Farewell Vlad Demetriou. What Have You Done?

The benevolent dictator has announced his retirement. Andrew 'Vlad' Demetriou has presided over much financial success in his long AFL reign. Crowd numbers, TV deals & expansion teams are but a few of the ticks on his report card. Not much interesting to reflect on there. So, to the entertaining part : What has Vlad royally stuffed up?

Demetriou is, and always has been, a terrible media performer. The man is too cautious, not wanting to set a foot wrong. Or say the wrong thing. This in itself has led to many problems. Being highly intelligent is not a virtue when the feed from brain to mouth is so heavily watered down. David Warner with a stutter could easily outperform Vlad in these stakes.

Sydney Swans :

In 2005, Vlad described the Swans as playing an unattractive, ugly style of football. That wouldn't win many matches. Needless to say, they went on to win the premiership. Sure, many people agreed with the assessment on playing style. This was an example where he should have butted out. The statement appeared to be an attempt to break out of his shackled media personality. It failed miserably. As he also stated, it is not the job of the AFL to influence playing style. Sydney is a key market, and the AFL will always be hoping for success in crowds & ladder position. Jawboning the only team in town was a move from amateur hour. He learnt from it, and became more cloistered in commentary than ever before.

Melbourne :

The shining beacon of bungling. Dean Bailey held a press conference in 2011. Admitting, in plain speak, that as coach he had tanked. There was no doubt, no window dressing. Many football fans were relieved that the genie had been let out of the bottle. It was an obvious, understandable practice. Why on earth should fans hope to win a few meaningless games at the end of a season? They are not dumb, and are well aware of the twisted, daft rules in relation to draft picks.

Enter Vlad. Tanking does not exist, has never happened. There is no reason for it to happen. Sigh. Yes, we get that it is your job to maintain that the rules in place are sensible. Reasonable and tamper-proof. That is all he did. An ostrich with its head in the sand. Shambolic. The AFL investigation concluded that there was no tanking, but managed to mete out some dubious fines.

Essendon :

The handling of the whole saga had me crawling into an AFL-free zone. Many unresolved questions. Much pre-empting of penalties by our Dear Vlad. Speaking to the media in a forceful manner, then meekly hiding behind 'we will let ASADA conclude their investigation' was pathetic. The investigation could never be impartial. Besides, it was obvious to all & sundry that conclusive proof was a mirage on the horizon. How could an injecting program that relied on falsifying or destroying documents ever be reduced to black & white? We will probably never know until the retirements of some players what did actually take place.

The element that I do have sympathy for Demetriou is in wanting to be tough. When he made his statements regarding Essendon, the catch-all rule of bringing the game into disrepute should have been enacted. Then & there. To let the issue drag until near September was a disgrace. Should never have happened. Overshadowing a season of AFL with anything other than football is wrong. Hindsight is easy ; the same penalties that were delivered - brought forward by six months.

Rules of the Game :

Least relevant in terms of Vlad's influence. As it happened during his time at the top, the mud sticks however. The constant re-jigging of on-field rules was too much to handle. Knowing that player safety was the driving reason behind many of the changed rules does allow some leeway. It will always be a difficult balancing act. Head high tackles, for one, is an obvious example. When the rules are changed too greatly, to reward dangerous behaviour, it is a backwards step. Pushing in the back is far less clear. Jeff Gieschen and his woeful comedy routine is a demonstration of this.

Change the rules less frequently. The AFL should be aiming for an endpoint, but not try to get there overnight. There are too many subtle problems that need a slow approach.

Andrew 'Vlad' Demetriou had a positive tenure in his time as chief boot kicker in the AFL. The game is in very good shape. It is always more fun to pick apart the bad elements. Perhaps this is reasonable. Running the AFL requires a back seat mentality. The need to be a driver is minimal, the impetus of footy will do most of the work.

( Originally published in Sports Report )
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