The AFL today closed the book on its investigation into the Dean Wallis betting affair.
It follows the recent suspension of Magpie defender Heath Shaw as well as previous sanctions handed out to David Hale, Matthew Primus, Simon Goodwin and Xavier Ellis, to name a few.
This is no defence of Dean Wallis. If anything, considering the exposure that Heath Shaw’s incident attracted, Wallis appears to have gotten off lightly – especially since it is understood that one his bets involved the Bombers.
Instead, while the AFL gladly cashes sponsorship cheques from Totes and corporate bookmakers around the country, I suggest that the League’s hardline stance on players and officials gambling on AFL matches lacks credibility.
It is beyond argument that the League must maintain the integrity of the competition, which is the reason for its zero tolerance on this issue.
Pleasingly, the MCC – the custodians of the MCG – also recently announced that it wouldn’t be renewing its agreement with a leading corporate bookmaker to display “in the run” (live) betting prices on its scoreboards during breaks.
However, it appears that the League is somewhat reluctant to wean itself from the teat of the wagering dollar despite its recent issues with player gambling.
As AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan told Fairfax’s Caroline Wilson earlier this week; “People bet. It’s a free country. That’s my personal view, but it’s not up to the AFL to legislate against gambling altogether,” he said.
“The fact is that people bet and wagering will grow regardless of whether or not we are a part of it,’ continued McLachlan.”
To be fair to McLachlan, his comments were in praise of Channel Seven’s call that it would be restricting the amount of wagering ads played on this year’s Brownlow Medal telecast.
But Wilson’s article went on to suggest that “the AFL has agreements with all registered betting agencies and lucrative sponsorship agreements with Tabcorp and Betfair, agreements it has no intention of ending.”
If this is true, as much as I support the penalties handed down on Shaw and Wallis, until the AFL divests itself of all wagering generated revenue any sanction handed down to players and officials for betting is pure pretence.
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