Australia’s most conflicted prominent person, Eddie McGuire, had the cheek last week to accuse the new CEO of North Melbourne, Michael Easy, of having a conflict of interest. Crikey subscriber MrMOB points out this breathtaking hypocrisy.

“Phew, don’t talk to ME about conflict of interest!” said the only Club President who is fortunate enough to have both a top rating Football program and a weekly newspaper spot to push his own interests.

Hundreds of thousands of viewers had tuned in to last week’s ‘Footy Show’ to see how Sam Newman could possibly top the “hilarious” sight of his genitals on the previous episode (my tip Sam – go for broke, get up on the desk, drop your strides and take a crap in Shane Crawford’s lap). Instead, viewers were subjected to a rant from Eddie, who claimed that with Easy knowing the salary caps and contract details of players at every club he had a conflict of interest and would be “too powerful”.

The first point I could make is that when has a conflict of interest ever stopped anyone at the AFL? – such issues certainly haven’t slowed down Commissioners Graeme Samuel at the MCG Trust or Ron Evans and his catering contracts. However, in this case Eddie is just plain wrong, and his complaints smack of hypocrisy.

Unlike the Toorak tycoon who loves to remind everyone he’s just a boy from Broady, Easy will not be wearing two hats – or as in Eddie’s case, multiple hats – at once. Now, if he was the AFL’s Investigations Manager AND Chief Executive at the Kangaroos at the same time, this would be the sort of McGuire-style conflict of interest that Crikey has so ably exposed in recent times.

As it is, Easy is leaving one job to go to another – big deal. This happens all the time in the Football world, and I believe, even in the Media. Or perhaps Eddie should still be back at Channel 10 where he started as a cub reporter, covering the greyhounds, second-rate motor-racing and the snow report.

Just because the many-hatted McGuire thinks someone else has a conflict of interest doesn’t do anything to diminish his own.

Collingwood are threatening to take the issue to a meeting of Club Presidents next week, suggesting a contract clause be brought in that bans senior AFL officials from taking roles at clubs for at least 12 months.

But it looks like Eddie’s idea is already a non-starter. Essendon has described the issue as “overrated”, Richmond congratulated Easy on his new job, and the Geelong president has made the point that strong and experienced administrators are actually good for football. David Smorgon, President of the Bulldogs, said football managers at all clubs would have a pretty good idea of “who gets what” anyway. Furthermore, the AFL itself has said it has “no issue” with the situation.

It will be interesting to see how Eddie the Football Journalist reports how Eddie the Club President is rebuffed by his peers.

With most contracts already lodged for next season, and Easy bound by confidentiality agreements in any case, Eddie’s pique at the Kangaroos appointment seems to me to ring somewhat hollow. Not only is it a fairly clumsy attempt to deflect criticism away from his own hopelessly tangled web of football, media and business interests, there’s probably also an element of sour grapes.

You see, the final irony of this story is that in mid-1999, under their recently-elected president (one E. McGuire), Collingwood themselves were eagerly chasing after Michael Easy to take a senior role at the club[*]. Easy’s investigation into salary cap rorting had just resulted in the Melbourne Football Club receiving record fines, and he had exactly the same privileged information about player contracts that Eddie is bleating about now.

Perhaps Eddie has never forgiven him for knocking that job back. But, somehow I suspect that if Collingwood had managed to lure Michael Easy to Victoria Park back in ’99, they wouldn’t have expected him to sit out a year before taking up his post.


* MrMOB is a Kangaroos fan, disgruntled AFL Member and long ago had numerous teeth filled by the newly appointed president of the North Melbourne Football Club, Dr Allen Aylett.