A Kicking Balls Special: Channel 7 vs AFL/AFLPA – The War begins

30 08 2007

Kicking BallsIt would seem that the issue of Channel 7’s obtaining and airing of private medical records is going to get ugly. Really ugly. Players are refusing to do interviews with Ch7 reporters (except at Essendon, where 7 is a sponsor, and Chris Grant and Darryl Wakelin answered questions also at their press conferences yesterday) and there is talk of boycotting 7’s coverage of the Brownlow. The AFL met with 7 yesterday, and talks didn’t go according to plan. 7 has refused to agree to permanently surpress the content of it’s controversial news report. The AFL and AFLPA are seeking a public apology, and 7 has said it would not name the players involved in the controversy, and it would commend the AFL for it’s attempt to tackle the problem of illicit drug use, but they will under no circumstance agree to suppress all the information in the documents. So what does this all mean and what are the contributing factors to each sides arguments?

AFLWell, we’ll start with the AFL. Now don’t get me wrong, they have the best interests of the game at heart. And the ‘best interest of the game’ is a clean image, and they will go to extraordinary lengths to maintain that image. But therein lies the problem. Messages have been delivered time and again that illicit drug use is rife in the sport. It has become incredibly obvious that the AFL was extremely naive about the extent of illicit drug use when it initiated the 3-strike policy. Dale Lewis, the former Sydney Swans champion, said as much 4 years ago and was roundly criticised and laughed out of the sport. Armed with misleading stats from its (very limited) drug testing, the AFL proceeded under the misapprehension it could operate an in-house rehabilitation program for what it believed was a ‘only a handful’ of offenders. Clearly, it should have been cracking down on a growing problem – or better still, leaving it to those who could. The AFL can’t be accused of inconsistency. Quite the opposite, just as it still refuses to acknowledge there is a problem with its drug policy, it ignores the fact the officials (not the players) of lowly clubs conspire to lose games in order to obtain top draft picks – with (for the most part) the blessing of success-starved fans and former club greats. As an example of the AFL’s head in the sand tactic, a prominent AFL journalist was kicked out of an AFL function this year, escorted by security guards, after questioning the viability of the policy. Other journalists who have been overly critical of the AFL have been removed from it’s list of official media contacts. They will protect their brand at all costs, after all, it’s their paypacket.

The AFLPA, led by Brendan Gale, have been carrying on like a jilted lover. Whilst I can absolutely see their point, a violation of the players civil rights, well constructed dialogue rather than constant abuse of the reporter involved might better serve their case. The issue of privacy is important, but the AFLPA has taken this opportunity to turn the debate from wide-spread drug use from it’s members, into the ethics of the media. Instead of debating whether soon journalists will be found upending players bins in a search for something newsworthy, maybe he should be ensuring that, Lotsa drugs in the AFL…if that were to happen, they would have nothing to find. Many have commented that the 3 strikes policy was agreed to as the players knew there was a problem and this was their best way to get away with taking drugs. It should be noted, the players take these tests voluntarily, and it is not a requirement under WADA or ASADA code. The players are threatening withdrawl from the code altogether, which again makes the average person wonder what it is exactly that they are trying to hide?

Channel 7, it would seem, knows that the evidence was obtained the wrong way, but what it contains is too important to let go. Drugs is a big issue, and elite sportspeople taking them big news and a ratings winner. In the era of voyeurism, Big Brother, Survivor, Biggest Loser and other shows of that ilk dominate our media, people want to know what happens in other people’s lives. 7 knows this and knows that it is good fuel for it’s current affairs programs like Today Tonight. Perhaps they hadn’t counted on the backlash it may cause to it’s sports department. It faces legal action, boycotts and condemnation, but I’m sure they’ll tell you it is worth it in search of the truth. We’ll see. It is impossible to agree with the airing of private documents, but it is also impossible to agree with people taking illegal drugs, do 2 wrongs make a right? I guess that is the arguement they will try to use.

