabbatical year complete with some study in Paris.

Hird would have won his Supreme Court proceeding. Ditto club doctor Bruce Reid.

We also know that Demetriou didn’t know or understand this. Conversely he is so used to being unchallenged that he thought he could simply lie about what had happened with no consequence. I suspect the former and not the latter – but that just makes the governance failure at the AFL even worse.

The solution to this problem is functional separation. There should be one organisation that manages the rules of the game and another that manages the actual business. Both of these organisations need to be run like proper businesses and not like personal fiefdoms or voluntary associations.

*The thing to remember is this; the AFLs problems remain true even if ASADA ever manages to change anyone with anything.

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50 Responses to Dead man walking V

  1. H B Bear

    Sports administration is an excellent career choice for people unsuitable for academia.

  2. Sinclair Davidson

    Low blow. People unsuited for academia normally become university administrators. Those unsuited for that do quality control. Those who can’t do quality, get onto the ethics committees.

  3. Ronaldo

    Those who can’t do quality, get onto the ethics committees.

    Sinc, aren’t you worried that this observation, while no doubt true, will get you hauled up before RMIT’s ethics committee?

  4. Sinclair Davidson

    Not particularly. In the mid-1990s I told the then associate dean research that ethics committees were by definition unethical.

  5. the sting

    The AFL has become a farce.Proverbs 29 vs 2 ”When the rightgeous are in authority,the people rejoice;But when a wicked man rules,the people groan”.Also vs 12 ”If a ruler pays attention to lies,All his servants become wicked.”Sums up the AFL perfectly .

  6. Token

    Message just in from M0nty..

    …as he has promised since February when this whole story was manufactured as a way to distract from 3 of Gillard’s ministers resigning in a couple of days – ASADA & the AFL are just about to reveal the killer evidence…but may have to sit on it for a few more days…or weeks…or months…

  7. Tom

    Apart from the ALPFL’s schizophrenia in trying to combine the role of regulator and administrator, it is a monopoly business. And as the CEO of a monopoly, Fat Andy is surrounded by yes men, who have their own media outlet in The Age, which is supported by the union-organised awards system, which has awarded the Age the necessary Walkley Award for supporting the ALPFL.

  8. Token

    The solution to this problem is functional separation. There should be one organisation that manages the rules of the game and another that manages the actual business. Both of these organisations need to be run like proper businesses and not like personal fiefdoms or voluntary associations.

    The board members of the AFL should be baring the consequences of allowing the executive to run unregulated and to allow the risks occur.

  9. Rabz

    Sports administration is an excellent career choice for people unsuitable for academia street sweeping/garbology.

    Fixed.

  10. rafiki

    Tom – at least some of The Australian opinionistas seem keen to join in bashing Demetriou. A young balding man by the Gatsby like name of ‘Chip Le Grand’ wrote an attack in Saturday’s Oz. His claim that in the early years of the 2000′s Brisbane’s was on track for a record-breaking 4 premierships is of course egregiously false; Collingwood achieved this feat in 1927-1930. Like the 13th gong of the clock, this error casts doubt on everything else he said. The utter unreliability of press reporting of this saga makes me pause before joining in an attack. Moreover, and I would have thought that anti-Statists might share this feeling, I tend to think that when a person is rounded on by the press, there might be something to be said in his favour. In this case, Demetriou has not acted alone and has been sidetracked by others, such as Fitzpatrick. And I don’t like Ron Liddle.

    Sinclair: I don’t query the general thrust of your comments on University Ethics Committees (having served on the ANU Committee for a few years). But could you expand on why ‘by definition’ they are unethical?

  11. jupes

    I tend to think that when a person is rounded on by the press, there might be something to be said in his favour.

    Not in this case.

    Sure there there is plenty of blame to be shared over this farce, but your mate Fat Andy is in a class of his own.

  12. steve

    The solution to this problem is functional separation
    we could start with separating the fat, hairy Greek from the AFL

    It is now clear James Hird’s supposed punishment was a well-paid sabbatical year complete with some study in Paris
    while it may have been a win for Hird, it is still a loss for the club. They are without their coach for a year having been convicted by a corrupt process with the help of a baying lynch mob.

