The AFL released their Annual Report yesterday, however, with typical disdain to club and AFL members, the report was not available on the AFL website – all members got was an AAP press release. The release did provide a few important details, most notably, the salary increase of CEO Andrew Demetriou, who is now earning a hefty $1 million per year.

On one hand, $1 million isn’t an extraordinary remuneration for a CEO by any stretch – the vast majority of public company CEOs earn far more than $1 million for doing what is probably an easier job than Demetriou. However, a question must be asked whether Demetriou has deserved pay rises exceeding 70% in the past two years when the AFL saw crowds drop last year and revenue creep up by only 6% last year.

Also, while the media focuses on Ben Cousins’ drug woes, certain blame must be attributed to Demetriou and offsider, Adrian Anderson, for their lenient stance on drugs in recent years. Back in 2002, retired Sydney player, Dale Lewis, claimed that 75% of AFL players had either used or experimented with drugs. Anyone who had anything to do with footy knew the claim was spot on.

What did the AFL do? Shoot the messenger. Lewis was publicly pilloried and his reputation slandered by Demetriou, while his very valid warnings went unheeded.

Even more concerning was a report in The West Australian which alleged that Demetriou personally “blocked a probe” by former AFL Investigations Officer, Rick Lewis in 2002. Lewis approached Demetriou to further investigate claims that “two Eagles players were caught on undercover police phone taps ordering illegal drugs”. However, Demetriou allegedly told Lewis “not to bother” with any investigation.

Shortly after, as CEO, Demetriou introduced the AFL’s lax “three strikes” drug policy, which allows players to be caught red-handed twice before any consequences are meted out. Further, despite the AFL’s claims of maintaining a world-leading drug testing policy, on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show last week, one player stated that he hadn’t been drug tested in over a year, while another wasn’t tested for more than 18 months.

As a result of the AFL’s obstinance, the game is now facing an unprecedented drug problem which culminated in Ben Cousins’ suspension from the game on Tuesday.

It’s ironic that during the week in which one of the AFL’s finest players departs the game (possibly permanently), the AFL CEO who did nothing to fix the problem receives a whacking pay rise.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey