Papers please, players!

I have this vision of Andrew Demetriou watching the coverage of the fighting in Gaza and thinking: “I wonder how you get hold of one of those drones …”

While I doubt the AFL will ever be permitted to obtain a UAV capacity, I wouldn’t put it beyond their ambitions and the evidence supports this view.

The AFL appears to, in its own view, be approaching the status of a state within a state, sort of like how Hezbollah operates in Lebanon, or perhaps the old Tamil Tiger statelet in Sri Lanka.

The AFL operates its own quasi-government these days, complete with industrial relation regimes and increasingly – and worryingly – what appears to be its attempt at establishing a shadow judiciary.

Now the AFL has always had the quaint institution of the tribunal. Everyone knows that it has no real basis in law – as whinging clubs like the Swans like to prove periodically when one of their players is rubbed out before an important final – but everyone goes along with it (unless it is the Swans etc etc).

In fact, the tribunal is an oddity that sees men given four weeks off work for committing acts that would probably see them sentenced to four months prison if they were being tried in the dreary anonymity of the Ringwood Magistrates court.

No, the AFL has no gone a step further. It is building what appears to be some sort of FBI (Footy Bureau of Investigation). This would be slightly comical, if it weren’t so serious.

Take this report on the ongoing Adelaide/Tippet drama:

AFL investigators have swooped on the Adelaide Crows’ West Lakes offices seizing computers and bank records as the Kurt Tippett scandal deepens.

You what?

Seizing computers and bank records? Ummm … the AFL is conducting raids on clubs now? By what authority?

It gets worse.

In the Melbourne tanking investigation, we’re told that AFL investigators Brett Clothier and Abraham Haddad, the league’s intelligence co-ordinator, are interviewing and re-interviewing various Melbourne staff.

Haddad is serious customer, a policeman with international experience in some fairly hairy spots like Cambodia. I don’t imagine he has a “go easy” setting.  Do assistant coaches really need to be grilled by a bloke like this over stuff that happened in what is, after all, only a game? Being interviewed, repeatedly, by police can be a distressing, verging on traumatic, experience.

By what right does the AFL inflict such an experience on people, especially when the crime it is “investigating” is one the AFL itself denied existed for years.

Things get worse. Take this from The Age:

A clause has been included in AFL standard playing contracts requiring players to provide telephone records, bank account details and computer hard drives in the event of any unusual or suspicious activity. Those details would then become part of the database.

This is simply incredible. No other employer in Australia – outside of actual police forces and associated organisations – would dare impose such conditions on employees.

The AFL’s defence in all this is that it must take allegations of misconduct seriously because government gambling regulators and the like have shown an interest in allegations of tanking and the like. That’s fair enough – match fixing is indeed a criminal activity – as Pakistani cricketer Salman Butt found out. The Federal government has established an Integrity in Sport body to look into such institutional cheating like match fixing and drug cheating that might involve criminal activity.

In this case, if there’s a genuine case that criminal activity might have taken place, real life actual cops and genuine courts should get involved, not the AFL’s mickey mouse outfits.

Like all petty jack booters, the AFL’s defence is that people with nothing to hide should have nothing to fear. That is the pathetic defence of the scoundrel. People don’t have to prove their innocence in this country, their guilt must be proven.

I hope the AFLPA take the AFL to task on this, but I suspect they will be bought off with a few more shiny coins. After all, a man can never have too many Ed Hardy shirts, or stupid tattoos.

I just hope the players don’t mind a funny sound over their Mad Monday venue in coming years. A funny, insistent buzzing sound …

The Draft: What does each club want?

Long-time BigFooty Draft forum mainstay Snoop Dog has compiled a list of each club’s most likely wants in the AFL National Draft.

Gleaned only from the most trusted and respected BigFooty members, here’s the list:

Adelaide – Key forward & back and then just best available (but Adelaide have given back their picks…)

Brisbane – ball winning midfielder & KPF

Carlton – Inside midfielders, outside mids with pace and KPF

Collingwood -Best available with potentially a KPF or KPB and possibly a ruck late

Essendon – Outside mid, Inside mid, small fwd, KPD and ruck

Fremantle – KPF

Geelong – Midfielders

Suns – Best available

Giants – Best available mids and then best available mid to late

Hawthorn – KPD, inside mid and outside mid

Melbourne – Midfielders

North – Midfielder, mercurial mid / HF type and ruck late

Port – Midfielders and KPD

Richmond – Best available and ruck late

Saints – KPD, KPF, midfielders and mature age KPD late

Swans – KPD, mids and ruck

Western Bulldogs – Best available mids and then KPF with 3rd pick and then HB type

West Coast – Inside mid, outside mid and KPD

Good luck with your Draft Tipping Comp entries: $2,500 is up for grabs!

Razzle dazzle – thanks but no thanks

Paul Sergeant has just taken over as the head honcho at Etihad Stadium. And he wants to shake things up.

As this article shows, Sergeant, wearing what appears to be one of Bill Cosby’s cast off crazy sweaters, wants there to be more razzle dazzle at games. He thinks this might help arrest a decline in attendances.

Sayeth Sergeant:

“The whole experience of going to an NBA game blows your socks off because they make use of the arrival experience, the video boards, the monitors around the venue, the PA system.

