Sports Fan Poll: Player Behaviour and Punishment

Yesterday, Queensland Reds player Karmichael Hunt pleaded guilty to the possession an illegal drug and was punished both under the criminal justice system and by the Queensland Reds.  The punishment received by Hunt from the Reds has been widely debated.  Interestingly, the views of among my circle of family and friends are completely divergent from those of people that I follow on social media.  On the one hand there is a feeling that the punishment from the Reds is not on all fours with community standards whilst on the other there is a feeling that punishment is about right, if not a little harsh.

I have no interest in rehashing that debate here.  Regular readers will know my views.

What I am interested in discussing though is this quote from Queensland Reds CEO (in his letter to Reds Members sent by email):

“In determining our course of action, you have my assurance that we will always regard, as our primary concern, the long-term interests of the game, our Members, fans, partners and stakeholders.  However, the welfare of our players is paramount.” (emphasis added)

The statement is internally self defeating in the sense that it commences with a declaration of primacy that it then reverses in the very next sentence.  Whilst I am in violent agreement that player welfare is an important aspect of the management of players by any sport club, I struggle with the notion that the interests of player welfare trump that which is in the best interests of the sporting code or those who fund the game through their membership, payment for tickets and sponsorship.

I am left to ponder:

  1.  Whether the manner in which the Queensland Reds have dealt with Karmichael Hunt represents a new paradigm for dealing with player behaviour or whether the interests of code, the club, the members, the fans and the sponsors have always been secondary and I have just missed it in the punishment phases of the other scandals that have befouled sport in this country.
  2. How long will it be before a player gets into trouble again but is not punished in a fashion that has his (or her) welfare as the paramount focus and appeals his punishment.  Will the Carmichael “doctrine” become an appealable (litigious) point for a player at some point in the future?

I am, of course, aware that often in these matters I do not possess the popular view point so I thought I would open this question up to the readers for a poll the results of which I will publish in a week’s time on this blog.

The poll question is this:

I look forward to seeing how the results of this poll come out in a week’s time.


Karmichael Hunt: the ARU and QRU announcement 

The ARU and QRU have just announced the following punishment for Karmichael Hunt arising out of today’s guilty plea:

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) today suspended Karmichael Hunt for six weeks and fined him $30,000.

The statement then goes on to say:

As Karmichael has already been made unavailable for selection for two weeks, he will return to competitive Rugby in Round Eight of the Super Rugby season.

So let’s be clear: it actually is only a 4 game suspension and not a 6 game suspension.  Let’s also be clear that the penalty incurred is less then 15% of Hunt’s contract value. 

I note the comments of the CEO of the Queensland Reds that this is also a player welfare issue and I will be glad if the Reds assist Hunt in getting the help he needs.  

Equally, as in the situation with Kurtley Beale, the ARU  has shown itself to be more interested in the welfare of a player over the welfare of the code because I have no doubt that fans of the game will be lost because yet another player has received a slap on the wrist when a sterner penalty surely was the public expectation when considered in line with community standards.  

I hope Hunt takes this golden ticket he has received and comes back a better player and a person for the Reds.  He has received an opportunity that most in the community would not have.  

Karmichael Hunt pleads guilty … where to from here?

I have been blown away by the breaking news from the Southport Magistrates Court this morning the the Queensland Reds “star” recruit has pleaded guilty to four counts of possession of cocaine.  To say I am gobsmacked at the early plea would be an understatement albeit, since news of the charges broke, I confess I expected this to be ultimate result. 

Hunt has been stood down from playing duties since he was charged.  Whilst there has been no indication as to the position with respect to his contract in this scenario from the Queensland Reds it is difficult to see how he can remain with the team.  

I have heard all of the arguments that the conduct of these players in taking recreational drugs is just an indicia of a broader problem in society and I agree that it is.  That being the case though, Hunt ought be dealt with by his employer in the same way any other employer would deal with an employee found guilty of multiple serious offenses under the criminal code.  His employment contract will have in it a provision that deals with employee misconduct and that provision should be followed to the letter.  

If that means Hunt’s contract is summarily terminated then so be it.  To me, that has to be the right decision for the good of the club and its fans. 

Karmichael Hunt: In the interest of clarity

The Queensland Reds’ posted a statement this afternoon about the revelations regarding Karmichael Hunt. In that statement the following point is made:

Karmichael has not been arrested or charged. He has received a notice to appear.

Either the Queensland Reds have not been furnished with the Notice to Appear or they are receiving very poor legal advice because that statement is patently wrong!

A simple search of the Queensland Department of Justice website reveals that there are four ways one can be made to go to Court (in a criminal context) including the receipt by the defendant of a Notice to Appear. The page then goes on to describe the Notice to Appear thusly:

After being arrested, instead of placing you in custody, the police might give you a notice to appear and let you go home. They can give this to you when they charge you or will mail it to you. A Notice to Appear is a written document that tells you what you have been charged with and when and where you have to go to court.

For those who are further interested here is the link:

Hunt, clearly, would not have received his Notice to Appear unless he was charged with an offence (or in this case four offences). To suggest otherwise is a nonsense plain and simple!

The Reds have, as an outsider looking in, fumbled their response to this from the get go. From the original statement which suggested that they first found out about the charge in the press through a statement that is not only legally wrong but also outlines a decision only to stand down Hunt for this coming weekend’s fixture the way this has been handled by the QRU has been amateur hour!

Here’s hoping the QRU’s response to this very serious issue improves. At the very least they have to get their facts correct. They also have to, as a minimum, suspend Hunt indefinitely. Any other approach is a joke.