SILENCE from a sporting tribunal is more damaging to the game than any alleged incident in a violent post-game brawl in our backyard.
Worse, even more so, when the lack of clarification surrounds an incident that would have wiped a player out of the game for life.
Players, umpires, clubs the league and wider football community need a clear and a definitive line in the sand on such issues.
Darley this week won an appeal on a two-match suspension on ruckman Abe Kur for kneeing, a charge from a Ballarat Football League independent investigation into an on-field club brawl three weeks ago. He was cleared by the AFL Victoria appeals board without any clarification on why in the ruling as sought by The Courier.
This is not about the need to question the appeals board’s legitimacy or the outcome of this investigation, other than the fact we will never know why.
Kur is a player who is in the warning zone when it comes to a life ban from the game, having accumulated the 14 games’ suspension, since he was 16 years old. Sixteen would have meant an automatic ban from taking part in the game in any way.
Now Kur can, and is selected, to play against Lake Wendouree on Saturday without public explanation. We should not be left to accept this and move on without reason. This is not fair on the Lakers. And it is definitely not fair on Kur either to play with question marks of public perception hanging over his head.
Tribunal blackouts have potential to create trouble.
It never used to be like this. The Courier and this columnist have covered extremely sensitive football cases in the past, including life bans and high-stakes appeals to free star players for finals.
Tribunals ensure the rules and standards of the league are adhered to and made clear. Appeals boards are a vital chance for players and clubs to have the initial decision reviewed. The appeals process is never done lightly and often at significant financial cost.
To be truly fair, the whole football community needs to know exactly what is acceptable in the game. Even more so when it comes to grey areas and blurry patches because an understanding is the only way to evolve the game for the better.
And the flow on impact about how behaviour boundaries are set affects everyone, including the umpires who govern each game.
Ballarat Football Umpires Association is about to send out its first all-female umpiring panel for a senior match. This is an incredible achievement the BFUA has been striving towards for a long time. BFUA senior field coach Roger Le Grand has long praised females’ confidence and competence.
In a world where umpires and referees across sporting codes tend to lack longevity under abuse on the field and from over the fence, we need to be striving now even more so for safe playing arenas.
How can we foster umpires when there is any uncertainty to any player eligibility and the potential for players to push the boundaries in what is acceptable behaviour?
Lack of transparency in those enforcing rules of the game only fuels mistrust and ultimately, turns people off the game at the grassroots.