“Those sports in different parts of the world are out there. It’s about going, ‘well what can we look at? What can we learn from them?’ then translate it back into what can we do at our venues.”

To which I would reply, thanks but no thanks Paul.

I’m reminded of this excellent ad for Budweiser – about the only good thing relating to that insipid cat’s piss – that aired in the UK when the US brewing giant sponsored the Premier League.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjI-qh37xf0

The ad agency hired by Budweiser knew instinctively that the English audience would rebel against the idea of an American influence on their sport. For them, “American sport” mean razzle dazzle, cheerleaders and bigger is better because it is just is. This ad cleverly plays on those well-deserved stereotypes of American sport

People want less razzle dazzle, not more. They want fewer opportunities to have ads shoved down their throat, especially if those ads promote gambling. They are sick of their kids asking them at half time who they have bet on, or informing them that their team is at poor odds to come back.

The average punter in the outer knows the Good Old Days have gone and are not about to come back.  The days of all games starting at 2PM on a Saturday and people being home in time to pick up the early edition of the Sporting Globe from the New Australians at the corner milk bar are long gone.

But we do not have to rush so headlong into the future. Much as many fans are frustrated with the annual rule changes, so the rapid change in when and where games are played is alienating some supporters.

Attendances are not falling because people feel that the big screen is not dynamic enough at three quarter time. Attendances are falling because the AFL makes their team play at times that simply do not suit modern lifestyles.

TV money is now the lifeblood of the game. The AFL makes teams play at times that encourage people to watch games on TV.  The AFL effectively lets the TV stations decide when games should be played.

Paul Sergeant has an impressive sounding resume. He’s managed world class stadia like Wembley and the Millennium stadium in Wales. Yet as well known as these venues are, and massive as some of the fixtures they host may be, I’m yet to see a home and away game of AFL played at either.

Just as our code is utterly unique onfield, so we have our own off field traditions and foibles. Sergeant would have spent plenty of time in his Wembley days working with the Metropolitan Police on ways in which to keep rival groups of fans separated after the conclusion of an Association Football fixture.

That’s not a skill that translates down under.

Instead of lobbing here and immediately telling us we need stuff from abroad – Oh, what is this NBA you speak of Great One? We mere provincials had never heard of such a thing! How sophisticated you are! – Sergeant would be wiser to find out what it is we like about going to the footy and trying to maximise that.

Given that the game is rigged against him with the AFL deliberately scheduling games to increase TV audiences, Sergeant would do well to play to the strengths available to him, not give people yet another reason to stay home and mute the crap at half time anyway.

Judd: Deal or no deal?

Sympathy is not an emotion I often feel for Chris Judd.

In fact, I really don’t like the bloke. He’s a sniper, he’s a hypocrite and he’s a bloody good footballer who has a habit of playing well against my mob.

But I must say I do feel for Judd, astoundingly, in the wake of the AFL announcing that his $200k a year Visy sponsorship will have to be counted in the salary or given up.

Now, I don’t think that giving up $200k a year will force the Judd’s to send little Oscar out work as chimney sweep in order to put food on the table. But at the same time, it is money they quite rightly would have thought was coming into the house that is now at risk.

The reason I feel sorry for Judd is that he had a deal, one that was signed off by the AFL, who have now gone back on their word with no explanation and no apparent real course of redress for Judd.

Whether you think the Visy deal was fair or moral doesn’t really matter. The point is that the AFL signed it off and now they going back on that arrangement and leaving Judd high and dry.

That’s simply not fair. He is getting the short end of the stick here. And why other club supporters are gloating is a bit of a mystery: nobody knows who will be caught out next.

I have my suspicions as to why the AFL is doing this.

First and foremost, they are following the basic political maxim – and the AFL is nothing if not a political beast – that one should never waste a good crisis.

With attention largely diverted by the Melbourne tanking inquiry and the ongoing car crash of the Tippet saga, the AFL is taking the opportunity to tie up some loose ends and deal with matters that would have been back page leads if dealt with on their own.

There is of course a bigger narrative at play here: how the AFL squares free agency with its stated equalisation policy.

Free agency by its nature means that clubs that are already wealthy and successful will tend to attract the best players. The AFL doesn’t want this, it wants the proverbial level playing field.

This is why the AFL fought free agency tooth and nail. But in the end was forced to accede to the player’s demands lest it risk the catastrophic situation whereby the draft and/or salary cap were threatened.

Now that the Tippet situation has shown what we all knew was happening – clubs were routinely shonking the system – the AFL, increasingly militant as they are, is determined to act, and put the players back in their box.

Adelaide will get the kind of whack that scares all clubs off engaging in shenanigans for a while at least.

And the AFL will, in the stern moralising tone it does so well when it is covering for its own stuff up, announce that third party deals will now come under the most stringent  of examination.

If players want to have the mobility offered by free agency, they have to play within the rules – this bodes badly for Kurt Tippet who will most likely be made example of. For a season or so.

None of this helps Judd. He didn’t move as a free agent. He worked out a deal that the AFL signed off. Now Carlton has to choose between keeping their captain happy by squeezing his $200k sponsorship under the cap, or risk alienating a player who might just fancy a last payday elsewhere.

If I were Adelaide, with salary cap space opened up by Tippet’s departure and excluded from a few drafts, I’d be asking Bryce Gibbs why he should be denied a pay rise so Juddy’s extra deal can go under the cap.