  13. steve

    Sports administration is an excellent career choice for people unsuitable for academia

    fixed again

  14. steve

    at least some of The Australian opinionistas seem keen to join in bashing Demetriou
    it seems to me that there are some who like to defend the indefensible. Oh, and calling Demetriou a fat, hairy Greek is apparently “peurile” while it is OK to call Le Grand a “young balding man”. Someone took hypocracy lessons from the Gillard and the gang.

  15. H B Bear

    Low blow.

    Present company excluded, of course. Actually most sports administrators are half back flankers with less than 30 VFL games to their credit.

  16. rafiki

    I take it that it’s the “balding” reference you object to. OK, the reference to this parallels the “hairy”, but it is obviously the “Greek” bit that is most offensive. But you have a point; perhaps I read too much commentary here. And it’s ‘hypocrisy’ Steve.

  17. steve

    All I am saying is that we all have opinions and we are all welcome to express them (unless you are Andrew Bolt). I happen to think that Demetriou has committed a biased, unfair campaign against a football club by leaking to his toadies in the press and then convicting without a trial, while you apparently think that is all OK. So be it. We are all entitled to our opinions.
    So are you telling me that Dimetriou is fat and hairy but he is not Greek? ….and thanks for the spelling lesson, teacher man.

  18. Sinclair Davidson

    Can I just say there is nothing wrong with being ‘balding’.

    Rafiki – university ethics committees engage in censorship.

  19. steve

    nothing wrong with being fat and hairy either, Sinc, but God forbid you should be Greek!

  20. steve

    “And it’s ‘hypocrisy’ Steve”
    Say, isn’t there some rule about starting a sentence with a conjuction? You know, like you shouldn’t say “But he is being sanctimonious”

  21. steve

    left out an “n”. Had to do that before Sir pulled me up again.

  22. Uber

    And Patrick Smith has completely lost it. He’s turned the whole thing into a personal vendetta against James Hird. The Australian really should lose him.

  23. steve

    Uber, the journalists involved, Smith, Wilson, Barrett, Bartlett and others all rely on the AFL for their pay packet. If they upset the AFL then they cannot do their job. This has resulted in a totally biased message being put out to the public as to what Essendon did. I am not saying that they should not have been penalised for some governance problems but:

    The whole process was compromised by Demetriou from the day he sat on the judgement committee while at the same time being involved in the warning to Evans, the leaking of ASADA info to the press and the incorrect statement he made in the media all while the Essendon people were told not to speak to the press until the final report was released.

    The AFL did not allow a hearing for justice to be served, they simply called Essendon in and negotiated penalties.

    The penalties involved were so severe for the evidence that the AFL had that they look ludicrous to any unaligned observer.

    There has been no opportunity for anyone in the public to hear Essendon’s side of the story.

    This whole thing, if it happened in court would result in a mistrial. Essendon were going to go to court but being threatened with things like the loss of the ANZAC Day match with Collingwood among other things made them take the pragmatic approach and bow to Demetriou’s bullying.

  24. the sting

    All these shenanigans just to take the heat off Gillard,she was not worth it???

  25. rafiki

    I am balding too!

    When I have checked the Le Grand article again. I can say now that his article was a throughly unfair attack on Demetriou, but I need to back that up. And I was a bit snarky with you too Steve; my apologies.

    On ethics committee’s. As was my won’t, I made trouble by pointing to to some heavy hitters in the Research Schools of the ANU that they could not tell a subject of an interview that what they said was confidential would never be revealed. As the law school rep, I felt bound to point out that the confidential quality of a communication is not a basis for a privilege claim in a judicial proceeding. (At one point, a deputy V-C was wheeled in to heavy us, but I was was pleasantly surprised when he backed us.) I resigned after a later committee raised no ethical objection to a ‘gender studies’ project that was clearly exploitative of Asian prostitutes. The point of this? Ethics committees are there, in part, to protect third parties from exploitation. I think that is fine.

  26. jupes

    And Patrick Smith has completely lost it. He’s turned the whole thing into a personal vendetta against James Hird.

    He does that. What he doesn’t do is admit he is wrong.

  27. Megan

    Say, isn’t there some rule about starting a sentence with a conjuction?

    Myth, not a rule.

  28. Token

    I take it that it’s the “balding” reference you object to. OK, the reference to this parallels the “hairy”, but it is obviously the “Greek” bit that is most offensive. But you have a point; perhaps I read too much commentary here.

