Saturday, 8 July 2017

Football Needs To Set an Example - Not Just Footballers

Rightly or wrongly, our sporting heroes are held up to be role models for young people, and perhaps older as well.

Their every move is under scrutiny and any real or perceived transgression results in a wider society, led by a scandal hungry media, launching into a hyperbolic frenzy and certain analysis about player “role model” status.

Nowhere is the scrutiny or role model expectation greater than for Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth based Australian Rules Football players.

I expect all people, sports star or not to abide by the law, be respectful of others and to be conscious of the impact their behaviour will have on others.

However, the Sport’s governing body the AFL, has a clear expectation of player behaviour including them being community role models in all they do.

The players are under continuous scrutiny not only about their performance, but also their friends, relationships, family, social preferences, where they holiday and what they eat. Is it any wonder there is an increase in the number of players taking a break to deal with mental health issues?

The AFL seems quick to condemn any real, perceived or reported so called poor behaviour by players. It is all about the image of the game. I am not unsympathetic with the AFL but, they require young athletes to be role models and ambassadors for the sport when all they want to do is play the best football they can for as long as they can.

It is about time the AFL Administration set an example of its own.

It is about time the AFL accepted responsibility for the example the sport provides to the wider community.

It is about time the governing body itself adhered to the standards it expects of its players.

Blatant acts of violence on the field are rare in this day and age.

In consecutive weeks, we have witnessed two acts of striking to the head resulting in concussion. Without doubt, one was deliberate while the other was a deliberate action but claimed contact with the head was accidental. Both were outside the run of play.

They were both examples of the “one punch can kill” mantra being promoted as part of anti-community violence campaigns.  

In the first case, the initial penalty granted was a two week suspension, increased to 4 weeks on appeal.

The second case resulted in a 6 weeks suspension.

The penalties in both cases are manifestly inadequate.

In my opinion, the starting point should be 20 weeks, with a probation period .

This might have meant 20 weeks with 14 to serve in the first case and 16 in the second.

The penalties handed out are not in my opinion, reflective of what would happen if such acts took place in the general community.

Given the AFL wants to set an example, and holds players to a higher level of behaviour expectation, they should be imposing penalties for such cold hearted acts of violence that reflect their 'higher' expectation.

The AFL does a great job in so many areas. The indigenous and diversity and inclusion initiatives are first rate. The involvement in Motor Neurone Diseases through “The Big Freeze is outstanding as is the stance against domestic violence.

The need to ensure adequate penalties for callous violence on the field is overdue.

Maybe it is just a matter of the Administrators following the example of role modelling behaviour shown by the vast majority of players?

After all, you are a role model too.

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