AFL Star Willing to Take Pay Cut to Stop Gambling Ads

  • Australian football has a long history of players gambling on games
  • The latest case involves 20-year-old rising star Jaidyn Stephenson, who got a 22 match ban and fine of AUS$20,000 for betting on three games
  • There has been a backlash against the AFL for its apparent hypocrisy as it has lucrative deals with gambling companies
  • Western Bulldogs captain and AFL Players Association board member Easton Wood says he would support a player pay cut to get rid of gambling ad money
Leading AFL player Easton Wood say he would support a pay cut for players
Leading AFL player Easton Wood say he would support a pay cut for players in order to phase out gambling advertising money from the sport

Player hit with significant fine

The most recent case of an Australian Football League player gambling on the outcomes of games has created a significant debate on the issue.

Jaidyn Stephenson, a player for Collingwood Magpies, was found to have made bets on three different games involving his own team. He was given a 22 match ban as a result, with a dozen of those games suspended. He was also fined AUS$20,000 (US$14,000) for the three multi-selection bets he made, totaling AUS$36 in size.

Stephenson self-reported the bets to officials at his club, who then informed AFL officials. It is the largest penalty for a player breaking AFL gambling rules.

The AFL Rising Star in 2018, Stephenson, 20, is a player with a lot of promise in the sport. He said: “It was an incredibly stupid thing to do and I now realize the seriousness of what I’ve done.”

The bets Stephenson made were on his team winning, on the margin of the victory, as well as the number of goals he and his teammates would score. None of these bets were winners. Two of the times he gave the money to his friend to place these bets and the third time he used a friend’s betting account.

Following an investigation, the league was confident that none of his teammates had been aware of the bets and that Stephenson was not trying to influence the matches in any way when placing them. They took into account his age and his self-reporting when handing down the sentence.

Backlash against the league

While many people had no problem with Stephenson being punished for this offense, they did have an issue with the league’s seemingly hypocritical stance on gambling. The AFL and its teams have numerous lucrative corporate relationships with gambling companies.

The league has a multi-year deal in place with Bet Easy that is worth AUS$10m (US$7m) annually. The official AFL website carries numerous gambling ads, plus weekly videos discussing the odds of different games. This relationship has been heavily marketed over the years by both parties. There are concerns about the influence this has on young children in particular.

Many AFL players are also said to be struggling with gambling problems. According to former player Matthew Lloyd, this is a growing issue. He said: “I noticed as I was retiring, the amount of players who were becoming addicted to gambling and their lives were being destroyed by gambling. I had players who I’d ask, ‘do you want to come for lunch?’ They’d say, ‘no, it is too expensive that place.’”

Players respond

The captain of the Western Bulldogs, Easton Wood, will support AFL players taking a cut in pay to stop the AFL’s reliance on gambling money. Wood is currently a board member of the AFL Players Association and would be willing to bring in these changes when it comes time to negotiate the next AFL broadcast deal. This would see the introduction of rules in which certain types of companies could not partner with the league.

He said: “I’d happily take less, philosophically, if that’s what it’s going to take to do the right thing and do what’s best for the code and kids coming through. But whether or not the AFL playing cohort that we represent on the board with the PA (Players’ Association), whether that’s their opinion, I’m not sure that it is. So that would be a difficult one and it’s a conversation to have. It’s definitely something I’ll be raising though.”

Wood spoke out on this issue in 2017, commenting that gambling ads were “out of control” and that he wanted more to be done.

The president of the Western Bulldogs, Peter Gordon, is backing his player and believes that this is a major move. Gordon believes that the gambling money can gradually be taken out of the sport, similarly to the removal of tobacco advertising in previous decades.

 

History of gambling in the AFL

Australian rules football is a massively popular sport, but has suffered from many incidents over the years involving players and coaches placing bets on games. League rules forbid players and team officials from placing bets on any games in a league that they are part of.

There have been numerous player bans over the years for gambling-related offenses. Jaidyn Stephenson is simply the most recent case of an AFL player gambling on the outcomes of games.