    Did you hitch your petty-coat when you were writing that?

  29. Token

    I can say now that his article was a throughly unfair attack on Demetriou, but I need to back that up.

    In what way?

  30. steve

    Rafiki, no need to apologise, it is a robust debate. All good, but you have raised some questions.
    1 I used “fat” and “hairy” as insulting descriptive adjectives even though they are true and I used Greek as a descriptive adjective only (I don’t regard being Greek as a problem) but you seem to think it is the worst part of “fat, hairy Greek”. I don’t follow your reasoning.
    2 If you are a legal expert, how can you support Demetriou, who has clearly thrown the concept of justice out of the window and doesn’t mind who he steps on i his attempt to win. Are you going to make me even more cynical by telling me that lawyers care about winning and not so much about justice?
    3 Even if Le Grand’s article was unfair to Demetriou, the Greek has attacked every one in sight and started it with Le Grand when he called him Homer in a derogatory manner. So why do you expect people to be fair to the fat, hairy Greek?
    4 the story you tell seems to indicate that you believe in standing up for your principles, except not at Essendon, what gives?

  31. rafiki

    In this way Token.

    Le Grand’s first piece was headed “Andrew Demetriou may have to leave after the AFL’s capitulation’. This was based only on the fact that the AFL allowed that Hird’s 2014 salary could be paid in advance. Of course this is embarrassing to AD, but why should this be sufficient to call for his resignation? It just doesn’t make sense. I suspect he was at least let-down by others in the AFL.

    The second piece in The Inquirer section begins with the bit of ignorance about Collingwood’s 4 premierships, and moves on to assert or insinuate that the AFL “under Demetriou” punished Brisbane because the club cut a deal with Cadbury-Schweppes that infringed on the AFL’s deal with Coca-Cola. It fined them for this infringement (and Le Grand does not explore whether this was justifiable in terms of any undertakings by or knowledge of rules by the club), “dispatched” an investigator who found salary rule violations (why should any club be immune from investigation?), and, most draconic of all, made life so difficult for the club in the 2004 finals that thy lost the GF and did not achieve a 4 in-a-row. This third penalty is insinuated rather than directly stated, for Le Grand only quotes (without any query) an unnamed Brisbane official. This is both cowardly and stupid.
    Le Grand goes on goes on to call Demetriou a bully, and of conducting a ‘reign of terror’. He quotes Kennett’s insult that Demetriou is a ‘benevolent dictator’. This arrant nonsense, given that Demetriou works under a Commission.
    The question Le Grand and Cat contributors should also be asking is what responsibility the people who make up the Commission, or who work for it, have in all this. Le Grand claims that in negotiations between unnamed AFL people and EFC, a term precluding payment of Hird’s 2014 salary was omitted. (I wonder whether he confirmed this with any AFL people; it seems pretty clear he spoke to the EFC.) He then makes the misleading assertion that under the final agreement, “Hird could be paid”. (We have it from the EFC that there is nothing about payment in the final agreement.) He then allows that “it is unclear why this was not communicated to the commission”. This is the critical issue here, and there is as much reason as otherwise to think that the answer would clear Demetriou of any negligence or worse.

    You are pretty quick with the insults Token. Do you find any flaws in what I have argued?

  32. rafiki

    Steve: your comment came in while I was midway through my little diatribe.
    1. Generally, I think a person’s ethnicity is irrelevant when criticising or evaluating what they said or did.
    2. Yes, many, perhaps most, lawyers care more about winning for themselves and their clients than about the ‘justice’ of the result. If taxed about this, some might say that in our legal system, justice is what results from the operation of the adversary system. It’s not perfect they would say, but better than any other. (I do not share this viewpoint, in particular in relation to criminal matters. We could learn much from a sophisticated ‘civil law’ system, such as operates in Germany). Whether Andrew trampled on justice is a matter of judgement, and I admit that I am not across that much detail to offer one of my own.
    3. I did to know he had a crack at Le Grand. But a professional journalist should not let this get in the way of a careful report.
    4. I have supported Essendon since about 1947; (I saw John Coleman play, albeit briefly in a match during a Lightning Premiership at the MCG! What fun they were for a nipper.) I am dismayed by what the EFC got up to, and do not feel inclined to worry about them. On the Cat, the EFC has plenty of defenders. I am most pissed off by the resulting queries about the legitimacy of Jobe Watson’s Brownlow. (One curiosity in all this is why he admitted that he had probably been administered a banned drug.)

