Following the decision to hand the Melbourne Football Club a $500,000 fine and deal out hefty bans to two ex-Melbourne employees, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou remains adamant that tanking does not and has never existed in footy.
The Demons received the third-largest financial sanction in the history of football, despite being found not guilty for tanking after the AFL’s investigation concluded. AFL deputy Gillon McLachlan said the club was fined for being the employers of former general manager of footy operations Chris Connolly and former senior coach Dean Bailey, not for tanking.
However, Connolly and Bailey, now strategy and innovation coach at Adelaide, were suspended until 2014 and Round 16 respectively as a result of a meeting during which Connolly mentioned that it would be in the best interest of the club if Bailey made decisions that hindered Melbourne’s chances of winning football games.
In the eyes of all but the AFL, that is tanking.
“The AFL concluded Bailey acted upon Connolly’s warning by making decisions about selection, player management and match day positioning because of the pressure applied by Connolly,” McLachlan said, clearly indicating that Melbourne had acted in a way that was detrimental to winning football games.
Despite that, McLachlan said Bailey had still intended to win on match days, going against evidence of players being purposely played out of position.
“What I am saying is that he (Bailey) made decisions in response to the pressure of that meeting – that he had to appease Chris Connolly – and may have had an impact that goes to success, but he made no conscious decision on match day to lose games.”
Andrew Demetriou, who was conveniently absent for the announcement of Melbourne’s non-tanking penalties, clung to his lollipop like a kid in the sandpit, refusing to believe that tanking exists.
“I have no evidence to support the view that tanking exists,” Demetriou said on the back of Melbourne receiving a large financial sanction and two former officials receiving hefty suspensions.
“If you are asking me the question that has been asked before: ‘Do I think players purposely go out to lose games?’ I’ve said in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that ever to be the case.”
When asked whether coaches could be responsible for tanking, Demetriou continued to uphold his guard.
“Well, we’ve got no evidence to support otherwise… and we have got very, very good investigators.”
It’s horribly disturbing that the boss of the AFL still refuses to believe that tanking exists in any shape or form, especially after the third-largest financial penalty was handed to Melbourne on the back of a tanking investigation. Two officials were found guilty and suspended for discussions involving tanking and making moves that hindered the Demons’ chances of winning and the club received a huge financial penalty, one that it accepts, yet apparently tanking still does not exist in football.
It appears to be a case of the AFL shunting responsibility. If it acknowledges tanking is an issue in football, it means the AFL must then take responsibility and act. If the AFL can somehow convince the public that tanking doesn’t exist, despite all the evidence pointing to it being a serious issue, it means it can continue to focus on what is most important, that being the football.
However, football isn’t all smiles and roses at the moment. Yes, we should be focusing on the football, but not if there is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with. The AFL already has the major issue of drug use to deal with, both recreational and performance, so it seems as though the fine and suspensions partnered with denial is another quick fix solution by the AFL.
Demetriou stated last August that he welcomed evidence to prove that tanking exists in football, even stating that clubs found to be guilty of tanking would be punished accordingly. It appears that the club in question has been punished accordingly but there is still no tanking.
In his interview with Eddie McGuire on the back of Carlton midfielder Brock McLean reigniting the tanking debate, Demetriou said that any club that employed tactics of deliberately losing games to improve their draft order would be “stupid” and “delusional”.
Keep in mind, this same man speaking of “stupid” and “delusional” is one that refuses to believe that tanking exists despite overwhelming evidence and serious sanctions against the club in question.
Tanking exists in football; there can be no doubt about that. Sadly, Melbourne is not the only club that comes under scrutiny for tanking but because of the AFL and Demetriou’s close-minded approach to a serious issue, we are likely to never get to the bottom of a problem that will surely only escalate.