AFL Bans 'Hush Money' Payments
AFL players caught paying "hush money" to victims of alleged
sexual assault could be sacked under new rules designed to change
attitudes towards women among some of the stars of the sport.
In widening the definition of "conduct unbecoming" in the AFL
player rules, it will be illegal for a player, official, agent
or club to pay a victim on the player's behalf "to avoid the
costs and inconvenience of litigation".
In releasing the AFL's policy on the treatment of the
women - Respect and Responsibility - AFL chief executive
Andrew Demetriou said the league's penalties for sexual
assault offenders ranged from fines to suspension and delisting.
"(The penalties) deal with players who have been found
guilty (in a court) and also players who have been
committed to trial and players who have paid money in a
situation not to proceed with an action," Mr Demetriou said.
"Our policy is unashamedly to be educational and
preventative and we hope we never have to implement
"We are all about doing everything we can to make sure
these things don't happen."
The AFL began to address the issue of sexual discrimination
and violence against women in March last year after St Kilda
players Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna were caught up in
allegations of sexual assault after the team's win in the
pre-season grand final. The incident followed a series of
rape allegations against Canterbury Bulldogs NRL players.
After a police investigation that lasted almost two months,
the case against the St Kilda pair did not proceed because of
insufficient evidence, but they may face civil action from
the alleged victim.
The incident prompted the AFL to deal with the problems
damaging a sport that prides itself on having a 49 per
cent female supporter base.
In the past, accusations of sexual misconduct against
AFL players have been treated purely as legal matters
and most cases never make it to court.
Banning payment of so-called "hush money" to women who
have claimed to be assaulted by a player is the most
significant part of the new AFL policy, which comes in
the wake of similar AFL policies aimed at stamping out
racial and religious vilification.
Mr Demetriou said there was no intention for the new
rules, which also put the onus on clubs to immediately
report to the AFL any case of sexual misconduct against
its players or officials, to bypass the legal system.
"We do not seek to usurp the criminal process that's in
place," he said. "We have just incorporated it into our
rules so that there is not a grey area and it's very clear
to our clubs and our players that there are rules in place
that can be enforced."
The Australian (9-11-2005)