  33. steve

    ok Rafiki,

    1 Ethnicity is irrelevant, however does that mean we should remove nationality as a descriptive noun? Would you have preferred “fat, hairy bastard”? You may not like it, but he is Greek, just as blacks are still black.
    2 “A matter of opinion”? Explain to me how in any legitimate legal system the opportunity to defend yourself can be withheld.
    3 True, but a professional sports administrator should not give anyone any opportunity to punch holes in the process he follows. These journalists that have challenged Demetriou, Le Grand and Robinson in particular have been frozen out by Demetriou and the AFL. Those journalists that kowtow are delivered leaks and leads and any number of “scoops” to build their reputations and carrers. Demetriou is the one that should be above criticism in his actions, not Le Grand.
    4 I am not as old as you, I was not born during the war, but I have followed Essendon all my life (and I am a baby boomer, just). The difference between you and me is that you believe all the one sided condemnation of the EFC and do not think that they deserve a chance to defend themselves. If I understand legal terminology correctly, you are relying on heresay evidence. No?

  34. steve

    One curiosity in all this is why he admitted that he had probably been administered a banned drug
    I think it would be more accurate to say that he admitted that he had been administered a drug which he had been told was legal

  35. rafiki

    Yes, on checking you have put it more accurately, but to complete the picture I would add the words “but which turns out may have been a banned drug”. If it is established to ASADA’s satisfaction that the drug was banned, then (1) Watson will come under pressure to return the Brownlow, and (2) he and other players may face lengthy bans. The offence provision is very complex, but it appears to be one of strict liability, with very limited defences, so that a belief that the drug was legal will not be enough to excuse them. This horror result would be down to the supplements regime, which Hird eagerly sponsored and promoted, against advice from the doctor and Bomber. (There’s a big “if” at the start of this, so maybe this will not come to pass. But John Fahey’s recent comments make it look more possible.)
    I won’t bore you with an analysis of what hearsay evidence is and whether it’s reliable. Sometimes it is, and sometimes not. Then there are exceptions, one being evidence which is an ‘admission’. This is a very complex topic; one of the most difficult studied in the law school course. If you want to risk scrambling your brain, I’ll give you a textbook reference.
    I don’t accept that I “believe all the one sided condemnation of the EFC and do not think that they deserve a chance to defend themselves”. It is however puzzling that Hird backed off from a Supreme Court action. Why was this not his chance to defend? I realise that he got a big pile of money, but he gave up this opportunity to defend his reputation.

    The main point of these comments has been to query whether it is fair to label Demetriou a ‘dead man walking’. There are plenty of other players in this saga who might deserve this label.

  36. Sinclair Davidson

    Rafiki – it seems to me that the only person who has no accountability in your story is your former student Demetriou. The fact of the matter is that he is the CEO of an organisation and that he clearly has little knowledge or information of what goes on within that organisation.

    As for ASADA the AOD business will go to court if charges are brought. My understanding is that ASADA indicated that the drug was not banned. To be sure strict liability would normally indicate that the Bombers might be in trouble, but when the drug enforcement agency tells you the drug is legal, then legal it is.

  37. steve

    What is this section of the law that says that if I do not know whether something is legal and feel the necessity to ask an expert, and the expert assures me that everything is legal, that the responsibility for my actions lies with me, even though I have done everything in my power to get good advice? If the law blames me for my actions even though I did everything with the best intentions and did everything that I could to verify my actions, then the law may royally tongue my chocolate starfish.

    The trouble that I see with your argument Rafiki is that you accept that the law is correct, whereas I am questioning whether the law provides a just result.

  38. rafiki

    Sinclair – we’ve been over this a lot, and I won’t press my argument again, other than to say that while I have said that CEO Demetriou must bear responsibility, that does not mean that he should be seen as a dead man walking. Le Grand acknowledges that “it is unclear why [the draft that did not to preclude Hird from being paid etc] was not communicated to the commission”. It’s fair to say that this looks like an AFL snafu, (rather than a deliberate sidelining of Demetriou), but there is much more to it than Demetriou being a dill.
    Maybe we won’t have long to find out if your understanding about what ASADA said is correct. But then again, maybe nothing will happen.
    (My wife has just issued a fatwa against any more blogging tonight. Thanks again for these opportunities.)

