Tuesday, May 2

Legal Advice for the Dockers

UPDATE: The AFL decided in favour of justice over law with a strained (I'd say 'result oriented') interpretation of their own rules.


Out of this blog's small readership, I can think of one person who will be interested in this Fremantle Dockers/Australian Rules Football related post (my Mother).

Anyway, for those living on the moon or in the United States, the big news story in Australia this week was the farcical end to an AFL game between the Fremantle Dockers (my team) and St Kilda. Fremantle was a point ahead when the siren sounded. (Note: you get six points for a goal but one point for a near miss, yes I know that is strange)

Usually, the game ends immediately after the siren sounds. Unfortunately, the siren was too quiet and the umpire didn't hear it. Play continued as Freo players tried to tell the referee that the siren had sounded. St Kilda scored a point during the confusion and the game was tied. The siren then sounded again and play was finally stopped. Because of a foul occurring after play had stopped, St Kilda was allowed to retake its last kick (i.e. the point). The player missed a goal but scored the point again so the game remained tied.

The Freo coaches and players were, understandably, furious that play had continued after the siren. They have filed a protest seeking to overturn the result. Freo has said that if the AFL doesn't give them the win they will consider legal action.

So, what should happen?

The AFL should uphold the result. The AFL's rules state that the game continues until the umpire acknowledges the siren by raising his hand. As the umpire had not acknowledged the siren, the game was not over and the point counts.

Freo claims that they should get the points because, under the rules, the time keeper must sound the siren until it is acknowledged by the umpire. This did not occur (and the time keeper has admitted the error). I don't think this matters. Officials make mistakes all the time. The time keeper's error occurred during the game (because of the rule that the game continues until the umpire stops play) thus it should be treated like any other umpiring error that occurs during a game: unfortunate but irreversible. Absent evidence of fraud (i.e. match fixing) teams just have to live with umpiring errors. The alternative is every sporting contest being subject to legal challenge.

I have a friend at work who is a very passionate Freo supporter. She also thinks the result should stand. We are such lawyers.

Freo would be foolish to pursue litigation if they lose before the AFL. Similar cases have always failed (even when the official keeping score has made a blatant error).

Having said all that, I strongly believe that St Kilda should voluntarily concede the game. St Kilda has not done this (indeed they are fighting to uphold the draw). This shows that every St Kilda coach, player and fan should be consigned to the fiery pits of hell for all eternity.


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