News of yet another conflict of interest for Eddie McGuire has Crikey embarking on a major examination of the way the commercial operations of the AFL are run. No doubt this will further cruel our pitch for accreditation this year.

We’ve heard that the league feels they are over-exposed at the top end of town but need to better promote the game at a grass roots level as it AFL continues to lose ground to others sports in terms of participation levels.

One important issue is who would control the joint venture. Would it be Wayne Jackson and the AFL or would McGuire Media drive it?

A key figure in the discussion is former Kangaroo Ben Buckley who rose through the ranks at Nike and then became commercial operations manager at the AFL in 1999.

There is some suggestion of Buckley being involved in this new joint venture but it remains unclear whether he would resign from the AFL to join another McGuire money making venture. Clearly it would be a delicate issue if he tried to have a foot in both camps.

Eddie has a real blind spots for conflict of interest but Buckley is said to be a straight shooter and would seek to avoid any such perception.

And speaking of Eddie, AFL Commissioner Graeme Samuel has been good enough to get back to us and confirm that his son works for McGuire Media. A subscriber reckons he apparently helps research Eddie’s plug-fest in each Saturday’s Herald Sun amongst other things.

Without casting aspersion on the Samuels, Crikey remains very concerned with the way conflict of interest issues are handled at the AFL.

Samuel was the guru who ran the television rights auction and now it turns out his son works for Eddie McGuire – the front man for the winning syndicate.

Then again, there was only one bidder prepared to offer these stupid dollars so it is not as if we had a neck and neck tender process, a la the Melbourne casino tender process.

But there are plenty more AFL conflict issues. How on earth did AFL President Ron Evans finish up with the Docklands venue management contract for his company Spotless? And what a disaster that was, although Spotless got out of it without losing any money.

And wasn’t it interesting that Mirvac got the nod to redevelop Waverley and AFL Commissioner Chris Langford is the development director at Mirvac.

Langers was a brilliant Hawthorn full back who is said by some to have taken the fall for Lend Lease’s write-offs at Fox Studios in Sydney. After leaving Lend Lease he took his family to Tuscany for a few months mid-season last year before taking up with Mirvac.

And then you get to the question of Eddie Everywhere whose conflicts are completely untenable. A subscriber has pointed out all these plugs for Steve Bracks during Channel Nine’s Grand Prix coverage on Sunday and tried to link it back to the Tipstars gambling licence that Eddie got although that is a bit tenuous.

Eddie’s real conflict is with his profit making ventures of Sportsview and Tipstars as opposed to his role as the honorary president of Collingwood. Then you have the conflict of his use of media power to plug sponsors. No other president has that privilege.

Sports journos never really look at these issues but it is time the AFL was seriously put under the microscope.

Crikey has little doubt there would be similar conflicts of interest playing out at club level that go unreported so we are keen to start building the matrix of power and money in Australia’s richest sport.

Which Club directors benefit from their honorary role the way Gutnick did to harness his public profile at a time when his businesses went belly up.

And are there any directors out there with as much baggage as John Elliott at Carlton. We know that Essendon President Graeme McMahon got a $4 million payout when he was sacked as Ansett CEO but there must be many more examples like this.

The best email address is [email protected] and we’d love to hear from you.

Peter Fray

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