Here is a funny thing about the AFL's tribunal system. The clubs, by and large, like it, which is why the system has survived for so long, since 2005 under the Adrian Anderson model in the hottest of sporting environments. The public, not so much.
"A blood sport," is what Daniel Harford, a former tribunal panellist called it some time ago. At SEN, the 24-hour sports station, it's well known that the phone will run hot with talkback callers every Monday afternoon and Tuesday with complaints bordering on apoplexy about the latest findings of the match review panel.
Now the MRP is an MRO, as in match review officer Michael Christian, who has become the supremo under the reign of Stephen Hocking as head of AFL football operations.
But the controversy is hardly going away and the AFL season has not even begun to reach the first talking point, that being the Sarah D'Arcy kicking incident in the Collingwood-Carlton AFLW game last weekend.
Christian gave D'Arcy a three-match suspension for lashing out at Sarah Hosking of Carlton, and allowed her to plea-bargain it down to two matches.
It caused this debate on the ABC's Offsiders program last Sunday:
Panelist 1: "They've got to throw the book at this girl."
Panelist 2: "Three weeks?"
Panelist 1: "At least."
Panelist 2: "That's half the season."
Panelist 1: "Well, tough. It was completely deliberate, a horrible, ugly act."
In print, one Herald Sun columnist called the two-match suspension for D'Arcy "ludicrous", arguing that it was far too lenient.
So here we go again ...
As for the media coverage of tribunal capers, it's mostly shallow and knee-jerk.
Aside from Christian himself (at RSN in a previous gig), Harford in his role at RSN (now) and previously SEN, Kevin Bartlett at SEN and Gerard Whateley at Fox and the ABC (then) and now at SEN, there are virtually no football commentators who managed to provide a regular, clinical analysis of match review panel and tribunal verdicts. Many of the others fall quickly to the default response of outrage which, after all, is probably what a lot of the public want to hear.
"The public could understand it, but they just don't want to put in the time," said Harford. "The same goes for a lot of media commentators. People say 'that should be four weeks [suspension]", but it doesn't work like that if the system doesn't allow it. That drives all the MRP people and the tribunal people bananas, because it's easy enough to grasp. It's a simple system and it comes straight off the [AFL] website, But what we get is the emotional response all the time, rather than the analytical response."
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