ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

February 2013



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Greed, money, power…Sport’s key players

The sporting world in Australia is suddenly in mourning, writes Trevor Grant in Socialist Alternative.

The boss of the AFL, Andrew Demetriou, the boss of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, the new boss of the NRL, David Smith, as well as assorted other sports figures, stood in their finely-cut suits last week behind the heavies from the Australian Crime Commission and the Minister for Justice, Jason Clare.

If you had the sound down on the live coverage of this melancholy press conference, you might have thought they were announcing a death of a sporting idol. Or that they were being told that their salaries were being cut back to justifiable levels, which, of course, would make life no fun at all for a sports boss riding on the back of a money-making monolith.

Demetriou and co. looked about as cheerful as the morning mist on a coffin lid as they listened to tales of the massive illegal drug taking and possible match fixing by organised criminal gangs that have infiltrated their sports.

It was almost getting to the point where one might feel sorry for them. Demetriou appeared so glum and without his usual table thumping self-assurance; Smith, the new boy on the block, looked decidedly down-at-mouth and rather startled about the meaning of it all.

But then we snapped back to reality as we took in the gravity of the charges being levelled against their sports.

As phrases such as “shocking instances of drug use” and “cheating with the help of criminals” rang out with stunning clarity in the sombre atmosphere, we could only wonder about the incessant claims in recent years from these same men that there was nothing dark or sinister about their sports.

Of course, there have always been elements of corruption of sport.

As far back as 1919, the Chicago “Black Sox” were throwing games of baseball. And jockeys have always pulled up horses and bet on rivals’ mounts.

Today, though, there is something different about all this. What these people are talking about is institutionalised illegality and corruption, something that takes a long time to seep into the culture of a sport and even longer to be rid of. Worse, it has happened under the noses of administrators who have implemented supposedly strict drugs policies and security watchdogs after many incidents had pointed to serious problems.

So what is it about the culture of 21st century sport that makes it so vulnerable?

The belief that making money must always be the driving force is now entrenched into the fabric of all major sports. These sports are awash with money these days from $1 billion TV deals and massive sponsorships. They have become another market place where marketing, advertising and propaganda are the tools of trade.

Sport no longer belongs to the masses. Many working class people who once filled the grounds have been alienated by the inflated prices that come with the building of shiny, new expensive facilities that have to be sold at premium prices. They feel irretrievably distant from the unstoppable corporate machine that controls their heroes and their clubs. Unsurprisingly, their attachment wanes.

The corporations don’t mind this at all. They want as spectators only those middle class types willing to part with big dollars for their entertainment. So the rest who can’t afford $150-$200 to take the family to the footy or cricket (don’t even think about seats at the tennis) become fodder for the media side of sport, just as the expensive upgrading and higher prices at stadiums was designed to do.

Again big business is in charge, with their pay TV stations and their incessant advertising of the three biggest blights on a healthy, cohesive society, alcohol, junk food and gambling – three products which all the major sports happily sign on as sponsors, regardless of the potential damage to impressionable young fans.

Only a year ago, Demetriou was vigorously defending his sport against widespread criticism of its deals with huge online gambling agencies that saw advertising rife on TV and radio before, during and after games. He insisted that by having them inside the tent he could keep an eye on them and have access to their information. Thus, there was less chance of match fixing ploys. Suddenly last week, he didn’t sound as assertive.

Players are taught as young kids aspiring to the big time that they must do whatever it takes to reach it. They are so often caught up in the whirlpool of money, greed and deceit, and merely adjust to the environment in which they find themselves. Players are by no means ignorant of what they are doing, but the line between right and wrong becomes blurred, because the system tells them there is only one way.

In the end it is the system that has the most influence, as it was with Lance Armstrong, who began taking performance-enhancing substances as a normal part of his daily regimen when he arrived in top professional cycling in his early twenties. He learned quickly that to get on you needed to do what the top riders were doing.

It is the system that allowed the football departments at AFL clubs to run free of control, unlike the payments to players and the trade in them, which are regulated by a salary cap and draft. AFL people scoffed when I wrote years ago that the spending by football departments should be under the salary cap.

It is the one area where the rich clubs believe they can get an edge. So it’s the area where any club with big dollars, such as Essendon and Collingwood, can experiment with all kinds of new ideas, so-called “cutting edge” sports science and, as we discovered last week, new products that hadn’t been trialled on humans before being introduced to some players.

Where there is a mass of money to be splashed around there will be organised criminals hovering around the honey pot, with their drugs, their “supplements”, their betting schemes and their seductive powers to wheedle their way into the lives of players.

Demetriou and Smith shouldn’t really look so shocked at the Australian Crime Commission report. Not if Demetriou recalls the front page headlines about the links between prominent underworld figure John Kizon and then-West Coast stars, Ben Cousins and Michael Gardiner, or the infamous day AFL legend Wayne Carey gave character evidence in court for one of Australia’s most notorious criminals, Jason Moran.

He must also recall the time the Collingwood star, Alan Didak became involved with the Hells Angels bikie club and its unsavoury member Christopher Wayne Hudson, who would gain infamy by shooting dead an innocent bystander in the Melbourne CBD during the morning peak hour.

And for Smith, even though he wasn’t there at the time, there is no doubt a file in his office detailing the case of Canterbury Bulldog Ryan Tandy, who was found guilty of match fixing less than three years ago.

So who has the ultimate responsibility for the system and all its flaws? You might say Andrew Demetriou at the AFL and David Smith at the NRL, but they also are mere pawns in a bigger game, as overpaid and influential as they might appear.

Corporations are the real owners and controllers of major sport in Australia and other Western nations. And when the driving force is profit, then you will always have a problem with presenting a fair and equitable playing field.

The federal sports minister, Kate Lundy, thumped the lectern at the press conference as she declared: “Today is about integrity in sport.” However, integrity was lost well before she joined the long list of politicians who have done little but support and promote a system that thrives on greed, money and power.


Write a comment