So what does that all mean to the average person? Whilst we are trying to fight drugs, teach our children the damage they can do, it is hard to comprehend where the players are coming from. Over the past few days many people have commented “but they broke the law, so whatever happens to them is just a consequence.”. As I stated somewhere else, it is hard for your average person earning a basic wage whilst paying a mortgage and feeding 2 kids to understand why a kid, 20 years younger and earning 10 times more for what is ostensibly a past-time, needs to escape reality by taking drugs.

The arguement is sure to get more heated, neither side appears to be ready to back down, and both sides are heavily supported. Andrew Johns, the former NRL superstar, was caught with an ecstasy tablet overnight in London. He has claimed someone put it in his pocket and he forgot to take it out, further inflaming the issue ofa drug taking culture in Australia Sport. If this episode causes the AFL to review it’s policy, so that it is not only tougher, but the players privacy is better protected, then surely this will appease ALL parties concerned. Guaranteed though, it won’t be as easy as that.

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7 responses

30 08 2007
withmalice

Sorry dude, I can never agree to a simple “the ends justifies the means” mentality. Yes, there is a problem of drugs within the AFL (tho’ I tend to think that of performance enhancing ones far outweighs this issue). But agreeing to let something like this slide, or even having sympathy for the way 7 went about this just fuels gutter journalism. Search for the truth? I can just about guarantee you that other than an argument against slander, it never entered their minds. This was about ratings, pure ‘n’ simple. In a time were ethics in journalism is fast dwindling, this was about the bottom line in the accounting department.

My views on this are rather well publicized on a forum we both attend… and they have gotten me accused of having a soft stance on drugs-in-sports. Nothing could be further from the truth. But a dangerous precedent would be set if legal action were to be allowed, where the only basis for such would be stolen documents. And at the same time, the very same people decrying me for believing that think that Network 7 have not done anything wrong. Hypocrisy runs rampant.

Anyway… in search of ‘news’, media should not be allowed to run their grubby little fingers through our lives illegally.

30 08 2007
iscdaws

I agree Don, wholeheartedly, that 7 had nothing other than ratings in mind. Simply put, this is a feeling that’s out there on the street so to speak, not one that I particularly subscribe too one way or another. The fact that 7, rather than follow the unwritten law of journalism to never reveal one’s source, went straight out the window when they handed over the 2 people who sold them the info shows to me that they know it was wrong, but they did it anyway.

30 08 2007
Justin

What a joke of a post. The issue here is not Ch.7 vs AFL/AFLPA, it’s the fact that Hawthorn players are taking drugs.

Nice try.

30 08 2007
withmalice

LOL!

Yes *Justin*… that’s indeed what the media are looking at now. Oh yes, and the police.

30 08 2007
GT

Unfortunately Drugs are rampant in all walks of life in Australia & the media are only touching the surface of the story …. there’ll more to follow friends.

Just as the young celebs in the US get their hands on the junk the young Aussies with fame and money will go for their high … AFL players are just one of many.

It’s a scurge and a large part of a generation or 2 will be lost to the modern chemicals that are on our streets. Sad to say but I feel this is the truth.

2 09 2007
bill

Dont blame the messenger… there would have not been a message if the people did not use ILLEGAL (repeat illegal) substances. Certain drugs are illegal for use in this wonderfull country and those that break the law should be named and shamed.Those people who take illegal drugs (and legal drugs over the prescribed amount) can set extremely bad examples and in some cases kill others through their actions.
They should be charged for rehabilitation for themselves and others that they have influenced.
AFL are you indicating that it is ok for any person to break the law as long as they dont do it three times ???? true or false

2 09 2007
withmalice

Kind of hypocritical Bill… you throw terms about like ‘illegal’, ‘bad examples’, ‘break the law’ – yet you state “Don’t blame the messenger”… err, Bill? Purchasing stolen medical documents is a felony, and as such, there can be no prosecution based on said documents.
You can’t have it both ways.

And rehabilitation? Bill, where were the documents stolen from?

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