Why the lack of accountability from Essendon?

Dan Lonergan Columnist

By Dan Lonergan, Dan Lonergan is a Roar Expert

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76 Have your say

    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
    Dan Lonergan

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

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    The Crowd Says (76)

    • May 7th 2013 @ 6:25am
      Bunyip said | May 7th 2013 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      But there is still no confirmation that anything they used was illegal and until then you can wring your hands till the cows come home.

      Sure, things were done that were distasteful and inappropriate, but not necessarily illegal.

      Its been mostly a self-serving media witch-hunt a la Slipper and Thompson. Much smoke but little or no fire.

      • May 7th 2013 @ 9:37am
        Bomber disgrace said | May 7th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Keep believing Bunyip, but the majority of people who follow footy are watching Essendon ruin the game just a little bit more each day.

        You totally miss the point though.

        Switowski was paid by Essendon to investigate their own people, not illegalities, just a management group hug thing. Even his wet lettuce leaf flogging showed how bad the Bombers are, rotten to the core.

        Technically you are right about no illegality being proven (yet). B
        Media beat up? That’s a good one.

        Figment of Caro’s imagination all this, except for the fact that we have players being injected off site at clandestine clinics, signing waivers, ASADA investigating, Hird’s conflicting statements, Steve Danks, Chane Charters, they’re all imaginary friends of Caro and just a beat up.

        Morally and ethically, this is a wooden spoon for the Dons and shows what Hird and Thompson are really like.

        Classic that you liken this to Slipper and Thomson of Labor and their disgraceful behaviour, they too are unlikely to ever actually be found guilty of anything despite being the best swimmers in a cess pit. Great call.

        • May 7th 2013 @ 1:52pm
          Bunyip said | May 7th 2013 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          Funny thing is, that despite the news corp campaign of denigration there is actually no evidence against either. Long after the next election, the truth will come out and few will care because it will all have done the damage required to deliver power to Abbott. Do some research……check out Wixxyleaks

          • May 7th 2013 @ 2:14pm
            Bayman said | May 7th 2013 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

            On the other hand, Bunyip, I think we probably now have an explanation for all those soft tissue injuries last year. Some of those Bombers might have got a bit big a bit too quickly and the body cracked under the strain. Perhaps it was just a coincidence.

          • May 7th 2013 @ 4:05pm
            Blind Bomber Fan said | May 7th 2013 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

            Nice line on the conspiracy theories there, hope the tinfoil hat fits ok.

            Admittedly Thomson using his credit card to pay for hookers then absolutely lying about it is not out of the realms of many people at footy clubs, but even James Hird doesn’t deserve you linking them.

            If anything, the nutters and True Believers have tried everything to stamp on this, from mysogyenist mindless rants about Caroline Wilson to childish arguments in defence “just because”. You make it all the worse for the Bombers, but it keeps us laughing. Sheeds may be gone from the Bombers, with his crazy talk and ridiculous press conferences, but you guys still provide the comedy. Bring on Bomber Thompson, he’s good for a petulant selfish childish rant on vox pop too.

            I’m not surprised you fail to even grasp the basic concept here that Dan is putting forward. Then again, the idea that anyone at Essendon is making a ‘noble act’ makes me laugh more. A President who has almost unanimous backing, who has stuck by those in his club who he would have sacked on the spot in the corporate world, is hardly risking anything. Hollow gesture like everything else this club offers.

            The AFL needs a scalp, then they will bury this. Who will it be?

      • May 7th 2013 @ 10:54am
        vocans said | May 7th 2013 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        There is the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. The spirit of the law cannot be legislated, but anything worth its salt seeks to serve it. Anything that demeans it is deservedly rejected. Good people and good things stand by both aspects of the law. Footy and sport in general are good things and good people need and want to keep them that way.

      • May 7th 2013 @ 11:40am
        Simmo said | May 7th 2013 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        This song goes out to all you Essendon fans

      • May 7th 2013 @ 1:21pm
        Justin2 said | May 7th 2013 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        This is about governance, it wasnt about illegalities…

    • May 7th 2013 @ 7:11am
      Swampy said | May 7th 2013 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Exactly Bunyip.

      In reality is the media really expecting that the Bombers will just ‘own up’ to the allegations?

