Elite sportsmen in Australia and community standards: will the two ever meet?

Yesterday evening saw what would appear to be the end of the Kurtley Beale texting and plane argument scandal.  For those who missed it Beale was charged with two serious breaches of the ARU Code of Conduct related to the sending of two offensive whatsapp messages about a female staffer of the Australian Rugby Union and was found guilty of one breach and not guilty of the other.  Beale was fined $45,000 and had his playing rights reinstated with immediate effect.

The whatsapp messages sent, based on what has been published in the media, were abhorrent.  As a male, indeed as a human being, there is no other way to feel about them.  Sent in jest or not, there can be no cogent excuse for sending them.

Starting from that very low benchmark; viz, that there can be no cogent reason for having sent the message that Beale was proved to be sent, what has galled me most about the “Beale Imbroglio” is the Australian Rugby Union’s seemingly complete divorce from the reality of community standards or even the standards of a corporate employee.

The fact is that if I had have sent a message like that which Beale sent about a fellow employee of the organisation that employs him:

  • I would not have been stood down with pay;
  • nor would I have been given the opportunity to front an independent tribunal to plead my case (with legal representation);
  • nor would I have received broad public support, in defiance of my employer, from the senior people within my employer; and
  • I WOULD NOT HAVE A JOB!

I work for one of the largest professional services firms in the world; an organisation much larger and much more profitable than the ARU.   Whilst I am not an owner of said business, I sit in a moderately senior position and there is no way that if I had have conducted myself in the way Beale has that I would still have a job.  I have an employment contract and work for an employer that takes issues of sexual harassment / vilification very seriously and I would have had that employment contract terminated for cause if I had have sent the proven text message that Beale sent.

IT IS THAT SIMPLE!

The foregoing of course ignores all of the prior conduct of Beale in the last 18 months including:

  • Punching the captain of his domestic team whilst on tour in South Africa and being sent home.
  • Being photographed in a Hungry Jacks restaurant at 3am on the day before a test match against the British and Irish Lions in significant breach of team rules (for which he was not penalised).
  • Arguing on a long haul flight with various management staff of the Wallabies over the hefty issue of being told to put another t-shirt, again as a result of Beale breaching team rules.

With that sort of “rap sheet” surely Beale must have been on his final warning?  Again, if Beale worked for any employer in the community other than a sporting team he would have received at least two warnings for this conduct and would have been on a “final warning”.

I wrote another article when Beale was last in trouble and my comments there hold true.  This latest saga again does nothing other than prove that the Australian Rugby Union is significantly out of touch with the standards of the community.  Just because Beale, or any other player, is good at Rugby Union should not elevate him to a position above that of an ordinary member of the community should it?

In the title to this post I have gone further than just mentioned the ARU and included elite sportmen as a whole (in Australia) in this post.  That is because of the conduct of Paul Gallen, New South Wales Rugby League captain, poster boy for the NRL and guilty drug cheat.  Earlier this week, after the sacking of Cronulla Sharks CEO Steve Noyce, Gallen, from his holiday in Hawaii, tweeted a highly offensive tweet referring to the leaders of the National Rugby League by reference to a descriptive word that society considers to be in the worst category of slurs.

Gallen has apologised, albeit with one of the most strained apologies I have ever seen and deleted the tweet, and the NRL has announced it will be investigating however, based on past outcomes of NRL investigations the outcome of that investigation will inevitably be a fine.

This again shows just how outside of community standards the sporting codes in this country are: I have 1100 twitter followers and if I posted a tweet to my account calling the leaders of my employer the term used by Gallen what would be the result? You guessed it: I would be out of a job, again for cause and again with immediacy.

At some point the leaders of the sporting codes in Australia must take notice of the standards of the community in dealing with their employees.  The codes have advanced exponentially in the two decades when it comes to professionalism and quantum of money earned in the game.  Unfortunately the manner in which players are disciplined remains back in the days when Rugby Union was an amateur game and Rugby League was split on border lines.

The Beale saga, more so than that of Gallen, is replete with victims.  Di Patston has been vilified in the press, lost her job and is in treatment.  Ewen McKenzie felt compelled to resign.  There are also a whole tranche of victims who are presently unrecognised: the future potential generation of rugby fans who will not become fans of the game because their fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers (etc), like me, are so now disaffected with the game that they will not deign to take them to games any more.  I will be not going to games in 2015 and that means my nephews will also not be going which makes them victims too.

Players of professional sports are employees just like the rest of us: surely at some point they have been treated that way because presently they are not and it is damaging the brand of the game.  It is that simple!

 

 

 

About Stephen Humphreys

Steve is sports tragic and is particularly fanatical about rugby and cricket. A proud Reds member, Steve is also a fan of Wallabies as well as the Welsh team (when they are not playing the Wallabies). When not following rugby, cricket and all other sports, Steve is an account director at an accounting firm. Follow Steve on Twitter!

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