The AFL free agency period has officially begun, with Adelaide Crows defender Jake Kelly and Richmond Tigers tall Mabior Chol the first players to find new homes for 2022.
Essendon qualified for finals football in 2013 but was denied the right to participate.
On paper Perth Glory will qualify for next month’s A-League finals but it too will not participate.
Both clubs’ omission is due wholly and solely to their own club’s administration.
The Bombers missed out on the 2014 AFL finals due, in the main, to a lack of acceptable administrative and reporting processes with respect to its conditioning programme.
While the backbone of the fight against doping in sport revolves around the athlete being responsible for what enters his system, a significant degree of sympathy has to extend to the Bombers’ players.
In the case of Fremantle’s Ryan Crowley – which will be heard by the AFL Doping Tribunal in the near future – he chose to go outside the club’s medical department and sought a painkiller of his own choice only to be tested by ASADA and returning a positive test for a banned substance.
His actions were plainly stupid, especially given he is 30 years of age.
Each year ASADA goes around to the clubs and conducts a lecture on the anti-doping code as well as presenting one at the AFL Draft camp each November.
That means Crowley would have been told of his responsibilities annually for the past 11 years.
He failed to have what he was taking cleared by his club’s medical staff and will likely pay a heavy price for having failed to do so.
The Essendon players, on the other hand, acted at the behest of employees of the club, men that the club entrusted to carry out a safe and legal – in a sporting sense – supplements regime.
As we know that programme was found lacking in many ways, none more so than in the area of accurate records.
The players were found not guilty of using performance enhancing substances by the AFL Tribunal however much of that finding was predicated on the fact that there were no available records to indeed show what they were administered.
Speaking on behalf of the player group on the day the verdict was handed down, captain Jobe Watson said, “When you go to your employer and they can’t tell you what went on, that’s concerning. And I think the players are well within their rights to feel anger about it”.
It was that absence of proper due diligence – highlighted by the club’s own internal review – and the fact that the club could not truly say what the players were administered that saw Essendon fined $2 million, its coach James Hird suspended for a year and a finals berth denied.
While the loss of a finals berth is a small penalty compared to what the players could have been handed, it is still a significant one in terms of what sport is all about.
From October 2012 through until the August 2013 the Bombers’ players strived for one thing – finals football – having slogged it out on the training track, in the gym and in the heat of weekly competition.
They achieved their end of the bargain but the club’s management let them down.
Eighteen months on the players at Perth Glory are experiencing the same fate – and again, it is the club administration that is at fault.
The Glory did not fall foul of the anti-doping code but the A-League’s salary cap constraints and a spectacular foul it was too.
Three separate show cause notices were presented to the club by the FFA totalling breaches of over $500,000 over the past three years.
The club last week was fined $269,000 and told it would be excluded from this season’s final series – it is currently in third place on 47 points, 16 points clear of seventh placed Brisbane with the final round of the regular season to be played this weekend.
Despite the club’s CEO Jason Brewer resigning last week and accepting sole responsibility for the breaches the FFA has come out with some strong comments in relation to the club’s majority owner and chairman, Tony Sage.
FFA CEO David Gallop stated last week that, “We noted the Glory chairman’s comments over the weekend in relation to his role in the salary cap situation at Perth. At the very least he says there were times where he had his hands off the wheel, which is obviously unacceptable.”
“So now we have a CEO and the chairman taking responsibility for what led to salary cap breaches. All of that points to a complete breakdown in corporate governance.”
Once again, like Essendon, governance and due diligence is at the heart of the problem.
Several weekday mornings each week when I drive my son to school we pass by the suburban oval where the Glory train – we did so yesterday morning.
Out on the track the players were preparing for their last encounter of the season against Western Sydney on Saturday.
A win, and depending on other results, could see them tied for top-place on 50 points and yet it will mean absolutely nothing after months of giving their all.
An entire season will be totally meaningless as it was Essendon’s player group in 2013.
Not surprisingly there are reports that some of Perth’s squad wants out with player managers looking at ways to have current contracts annulled.
It stands to reason that had Bombers’ players been found guilty of doping they too would have been looking at their legal avenues with respect to the club’s handling of the situation.
We keep hearing that sport is big business in this country – and with respect to sport there is none bigger than the AFL – and as such all components within its bailiwick need to conduct themselves with the rigour that should be expected of such enterprises.
Seeking success by endeavouring to do so by the means that both Essendon and Perth Glory did has proved to be a disaster and it also shows a total disregard for the respective club’s key employees – the players.
They are the ones busting their gut and it is their performances which produce the membership, fan-base and corporate support required to make any club a success.
They need to be shown full respect and not put into positions where all their hard work amounts to nothing because of the actions of their management.
Enough is enough.