OK, so what’s going on with our sporting administrators? Are they the greatest bunch of miserable wowser killjoys in world sport – or have they just had their commonsense fried in this uncommonly hot summer?

It’s bad enough that Cricket Australia sought, in no particular order, to ban the Mexican Wave, outlaw the Barmy Army bugler, split up the Barmy Army at the Brisbane Test so they became small pockets of Barmy Platoons, and publicly censured its internet broadcaster, Cricinfo.com, for repeating the outrageous slur that former Test opener Justin Langer was a brown-nose gnome.

But now the AFL is getting in on the act as well. Having fought to protect the names of three players who tested positive to drugs last season, the league this week was not quite so protective of the four footballers caught betting on matches. Their names were plastered all over the front pages of newspapers around the country. And for such a heinous crime. Kieren Jack, a 19-year-old Sydney recruit, reportedly placed two bets totalling $10 on games that did not involve the Swans. Kangaroos ruckman David Hale had a similar-sized wager on the Brownlow Medal. (Daniel Ward and Simon Goodwin, two vastly more experienced players whose breaches were more serious, deserve to be cut less slack.)

Jack you might not have heard much about, but he’s the son of former Balmain fullback and rugby league legend, Garry Jack, so his drafting by the Swans was seen as something of a coup for the code. But Jack’s dad and Hale’s mum, Yvonne, have rightly gone troppo about their sons appearing in newspapers and on TV for a trifling offence that should have led to nothing more than a quiet word in the boys’ ears at AFL HQ.

You’d have thought the AFL had much bigger things to worry about. Like its recently brokered, but better-late-than-never, TV deal with Foxtel that shafts Hawthorn and the Kangaroos – both of whom ended up with eight and nine games respectively on free-to-air TV – but gives an armchair ride to Collingwood, which features in 19 commercial TV games. As Jeff Kennett sagely noted today, the AFL – and Channels Seven (now there’s an irony) and Ten – will be quietly barracking for Eddie’s boys this season, with fingers and toes crossed that the Pies can muster up some sort of challenge for the flag. (Not that you’ll read a word of criticism of the very belated Foxtel deal in any News Ltd papers, many of whose football scribes preen themselves on the channel’s umpteen football programs.)

Now, some rules are good because they’re sensible and they work. Seatbelt wearing, for example, and drink driving laws. No-one condones the mindless throwing of apple cores, hot dogs and soft drink bottles at the cricket (although, given the price of food at the MCG, it’s a wonder anyone can afford to throw anything at all) that might cause damage to an unprotected head. But where’s the perspective? Surely the ban should be on the throwing of missiles, and penalties for offenders jacked up into the stratosphere. The plethora of closed-circuit security cameras could help identify the culprits, couldn’t they?

Overseas tourists arriving to this country expect to see a community that roughly equates with the image it loves to portray abroad: relaxed, knockabout, suntanned, corks dangling off hats, she’ll be right mate and so on. What they get from the moment beady-eyed Customs officials and sniffer dogs first assail them at the airport is rules, rules and more rules. Little wonder we’re fast getting a reputation as one of the most over-regulated nations on earth. Now, the fun police from our two most popular sports, cricket and football, are waving their truncheons about, too.

The land of the larrikin indeed. The nanny state more like. Or worse. The equivalent of SuperNanny is looking down her nose and wagging her finger at us, threatening to send us to bed without any dinner. How much longer will we put up with it?

Peter Fray

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