President of the Western Bulldogs, Peter Gordon, earlier this week, delivered the Chancellor's lecture at Victoria University entitled "A level playing field? Ethics and power in sport".
While Peter Gordon supports intervention to achieve equalisation, he said that the ongoing effect is that all AFL clubs will look for that one per cent advantage, and in doing so, they will often be accused of pushing the boundaries.
"One inevitable effect is to intensify the confinement of the parameters for success and failure, to the search for the smallest of edges in the fields of roughly equal endeavour – in areas such as recruiting and list management, injury rehabilitation and management, deployment of sports science in all its offerings, sports psychology, and on field strategy."
He explained that finding a way to pay players beyond the standard salary cap might be illegal and it might be unfair, but in the hothouse environment of the equalised AFL, it might also be the one per cent edge which wins you a flag.
"Injecting substances which make your players just a little 'fresher' for a crucial final could create a difference which is magnified into a game changer, because every other area of competitive football endeavour in the AFL is designed to ensure a contest between equals.
"If Essendon truly has happened upon the AFL player equivalent of a secret recipe of eleven different herbs and spices, then unlike Colonel Sanders, there is little chance it would be able to keep that intellectual property to itself for the next forty years. It will either be banned or in two years time, every club will have its own Colonel Sanders. That's the nature of the industry."
Peter Gordon said while this pushing the boundaries might be seen as abnormal or abhorrent – it is not only of the essence of professional sport, it is required, driven and mandated by the fundamental economic principles which underpin the professional sporting industry.
"In this environment, thinking about pushing the boundaries is not just common sense, it's unavoidable, it's probably negligent not to.
"When we as clubs go into battle each year and each week, we know that we are competing with roughly equal resources. If we know or if we suspect that that rough equality might be distorted by even a small factor, an edge, an element which one club has, we will as we must, strive to emulate it and then better it."
As far as the debate on the use of supplements to push boundaries goes, Peter Gordon said, "My clear preference is that this area be taken out of the field of competitive endeavour by being banned. In my view, permitting the unregulated use of performance-regulating substances breaches a number of primary ethical obligations we as an industry owe our players, the code, the kids who watch and the broader community."
Public Affairs Unit, Victoria University,
9919 4322; 0434 602 884; [email protected]