If there’s one thing I hate to see, it’s a multimillion-dollar organisation missing a heaven sent opportunity. Chances going begging are the bane of humanity’s existence, in every sphere of life. The latest example to infuriate me comes from the Australian Football League, which has missed an opportunity as surely and embarrassingly as a full-forward hitting the behind post from the goalsquare.
For just last week, Collingwood forward Jaidyn Stephenson was suspended for ten matches for betting on games in which he was involved, a huge no-no in terms of the restrictive behavioural conditions imposed on the modern footballer under which a young man can’t even beat up a stranger in a brothel without getting smeared in the media.
It’s pretty amazing that the AFL has chosen to make a pariah of young Jaidyn, when they could have leveraged his marvellous initiative and sporting spirit to send a powerful message to the kids who represent the future of football’s grand quest to inspire every Australian to bet on as many sporting events as humanly possible. Jaidyn Stephenson is exactly the kind of role model that the founding fathers of the indigenous game were thinking of when they gathered in the nineteenth century to conceive of a new sport that, in their words, would offer “the best value on an online multi you’ll find anywhere”.
Rather than punishing Stephenson, what the bigwigs should’ve done is put him front and centre of a new advertising campaign urging youngster to “dare to bet”. The idea would be to say to kids all over Australia: look at Jaidyn! He worked hard and chased his dream, and he ended up not just betting on football, but betting on football that he was actually playing in. What a guy! And little boys and girls everywhere could grow up to do the same, if they have the drive and determination of Jaidyn!
Now wouldn’t that inspire you? If you had had a role model like Jaidyn Stephenson when you were young, don’t you think you might’ve worked a bit harder to become a professional gambler? Don’t you think that without that kind of aspirational example, it’s hard to turn your occasional flutter into a full-blown addiction?
Like I said, the AFL has missed a trick. If they are serious about their official mission statement – “a Sportsbet account in every home” – they simply HAVE to seize these opportunities when they arise. Let’s hope the next enterprising young AFL star who seeks his fortune in the exciting world of betting is treated with a lot more big-picture vision.