Blinded by a blur of gaming cash, the AFL loses sight of the game

Each of these matters speaks poorly for what once was a game and now is a business run by suits.

Jaidyn Stephenson’s decision to lay a bet on a match he was about to play in was, of course, crazy. There wouldn’t be a player who didn’t know the risks. He’ll have at least the rest of the home and away season to remind himself.

Stephenson fronted the media on Wednesday after being suspended for placing bets on Collingwood games.Credit:Joe Armao

And yet, the AFL loves gambling. Loves it.

The corporation – let’s not call it a league in this context – gets a sling of millions a year from a gambling shop that is its official sponsor.

And the footy gets a big run on the TV because gambling shops pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year to advertise on footy-related shows.

Oh, it’s OK. The ads tell everyone, in a garbled addendum, to “gamble responsibly”.

Spot the hypocrisy? Anyone?

But it’s the slap on the wrist to Hawthorn’s captain Ben Stratton that rankles more.

If a grade three kid behaved in such a pathetic manner – pinching! – he’d find himself out of any self-respecting team.

Why, Stratton laughed as he applied his contemptible attempt at torment, clearly inviting Essendon’s Orazio Fantasia to thump him and get reported himself.

Then, once more like a sneaky kid, he went the stomp in a pack, imagining the cameras might miss it.

And when he got his little two-match ban, what did he have to say?

“As captain of the football club and as a player of the AFL, I understand this is not a good look for the game, especially the kids watching at home, the Auskick kids and stuff like that,” Stratton said after the hearing.

Not a good look, and stuff like that.

The bloke doesn’t get it.

Ben Stratton leaves the tribunal after being banned for two matches and fined $1000.

Ben Stratton leaves the tribunal after being banned for two matches and fined $1000.Credit:AAP

Enough has been said about the wretched spectacle of “behavioural awareness officers” ceaselessly patrolling the aisles of the stands, laying the evil eye on the loud and the passionate.

By all means toss out the violent and the genuinely offensive. They have no place in a sporting arena.

But it shouldn’t have got to the point that crowds and commentators revolted before the AFL bosses in their well-cut suits decided their nanny state had gone too far.

It’s the footy. Once, everyone understood what that meant.

Lost in the blur of a billion-dollar gambling addiction and an upside-down system of penalising those who forget what sportsmanship is supposed to be – good lord, 22 weeks for a bet, two weeks for filthy and puerile play – the AFL risks a lot more than losing control of its crowds.

Most Viewed in Sport



Related posts

Make a comment