Demetriou's goals can't shadow some big misses

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou shows his love for premiers Lara Giddings in 2012 at Aurora Stadium.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou shows his love for premiers Lara Giddings in 2012 at Aurora Stadium.

BEFORE everyone gets carried away with gushing tributes, let's not forget Andrew Demetriou was the man in charge while Melbourne tanked, Essendon doped, Adelaide overpaid and, most unforgivably, Meatloaf sang.

For legal reasons I have to amend that sentence. Meatloaf didn't sing, he squawked.

The first three of those represent blatant cheating, the fourth blatant embarrassment.

The man Kevin Sheedy dubbed Vlad because of his dictatorial, iron-fist rule was in charge when the AFL introduced its "three strikes" illicit drugs policy, thereby allowing players two positive tests, no questions asked. If cycling had that policy, Lance Armstrong would still be clean.

Asked at last week's press conference whether he felt responsibility for the Essendon supplement scandal, a prickly Demetriou replied: "Even as good as our integrity department was, we didn't pick that up. That's not a fault."

Even in accepting what was dubbed "the blackest day in Australian sport", he managed to squeeze in some self-praise.

Demetriou was in charge when the AFL offered North Melbourne $100 million to go to the Gold Coast and Hawthorn $7.5 million to get out of Tasmania - two failed bids to dictate the make-up of the competition.

Demetriou relentlessly pushed football into areas of the country with minimal interest in the code while openly overlooking a hotbed crying out for its own piece of the action.

Demetriou was in charge when the AFL promised "more games and better games" for Tasmania and then admitted it shouldn't have awarded Launceston a game as big as the 2009 blockbuster between reigning premier Hawthorn and runaway ladder-leader St Kilda.

The chief executive has attended the London Olympics and NFL Super Bowl as often as he has roster games in Tasmania, and that was only after Caroline Wilson reassured him he wouldn't be lynched if he showed his face here.

Knowing what's good for them, AFL chiefs spent last week issuing glowing appraisals of their outgoing lord and master.

Geelong and West Coast sailed close to the wind with references to "occasional differences of opinion", but former Hawks president Jeff Kennett pulled no punches, saying the 52-year-old's best asset was his ability to manoeuvre politicians to achieve outcomes for the AFL.

"Andrew's one extraordinary legacy for the AFL has been the way he has played political parties against each to get new stadiums built around the country at almost no cost to the AFL," Kennett told Fairfax Radio. "Absolutely stunning piece of work."

Aurora Stadium is a prime example, the venue having grown into a 20,000-seat, $23million shrine to AFL during Demetriou's reign, funded almost entirely by Tasmanian taxpayers with less than 3 per cent coming from the code's national body.

Demetriou was also in charge when the Tasmanian government insisted it would not use taxpayers' money to pay for the North Melbourne-Hobart deal, then announced a government business enterprise would sponsor it.

AFL Tasmania's tribute consisted of 31 words, six of which called Demetriou "a strong supporter of Tasmanian football".

To be fair, like the clubs, AFL Tas has got to say that. But the truth is no he wasn't, a point proved by how many Tasmanian media outlets reported his announced departure as good news for the state's hopes of getting its own team.

As Kennett famously told the presidents function before that landmark Hawks-Saints clash on August 8, 2009: "They don't give a damn about Tasmania."


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