      There appears to be zero conclusive evidence that any player took illegal drugs. They may well have but without positive tests or actual admission from players or staff what in all honesty can be done?

      If media put as much time, effort and resources into exposing abuses in the Catholic Church or the big mining companies tax evasion (I commend those that have worked tirelessly on these subjects) then 100’s of lives would be altered for the better and our boom time economy would actually benefit the whole of the country.

      Perhaps some perspective is required by all.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • May 7th 2013 @ 9:18am
        Australian Rules said | May 7th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        The point of this report was not to determine whether the club had used illegal or banned substances. That’s ASADA’s job.

        The point of this report was to find out how this situation (whatever it turns out to be) occurred in the first place.

        Here’s the galling aspect of what Essendon did:

        They actually don’t know what they injected their players with. They don’t definitively know. *That’s* the disgraceful part.

        • Roar Guru

          May 7th 2013 @ 9:44am
          Redb said | May 7th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report


          Essendon’s football dept structure was poor and as Ziggy reported of the top 20 executives only 1 had been at the club for more than 4 years. That means a lot of new people in a changing environment.

          The ‘disgraceful’ part begins and ends with the High Performance Unit – the perpretrators. It seems they get off scot free and even given sympathy by the media. (Wilson about Robinson, Weidler about Dank).

          It’s BS.

          • Roar Guru

            May 7th 2013 @ 10:28am
            wisey_9 said | May 7th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            I’m glad someone else is picking up on this. Some of Danny Weidler’s recent columns on Dank have bordered on advertorials…

          • May 7th 2013 @ 12:13pm
            Australian Rules said | May 7th 2013 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

            Hird, Bomber and everyone else in the footy dept cannot guarantee what was in those needles. That’s disgraceful.

            • Roar Guru

              May 7th 2013 @ 1:57pm
              Redb said | May 7th 2013 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

              Can you guarantee your employee is not embezzling you?

              • May 7th 2013 @ 3:53pm
                Blind Bomber Fan said | May 7th 2013 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

                If I abdicated all moral responsibility of managing them, used weasel words and generally avoided checking properly on them (even doing a basic Google search on their most recent employment), bypassed anyone who might check what they were doing and add some specific technical knowledge of what they were doing, then made them all sign waivers as a means of again passing off any responsibility, then no.

                Your point?

              • May 7th 2013 @ 4:18pm
                micka said | May 7th 2013 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

                Blind Bomber Fan said | May 7th 2013

              • May 7th 2013 @ 5:43pm
                VOG said | May 7th 2013 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

                Dismissed from Cronulla after only 10 weeks the year before, didn’t raise any suspicions whatsover?

          • May 7th 2013 @ 1:16pm
            Avon River said | May 7th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

            And the mail room.

            Big failures there.

            Letters going missing including internal items.

            Shoddy stuff.

        • May 7th 2013 @ 11:42am
          Simmo said | May 7th 2013 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          The “failure of governance” story isn’t credible. The coaching staff knew what they were doing.

          • Roar Guru

            May 7th 2013 @ 12:21pm
            Redb said | May 7th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

            Well stop the ASADA investigation right now, Simmo has solved it.

            • May 7th 2013 @ 4:35pm
              Simmo said | May 7th 2013 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

              What do you reckon will happen when ASADA suspends Essendon from the AFL? Would they promote the best VFL club for a spell or just play with 17 teams?

              Must think ahead here, plan for the future. No point in not facing up to the problems.

              • Roar Guru

                May 7th 2013 @ 4:54pm
                Redb said | May 7th 2013 @ 4:54pm | ! Report


                You really are a simpleton troll.

                ASADA don’t suspend anyone.

                Essendon have not been found to have given players banned substances.

                The AFL will hand down penalties if they do or don’t find banned substances. Essendon will pay a price either way.

                The situation on bans is far from clear even if they do find banned substances as you and others will no doubt find out in time.

                Essendon will prepare for the worst and hope for the best and it’s 50,000+ members which keeps growing and getting more vocal, more active and more passionate. We Are Essendon.

              • May 7th 2013 @ 5:22pm
                Blind Bomber Fan said | May 7th 2013 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                Personal attacks don’t make an argument. Waving a flag and chanting isn’t an argument either.

