Sunday, 18 October 2009

Soccer, Hall of Fame, Racing and League Inconsistency

If you follow the news even sparingly, you would have been hard pushed to have avoided the debate the last 8 days focused on Frank Farina and the Brisbane Roar Football (soccer) franchise. Farina has been the Coach of the Brisbane Roar for the last three years.

On Saturday 10 October at approximately 9.30 am, Frank Farina allegedly recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.09 at a random breath testing road block while driving to a Roar training session. It is the second time Farina has been caught driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of the 0.05 limit.

The Brisbane Roar management immediately stood him aside from his coaching duties and the subsequent speculation about his future with the Roar proceeded to dominate sports news, talk back radio and general news until a decision was announced that he would not continue with the Club in any capacity on the basis he had brought the game and club into disrepute and had failed in his capacity as a role model. Then the media discussion really went through the roof.

Frank Farina broke the law, allegedly. Remember, he has not yet been found guilty.

Driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit is a serious offence. People die as a result of drink driving and all too often, innocent people die. Drinking and driving should not be tolerated. There is no less danger to the offender or the community whether a 0.09 recording is at 9.30 am or 9.30 pm. Frank Farina has however paid a high price for his alleged mistake and perhaps a price that is out of synergy with others in the sporting world.

Take the case of high profile jockey, Chris Munce who was jailed for 18 months in March 2007 having been found guilty in Hongkong of involvement in a tipping scandal.
He served his time in jail in Hongkong and later Sydney and was released in late October 2008. Within hours of being released from jail, Chris Munce was at Randwick racetrack conducting a press conference and making himself available for photo opportunities all with the full blessing and cooperation of the Australian Jockey Club. He was welcome to return to racing and did return as soon as he was fit to do so.

He was found guilty of the crime and did the time, but surely his situation was far worse than Frank Farina’s. Munce however received an enthusiastic second chance – and quite rightly too.

Let’s look at another case.

In August this year, the ceremony inducting the latest inductees into Australia’s Sporting Hall of Fame took place.

All inductees had recorded outstanding achievements in their chosen sport. One however had also been found guilty and fined for receiving money from an illegal Indian based bookmaking ring.

The same person had also been banned from his chosen sport for 12 months after testing positive to taking a banned substance.

Any one of these offences would be considered to have brought his sport into a level of disrepute far more seriously than Frank Farina’s currently alleged drink driving offence. However, put these two offences together and surely induction into the Hall of Fame to some extent legitimises what he has done.

The sportsperson I refer to is one of our greatest sporting icons and a role model with a much higher profile than Farina. I refer of course to Shane Warne.

And I won’t go into the detail of high profile sports stars and front men for Channel Nine Rugby league broadcasts Andrew Johns and Wendell Sailor. Johns has admitted being a long term user of illegal substances including cocaine. Sailor was caught in a post game blood test for having cocaine in his system and was suspended for two years by the Australian Rugby Union. Cocaine is an illegal substance, not in sport but in the community at large yet no charges have been brought down and they both continue to be role models for their sports. In fact, they both have become educators of young people about the idiocy of using drugs.

Surely Frank Farina could use his profile to educate young people about the dangers of excessive drinking and driving while under the influence of alcohol. Surely his profile could be maintained by way of a second chance with the Roar and used publicly to help people, and particularly young people. I am sure many 18 year olds would pay more attention to the warnings of Frank Farina about alcohol abuse than to the ranting of our Political leaders, just as Sailors words hold greater resonance than teachers and parents with young people.

What Frank Farina is alleged to have done is wrong. But let’s use his profile for good and let’s have some consistency across our sporting codes in the treatment and recognition of our so called sporting heroes.

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