By: Robert Di Fabio
The subject of tanking has once again been of vigorous debate surrounding the AFL sphere. The integrity of the competition has been placed into disarray, following recent claims of deception by former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey.
For a competition to prosper and gain credibility in the midst of its fans, as well as the wider community, it’s particularly imperative for the relative clubs to be honest and respectful in relation to the manner the game is constructed. As sports enthusiasts, we all admire the countless hours of diligent work involved in a football club on and off the field. There is no doubt that it’s a major commitment from administration, coaching staff, players, members and the supporters.
Although, when all of this is placed under duress, we have a major concern on our hands. Corruption in sport is arguably the grandest sin any stakeholder at a club can conduct; it tarnishes the reputation of the brand and further alienates fans from the game.
Bailey’s recent remarks in reference to tanking have evidently been swept under the carpet by the AFL. In his farewell press conference following his sacking as head coach of Melbourne, Bailey openly admitted to playing for draft picks as opposed to orchestrating his utmost credentials to win football matches.
“I had no hesitation at all in the first two years in ensuring the club was well placed for draft picks”, Bailey said.
“I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club and I did it. I put players in different positions.”
When we place the jigsaw puzzle together, everything seems to be conveniently familiar. In Bailey’s first two seasons, Melbourne finished last on the ladder, heralding priority draft picks Sam Blease with pick no. 17 in 2008 and Tom Scully who occupied the no. 1 draft pick in 2009.
It is astounding that the AFL sees no need to invoke further investigations into these serious allegations of foul play.
We’ve seen countless number of sporting organisations around the globe suffer greatly from such acts. The Calciopoli scandal which unearthed during the 2004/05 Italian Serie A season saw Juventus relegated for allegedly bribing referees, whilst other teams were found guilty of misconduct and faced punishment. It was the largest scandal to hit Italian football in history, and has since earned a hallow reputation amongst many sports fanatics worldwide.
Is the AFL situation any different? When we examine the exterior of what has eventuated, it is difficult to imagine how this current fiasco in not ruining the integrity of the competition.
When a club is in doubt of whether they truly aspire to win a game of football, then there must be serious ramifications put into place.
Playing for superior draft picks is an utter disgrace. It illustrates total disrespect to the code, supporters and everyone involved within the game.
How can we combat the tanking issue? The current system is ostensibly obsolete and unfortunately encourages clubs to reconsider their options in the remaining rounds of the season.
When a system entails no consequence for mediocrity, however rewards sub-par performances, then ultimately there is a blight within the structure.
Why should clubs who are diligent and honourable be punished for playing a prominent brand of football?
A new draft system ought to be implemented in order to abolish the prospect of tanking and wipe the negative propaganda from its slate.
An innovative draft lottery scenario should be executed for the AFL. This system is evident in America, where the NBA and NHL national drafts are drawn in an exciting turn of events; teams are allocated their picks via a lottery system on live television.
In relation to an AFL draft proposal, clubs finishing in 9-18th positions can gain the higher picks, however each selection would be randomly drawn to each of the 10 clubs. A similar state of affairs would be apparent for the top eight clubs, where each club has an equal opportunity of gaining the higher picks.
If a system like this were devised, then it would insure that there is still a seemingly equal playing field amongst the clubs, while subsequently the temptation of squandering games will be abolished.
To further alienate the tanking issue, the priority pick system must also be extinguished. Currently, clubs that win less than five games per season gain a priority pick. This has consequently lead to wide-spread speculation towards the closing rounds of the season when teams have little to no incentive to win games.
If the AFL can modify the draft format, debate on whether a team is gifting games to its opposition will be an obsession from the past. The integrity of the competition will be intact, while fears of the notorious tanking debacle will not be a matter for discussion.
Not only does the competition gain credibility, gossip surrounding where draft picks may eventuate will add another dimension to the glowing AFL model. The positives of this proposed draft system will be an upbeat proposition for the code, and will further encourage a buoyant outlook on the game.