Why the lack of accountability from Essendon?

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The much-anticipated release of the Ziggy Switskowski internal report into the governance processes of Essendon in regard to the alleged controversial use of supplements by players over the past 12 months, has come up with more questions than answers.

The most significant one – and it probably needs to be asked time and time again – is why. The Bombers and Dr Switskowski have acknowledged in the findings that there was at times a lack of accountability of the practices by the fitness staff imposed by the football department.

For an elite sporting organisation like Essendon, which is one of the AFL’s biggest and most successful clubs, that borders on disgraceful.

Those of us who have followed this explosive story since it broke almost three months ago are no doubt not surprised that the findings as outlined in the report offers little to the sometimes unconventional ideas of new fitness staff employed at the end of the 2011 season.

The football department was also criticised for not properly recognising the correct chain of command as to who the buck stopped with regarding the decision-making process. Was it the general manager of operations, Danny Corcoran or the football manager, Paul Hamilton, who is no longer at the club? I would have thought the GM was the man.

In a multi-million dollar business, it needs to be clear who is in charge, especially the footy department of an AFL club, but that was muddied according to the report.

The most damning aspect of that was the allegation in the findings that the fitness team, which were basically brand new, were able to ignore the attempts of those in charge of the football department at implementing direct management. How and why can that be allowed?

Essendon’s club doctor, Bruce Reid, is a long serving disciple and he did for months last year ring alarm bells about these practices of supplement use, and the club’s chairman, David Evans, at the press conference recognised that was wrong, but is it too late?

You would think the fitness and medical staff would work close together where the players’ bodies and welfare are concerned, even in the case of taking some supplements that are legal and above board, to ensure their most important commodities, the athletes, are fit and healthy to provide success where it counts the most, out on the ground.

That obviously hasn’t happened and David Evans has said that will be one of the changes implemented, with other ones, including the CEO Ian Robson, being accountable for everything going on at the club, which I would have thought is a non-negotiable. Why that wouldn’t happen in any organsation, sporting or non sporting is unacceptable.

Remember, this is an Essendon commissioned report and there’s still the ASADA and AFL investigation outcomes to be released, and this week ASADA will be interviewing the players, which is obviously not an ideal preparation for the game of the round on Friday night between the two only undefeated sides, the Bombers and Geelong.

However, this issue is into it’s third month now and the Bombers haven’t let it affect their on-field performances. In fact, it’s probably galvanised them even though of course it’s the last thing they wanted.

David Evans has handled himself well in heading the club during this difficult period and has actually taken blame for the club’s current plight.

That is a noble act, but the Bombers should never have put themselves in this predicament in the first place.

Dan Lonergan has a reputation as one Australia's most respected and versatile commentators. In more than 16 years as an ABC Grandstand broadcaster, Dan has covered AFL footy (including four Grand Finals), cricket, tennis, and three Olympic Games, including London 2012 where he commentated as many as 16 sports.

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