McGuire and Jurrah show AFL’s conflict of interest

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President of the Collingwood football Club Eddie Maguire and President of St Kilda Football Club Greg Westaway. AAP Image/Joe Castro

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With more and more ex-AFL stars hitting our television screens, radio dials and newspapers, the lengths that some people in the football community will go to protect a mate seems to also grow.

AFL footballers and journalists can apparently pick and choose what stories go to print, with consideration of friendships and allegiances placed before that of breaking exclusives.

Only the other night I found myself glued to the television as host of Fox Footy’s EMT, Eddie McGuire, gave Melbourne young gun Liam Jurrah a chance to tell his side of his story. The interview was in Jurrah’s home, where he sat alongside his mother and grandmother, who are currently supporting him through his pending court proceedings.

As a football community we know that McGuire has always been received as the man who can work around the red tape. On this occasion he arranged the interview with Jurrah on the weekend, with Jurrah’s club having no knowledge of it. Needless to say the interview was harmless but it begs the question, where is the line between club allegiance and journalism drawn?

With more and more people in football wearing more than one hat, it is inevitable that at some stage players, administrators and reporters will be faced with a conflict of interest. It is how that situation is dealt with which is the key.

For McGuire the journo, the Jurrah interview was an exclusive piece on the developing story of the week. But for McGuire the Collingwood president, the interview should have at least followed proper practice in that the contact should have been made with the Melbourne media department in order to make the Demons aware of the interview taking place.

Kevin Bartlett, host of Hungry for Sport on SEN, had McGuire on his show to give him the chance to better explain the situation and to deny the conflict of interest. Ironically, Bartlett has one of those himself, being a member of the AFL laws of the game committee.

Bartlett hosts the mid-morning show in which he takes many calls across the week regarding the AFL rules and circumstances of the weekend’s games.

A biased viewer on just one aspect of football, the former Tigers captain and coach is well rounded when it comes to his views on football. But he needs to see the other side of the fence when it comes to the rules of the game.

It is clear that the need to protect positions within football is becoming increasingly important; for many media commentators who hold various other positions with the league or its clubs, it is hard to draw the line between head and heart.

For McGuire, who has tackled being the Collingwood president and has been a major player in Melbourne’s football media for over 10 years, he seems to find a way to combat the stigma attached to each one of his stories – that he is soft on his own club and won’t push a Collingwood story that would be seen to be hurting his position.

The same goes for anyone in football, but it’s exactly what needs to happen within the sport; some honesty around stories that are put to air about a friend, a teammate, or even a supported team.

Honesty has been thrown out the window in football media in the last few years and needs to make its way back in order to ensure fans and supporters of the game are getting the full story, not just the slice that a particular journalist wants you to see.

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