Football and the criminal justice system have this much in common; in being highly observed fields of activity, they can readily set the pattern for what is acceptable behaviour in our society.
One of the roles of the judicial system beyond its integral purpose of delivering justice, is for the public to be able to see it is effectively and wisely meeting this end.
This concept of perceived justice plays a critical role in building or undermining general confidence in that system.
If the emotional knee-jerk responses about ‘soft’ judges and cliches about ‘lettuce leaf’ sentences are so common, it is often because at a basic level the understanding of sentencing is so poor and the reasoning behind these decisions is not well communicated.
The ability of the judiciary to communicate the complexity of these decisions through the media and other channels is a long way from perfect, but nevertheless the potency of general deterrence in many ways relies on it.
The underlying issue is this general deterrence establishes a benchmark to a wider society about what behaviour is and isn't acceptable.
So clarity and transparency, whether it be over the punishment or the sentencing, becomes paramount if any kind of message is to be sent.
So back to football. Incidents on field after a Darley game in the BFL last month are about as ugly as country football gets. The disgraceful brawl demanded a strong response from the authorities to ensure the message of what is unacceptable was communicated to players, management and most of all the football watching public.
In responding to one part of this incident, the Victoria Country Appeals Board has cleared Darley ruckman Ave Kur of the charge of kneeing that would have meant a life suspension from football.
The decision, no doubt, was not taken lightly and has followed the due process for such investigations.
But the public needs to know why they came to this conclusion and other decisions surrounding the events to explain to a much wider public just what it is the AFL will tolerate or punish in country football.
The response to these incidents and has been enormous; much wider than the crowd who was there or even BFL devotees.
It has reached so many people because so many people care about local footy and want it violence free.
Many more have watched the video and are scratching their heads. The AFL owes it to that football-loving public and to its own future to make those decisions clear and comprehensible.