It is an indictment on the culture of elite sport that it took a confession regarding the alleged sexual misconduct of footballers for the AFL community to finally turn its collective back on former Carlton President and Elders IXL chief, John Elliott. The controversy was ignited last week when Elliott, while at a sportsman’s function in Tasmania, claimed that while he was President of Carlton, the club paid at least four women $5000 each to prevent them from making public claims of sexual harassment.

Elliott then appeared on his Channel 31 television program, but refused to elaborate on his comments.

It is understood that Victoria Police subsequently interviewed Elliott regarding his claims.

The football fraternity was certainly not impressed by Elliott’s rare display of honesty, with the Carlton identity “uninvited” from an official club function last Friday. Former Carlton Premiership player, Mark Maclure was especially critical, alleging that Elliott “destroys everything he touches — companies, families, relationships, football clubs … and now we actually know … what a complete moron this bloke is.”

AFL chief, Andrew Demetriou, also attacked Elliott, claiming that he “does not speak on behalf of the AFL. His comments are totally unacceptable, his position is totally unacceptable.” Demetriou continued, “I find his comments abhorrent. They are from an age that I don’t understand. They are from an age that is a bygone era. We have done everything we can and will continue to do everything we can to rid the industry of those sorts of Neanderthal attitudes.”

It is not Elliott in this case who has shamed himself, but rather, the entire AFL fraternity. If what Elliott claimed regarding the “hush money” is true (and there would seem little reason for Elliott to fabricate the entire story), the criticism should be reserved solely for the perpetrators of the alleged actions. Elliott in this instance appears a whistleblower. Demetriou’s claims are especially mystifying — one would wonder exactly which part of Elliott’s current position (aside from his unwillingness to actually name the perpetrators) is “unacceptable”? Would Demetriou prefer the knowledge of such crimes to go unmentioned and for possible criminals to remain unpunished? Is seeking justice for victims of s-xual assault from a “bygone era”?

There is no doubt that if the allegations are true, the actions of Elliott in paying the “hush money” was truly appalling. The decision to not report the incidents, but to protect the alleged perpetrators was morally and legally indefensible. But that was then. The criticism of Elliott does not appear to relate solely to his actions then, but rather, his decision to make public those events last week in Tasmania.

In fact, the treatment of Elliott over the past week indicates the appalling hypocrisy of football. From the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, when Elliott was wealthy, the Carlton football club and the VFL/AFL, were more than willing to turn a blind eye to his many indiscretions. Neither Carlton, nor the League batted an eyelid when Elliott was implicated in a foreign exchange scandal while CEO of Elders. (Elliott was accused of making hidden profits using Swiss bank accounts by the National Crime Authority based on volumes of evidence and the sworn testimony of former Elders executive, Ken Jarrett. Elliott was eventually acquitted solely due to an erroneous decision (later overturned on appeal) by a sole Victorian Supreme Court judge.)

Throughout the entire incident, Elliott remained dominant at Carlton and one of the most powerful AFL figures. Elliott was able to remain President of Carlton even after the Blues were implicated in systematic rorting of the competition’s salary cap.

It was only after the club “won” its first wooden spoon and approached insolvency that Elliott was eventually replaced as President. However, despite Elliott declaring personal bankruptcy (leaving creditors with a payout of only a few cents in the dollar) and being banned from acting as a company director after Water Wheel (a company which Elliott chaired) was found to have traded while insolvent, Elliott remained a life member of the AFL.

It appears that Elliott’s actions in the corporate world were of little concern to the AFL fraternity — it was only when Elliott lifted the lid on possible illegal s-xual conduct that suddenly, he is no longer welcome at Carlton.

Elliott’s claims regarding possible s-xual offences committed by former Carlton players should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Elliott must name the players in question, and the claims must be fully investigated (this however, may be difficult as it understood that Victoria Police botched earlier investigations).

Regardless of Elliott’s behaviour in the past, the AFL must stop playing the man, and start playing the ball.