  39. Sinclair Davidson

    The reason these posts are entitled dead man walking is because he said he’d be going to his grave with certain knowledge. Well I can’t see how he can survive. Even if the Commission didn’t sack him, he should resign.

  40. rafiki

    Steve: I can just sneak one more in. I’m afraid that it is a daily experience for many litigants that paid for expert legal advice is not accepted by a court, and the litigant takes the consequences. I will pass on to the ACT Chief Justice the next time I see her your desire of that the law should do . (Joke)

  41. steve

    Sinc, I can forgive Demetriou for not knowing what was going on. Maybe he should have, maybe not. His unforgivable error in this affair was his attempted (and I would have to admit, successful) manipulation of the media and in doing that, public opinion, to influence and justify a predetermined result in what should have been an investigation where both sides had a chance to put forward their versions of what happened. Sorry about the length of that sentence. He has, as a supposedly unbiased member of the judiciary, incited a lynch mob. In my mind, when the integrity of the system is brought into question, so are all of it’s findings.

  42. steve

    Yeah, maybe I am naive Rafiki, I thought that justice was something that everyone was entitled to. Apparently I am wrong.

  43. Sinclair Davidson

    steve – you’re not wrong. The AFL has been too quick in dishing out rough justice and it caught up with them.

    rafiki – we don’t want to be responsible mrs rafiki getting angry.

  44. steve

    The problem is, Sinc, that it has not caught up with them………hopefully, it will.
    I too, am fearful of the wrath of Mrs Rafiki.

  45. Leigh Lowe

    Can I just say there is nothing wrong with being ‘balding’.

    The present tense of the term “balding” implies that it is a process which is continuing and incomplete.
    In some cases, the correct term is “balded”.

  46. steve

    Journalist says Andrew Dimetriou has bought the game into disrepute
    Rafiki response:
    Whether Andrew trampled on justice is a matter of judgement
    Journalist says Essendon has bought the game into disrepute
    Rafiki response:
    I am dismayed by what the EFC got up to
    I just don’t get it. Let’s get the supposed evidence for all misbehaviour out in the open for all to see.

  47. rafiki

    Steve – have you been up all night? (The fatwa has been temporarily put in abeyance.)

    I may be being a bit harder on the EFC, but maybe because I care more about its future than Demetriou’s (notwithstanding my very slight acquaintance with him in the late 1970s). But there is a difference. I accept what you say about Demetriou’s manipulation of the press, but this is not particularly relevant to whether he trampled on justice in the course of action which led the Commission (and not Andrew alone) to impose penalties on the EFC, Hird et al. On this issue, the big issue is whether they coerced the EFC into the agreed settlement. Now that we know (for my part, through Le Grand) that the EFC lawyers get what they emanated re Hird’s salary, it looks like there was give and take. So I can’t form an overall judgement on the trampling issue.
    To express dismay at the EFC is, for me, an easier judgement to make. Enough facts are clear enough (per the EFC Ziggie inquiry). It is also a less serious call.
    Now to the garden.

  48. rafiki

    Christ! It’s not “get what they emanated” but “got what they wanted”.

  49. Peter56

    The only person to come out of this with any integrity is Zaharakis. One bloke out of all that lot didn’t allow himself to be injected with substances unknown, unlike the rest of the morons.
    I know many think that footballers are just brainless thugs, which is not true, but these Essendon players are just mindless morons, doing the bidding of the coach or whoever said it was more than okay.
    This mindless adherence to the coach’s rules is similar, though far more dangerous, to the English cricket team not being allowed to read newspapers, in case there was negative press about the team. Which, obviously, with the way the team has played, would be a lot, but if these blokes who often have little red balls pelted at them at a great rate of knots, can’t handle a bit of negative press, well, I guess they should do a Trott and go home.
    Never mind what Demetriou and the league and those scumbag politicians and the others who stood around with their fists up their bums like good little lickspittles did, the main cause for worry is blokes who play a very tough sport, but are so weak and mindless when it comes to taking orders from their bosses, and allowing themselves to be injected.
    Bloody pathetic.

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