We are taught that there are three arms of the legal system in Australia, all in theory separate according to the doctrine of separation of powers. These three arms are the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
When reflecting on the Dikileaks AFL photo scandal and the culture of cover up and denial, I am reminded that perhaps there is a fourth arm of Government. I am referring to the chartered organisation we know as the AFL.
Does anyone even remember Richards and Bernstein?
It is the ongoing ‘culture of cover up‘ that makes the AFL and its head honchos’ responses so disturbing and sinister; hence the title Dikigate.
There is still an unwillingness on the part of the AFL to allow its’ players to be subjected to any scrutiny or hold them in any way accountable for their actions.
In lightening speed we saw the AFL running to Court to see that an agreement was reached to destroy all images allegedly illegally procured from Sam Gilbert’s computers by a 17 year old girl.
We saw Ross Levin proudly announce he was pleased with the results and proclaiming that he needed to protect the innocent victims in this saga, referring to St Kilda football players including Nick Riewoldt, Sam Gilbert, Nick Dal Santo, Zac Posen.
There are possibly other footballers whose indiscretions were at risk of being exposed from Collingwood, the Sydney Swans and other clubs.
We also saw Nick Riewoldt legitimately express outrage in relation to the violation of his privacy and the tarnishing of his reputation.
Nick Riewoldt publicly proclaimed that his regret was about the photo not having being deleted by his teammate Sam Gilbert, rather than the photo having ever been taken in the first place.
It was only meant to be “a joke” he said defensively, without enlightening us as to what the joke was. Perhaps the joke, along with some sacred truths and ugly facts, were meant to be kept ‘in-house’ or under lock and key along with the photos.
Saints, sinners, police, power, spin and money have been splashed around, all aimed at shutting down a 17 year old girl who saw no real alternative to using the brute force of the internet to publish her truth to the world.
The result? A traumatised, socially emasculated and disenfranchised 17 year old girl who is receiving death threats and is subject to scornful remarks by strangers who are all too ready to condemn her.
Through a well orchestrated media and legal campaign the AFL and it’s powerful media and other backers have managed to successfully portray this teenager as a predatory malicious troublemaker, seeking to destroy the careers and lives of elite sportsmen, the golden boys of AFL.
She was, after all, just a St Kilda Schoolgirl. Should this make her fair game?
Whilst Demetriou indicated that the AFL had been trying to support the girl and continued to extend support to her publicly, we had Ross Lewin proudly stating he would be delighted to have this girl on a legal leash for the next 15 years of her life paying legal costs after being pursued through the courts for publishing the photos.
Meanwhile some Taiwanese appear to have made a video animation of the story as further facts start to emerge about Saints, Sinners, Law and Other Phallusies in AFL land.
We saw a few Ambassadors with integrity come out in condemnation of the players’ behaviour such as Phil Cleary, whilst the heavyweights Andrew Demetriou and other CEOs went into damage control and told us all how many issues this young girl has.
In 2009 Andrew Demetriou told us said he was doing his best to raise the standards of respect and responsibility towards women within the sport. Why?
Demetriou said that it had long been known that there had been a culture of cover-ups going back seven years prior to his reign and that sexual misbehaviour towards women by AFL players never saw the light of day.
He vowed to change that, stating that when he played football these sorts of things that were covered up. No more “sweeping things under the carpet”. Demetriou said that was a thing of the past on his watch. Indeed the “Respect and Responsibility” policy was prompted by rape allegations made against St Kilda footballers Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna in 2004. Demetriou described that incident as bringing about something of a seismic shift in the AFL’s stance.
I just don’t see anything of this significant change of culture in football clubs right across the system that Demetriou spoke of.
Whilst Demetriou has told us this girl has ‘issues’, the AFL is the organisation that has come out of this looking like the one with issues.
I suppose we will have to wait and see what facts surface. Hopefully the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle will start to fit together.
It hasn’t been a long week in AFL or St Kilda Land, although when they move they move fast.
Despite being a fan of the game, I think the ‘One day in December‘ namely the 23rd of December 2010, will remain indelibly etched in my mind and will displace the ‘One Day in September‘ I have always associated with the AFL Grand Final.
What a sorry day.
The AFL successfully sought the destruction of all further photos in the possession of a St Kilda School Girl, a girl driven to the point where the only way she felt able to take on an organisation like the AFL and its tentacles was to use the internet.
In this male dominated AFL culture the public and the media was very quick to judge her as the media rallied to defend their golden boy Nick Riewoldt, portrayed as the injured party betrayed by a team mate. The ultimate betrayal. The girl was forgotten.
The AFL are violating the basic tenets of common decency. At a more practical level women constitute up to 48% of the AFL audience compared to football codes in other countries. In many ways they are therefore the lifeblood of the game.
How mind numbingly stupid is a club to risk alienating nearly half of its membership base? As it turns out, not all that stupid. The media manipulation of the fans and the public seems to have worked masterfully. Perhaps that has been assisted by a media who for various reasons are re-inforcing what club members and fans already believe about their revered sporting heroes. Perhaps this also says something about Australian media ownership and regulation.
Without going into the issue of the media and AFL in greater detail here, one thing is very clear.
AFL players don’t seem to need to be taught to have regard for their teammates and clubs. It comes instinctively. Respect for women doesn’t despite all of the post secondary school education the AFL are receiving from social scientists.
Besides what kind of value is a social experiment the AFL are undertaking when they see the Executives defend their behaviour so vehemently and run to their aid when they fall out of line?
The most damaging aspect of this case is that women simply won’t report crimes now after witnessing the response of the AFL. They will either do what the young girl said she would have done differently in hindsight, namely publish anonymously.
Worse still women may just decide to refuse to report their grievances to the AFL at all.