There was something confounding about the AFL Player’s Association Agent Accreditation Board’s decision regarding Ricky Nixon, beyond all of the question marks surrounding the Board’s processes.
The Board delivered a laundry list of breaches of express and implied obligations by Ricky Nixon in his behaviour as a Player -Agent.
The whole investigation was sparked by allegations relating to Nixon having had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17 year old girl and supplying her with cocaine.
When the allegations first surfaced the AFL swiftly distanced itself from the scandal, informing the public that as an organisation it had no jurisdiction over AFL Player- Agents.
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou was deathly silent for five days as Nixon pranced around the world, continuing to conduct business as usual in Ireland. Demetriou then broke his silence condemning Nixon’s conduct, albeit in a relatively subdued manner.
A recurring theme of Demetriou’s diatribe is detected in his repeated statement that that the “hardest lesson to be learnt was that the AFL Respect and Responsibility Program didn’t extend to player-agents.”
Demetriou publicly lamented the fact that the AFL Codes and the principles enshrined in the AFL Respect and Responsibility Program didn’t extend to Player-Agents.
It seemed to escape the public’s attention that Demetriou was not himself prepared to pay more than lip service to either the AFL Codes or the principles enshrined in the AFL Respect and Responsibility Program towards women, yet was now claiming he wanted to see them extended, well at least on paper.
The report commissioned by David Galbally QC, as he himself stated, was about much more than Agents obligations to their players, and spoke more broadly to the AFL culture and other important issues of public interest.
Presumably as the entire investigation centred around the conduct of a 46 year old agent and his alleged involvement in a sexual relationship with a 17 year old girl to whom he was supplying drugs, one would have thought the Board would have made a specific address to that very issue in the list of breaches of express and implied obligations under the Regulations.
However, apart from an allusion to the underlying conduct which have to be read into the breaches concerning bringing the game into disrepute and unbecoming conduct, there was no explicit reference to the duties and obligations Agents may have in their behaviour towards women.
There were no explicit references to engaging in threats, bullying, interfering with investigations, attempting to influence witnesses or more importantly engaging in sexual misconduct with teenagers or supplying drugs to them.
These may not be obligations expressly contained in the Regulations however the Board showed that it was fully prepared to create implied obligations for Agents’ conduct, and it was within their discretion to extend these obligations to the behaviour which was the specific focus of the investigation.
However, the findings were all about players and the breach of trust and fiduciary duties which occurred in the discharge of Nixon’s duties towards players to whom he was contracted.
There was a conspicuous lack of any address as to whether there were any other implied obligations incumbent upon Player-Agents in the manner in which they discharged their duties and conducted themselves with players and other third persons, in particular young teenage women.
It clearly would have been not only appropriate and warranted, but necessary for the Agents Accreditation Board to, at the very least, have made a specific finding that Agents have an implied obligation not to engage in inappropriate sexual activity or supply drugs.
After all, this was what the entire investigation was about and probably the very reason why the Saints girl was present, namely to hear about what the Board had to say, if anything, about Nixon’s relationship with her.
Whilst Agents certainly have responsibilities to their players by virtue of their fiduciary duties, their contractual duties and under the Regulations, this certainly wasn’t the focus of the investigation.
The question is why the Board, which was seized of the opportunity, see fit to create implied obligations which would bind Agents and set a precedent?
Did it merely escape their attention or would it have opened up a can of worms to set a dangerous precedent?