Whistleblowers need anonymity
AN EXPERT on whistleblowing practices has cast doubt on the AFL's plans to encourage players to report suspicious activity at their club, and claimed guaranteeing complete anonymity would be the only way a system could work.
The AFL has vowed to do whatever it can to get players to report any instances of suspicious drug use, match fixing and any other illegal activity as part of its response to the Australian Crime Commission report into professional sport.
But Dr Johan Lidberg, a senior lecturer in the school of journalism at Monash University and a specialist in the areas of freedom of information and whistleblowing, said only the protection of a player's identity could entice them to come forward.
Lidberg said luring whistleblowers from within AFL ranks could be tougher than from the government and corporate sectors because of the powers of mateship and team focus within the industry.
''It is extremely hard to ensure people who step forward with their name do not suffer afterwards. It is all part of the game,'' he said on Saturday.
''I would have thought within sporting codes, where there is a strong tradition of not dobbing on others and mateship, that you could anticipate it would be quite fraught.
''Unless there is some sort of anonymity provision it is very hard to see that anyone at all would come forward.''
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, in announcing the league's responses to the release of the ACC report on Thursday, said it was important there were no reprisals against players who came forward.
The AFL Commission is expected to discuss at its February 18 meeting what framework to adopt for a whistleblowers unit.
Lidberg, who was unaware of any similar measure among Australian sport, said ensuring complete anonymity - so that no one within the AFL knew their identity - was the only way to ensure that person's name was not leaked.
He commended as a positive the AFL's intentions to establish a whistleblowing service, but said the ramifications could be lasting for someone who came forward, even if they acting in integrity.
''Even if you grant amnesty in terms of no consequences, the social stigma - you can't grant an amnesty for that because in the eyes of their mates and people who follow the code they're going to become weasels,'' he said.
''That's a social thing and there's nothing an organisation can do about that. It's an interesting idea. I think it's going to be really hard.''