                Given the AFL’s poor record in handling important issues (like Melbourne tanking) so badly, I would expect that this will be messier and worse that it should be.

                My tip is Essendon is being asked to give up a scapegoat. That scapegoat will cop it, Demtriou will posture, Essendon will be asked to look sullen and sorry, and everyone will just move on. The footy journos will never go back and ask who else was doping, ask about what happens on the trips to Las Vegas every year, why every other world sport had steroids and PED’s but AFL “didn’t”…?

                What I find realy funny here is that Essendon seemed to lose their hunger last week against GWS, was it the anti-obesity drugs?

              • May 7th 2013 @ 8:24pm
                geoff said | May 7th 2013 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

                Redb your argumentshave little credibility. Which is proven by your defensive putdown of singleton.

              • Roar Guru

                May 8th 2013 @ 8:50am
                Redb said | May 8th 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

                I have a deeper understanding of the issues that anyone here. Most are not even close to the real situation.

                I’ll leave it at that.

    • May 7th 2013 @ 8:46am
      Pope Paul VII said | May 7th 2013 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Dan is merely asking why the unaccountability?

      Regardless of whether they did take banned substances or not it’s curious how Hirdy seemed to know what Dank was doing yet he professed the most surprise. Now the Essendon report comes out and no one knows who was in charge of what? Perhaps Jimmy could cut the crap and everyone could move on.

    • May 7th 2013 @ 9:22am
      Richard said | May 7th 2013 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Bunyip and Swampy, unfortunately you are missing the point. The Ziggy report was into the club’s corporate governance, processes and the lack of accountability. This is one side of the issue which led to irregular practice and the potential use of ‘exotic’ products. Now we await the AFL/ASADA findings. Hopefully it will show that no players were injected with illegal substances. If it does, there will still be the question of corporate governance and of Essendon bringing the game into disrepute. I suspect you guys don’t understand this but yesterday’s Ziggy report was a damning judgement on Essendons internal workings. Regardless of if their players haven’t been administered illegal products, Essendon as a club and potentially a number of their employees face tough sanctions so this has a long way to run yet.

    • Roar Guru

      May 7th 2013 @ 9:38am
      Redb said | May 7th 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      “However, this issue is into it’s third month now and the Bombers haven’t let it affect their on-field performances”

      Interesting isnt it.

      Putting the poor internal governance aside, this is a football club and its appears it’s leaders are doing a good job. The players are playing for the Coach what does that tell you about the level of trust that must exist.

      Hird is trusting of others and gets that trust returned in spades by good people…… not everyone is a good person – journos start from there.

      • May 7th 2013 @ 5:41pm
        Blind Bomber Fan said | May 7th 2013 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

        Let’s face it, they’re not a meeting of Mensa. Directing a group of young men with a high school education doesn’t require much in terms of mental stimulation. The average footballer is a ‘simpleton troll’ as you put it, not exactly a high number of university degrees amongst them (unless you count Hird’s engineering degree, which took 3 years longer than usual and yet he is lauded as some kind of ‘genius’) and a couple of US online degrees in ‘sports science’ amngst the medical team of course…

        One might say their on-field performance has more to do with them being physically enhanced this year. A year of serious chemical enhancement is now bearing fruit. It’s not like they were just injecting one time.

        I recall last year Essendon beating Carlton easily by 40 points, James Hird saying he would put the team “in the hands of the medical team”, then two days later with one player change going down by one point to the Premiers at Anzac Day.

        The danger with Performance Enhancing Drugs is the enhancement can be too rapid, resulting in soft tissue injuries. But over say a year you can better manage or even perfect the enhancement.

        Oh wait…?

    • May 7th 2013 @ 10:00am
      vocans said | May 7th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      To whom was the letter addressed, AND cc’d? If I was the Doc I’d have written to more than one manager, and I would certainly have written to the CEO. Who received their letter and who didn’t? Etc. What did Hamlet say about the state of Denmark?

      • May 7th 2013 @ 1:24pm
        Justin2 said | May 7th 2013 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

        vocans I’d suggest someone is being protected right now. Its the only valid explanation for a letter or communication of vital importance to go “missing” without any answer as to who it went to.

        Its staggering and if I were a journo I would be hounding Evans and Co continuously until I got a satisfactory answer. As yet none has been forthcoming.

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