Notre Dame puts football and ethics on the same team

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 17-11-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Sydney Campus

Publication Place



Sports media coverage makes it easy to see professional football and ethics as strange bedfellows. It’s rare that a day passes without uncovering another footballer in the wrong, a boardroom drama or financial scandal in Australian sport. The incompatibility of football and ethics was challenged by a panel of experts as part of Changing Tactics: Football and Ethics, a Q&A panel hosted by The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society.

The Changing Tactics: Football and Ethics dinner was attended by members of Australia’s major football codes, academics who research the field of sports ethics and members of the general public. Audience members addressed their questions about ethical issues in football to former Sydney Swans player Craig Bolton, former Wallabies Captain John Eales and Manly Sea Eagles Chairman Scott Penn. The panellists shared their practical insights and personal experiences gained from their time in professional sport.

Remuneration was a major topic for discussion, specifically, the large salaries offered to players. Audience members questioned whether money was the cause of a myriad of ethical issues in sport but few were as pertinent as one asked by a schoolboy athlete to Craig Bolton, about whether loyalty in sport was dead.

“Loyalty is probably dying a slow death in a lot of regards,” said Bolton.

“You’ve got a lot of money involved, but at the end of the day you hope that clubs and leagues create an environment where loyalty does outweigh the dollar.”

Asked about the potential conflict of interest that could arise from the Manly Sea Eagles’ involvement with gambling agency Centrebet, Scott Penn accepted that although this position was a difficult one, it was not unmanageable.

“We do have a responsibility not only to our members, but our fans, and particularly our junior fans,” Mr Penn said.

Mr Penn acknowledged that Rugby league teams are ethically obligated to help improve the practice of gambling, pointing out that Sea Eagles management works closely with Centrebet to ensure they abide by responsible gaming principles.

John Eales displayed concern for young professionals in sport, and the difficulties they face when subjected to constant media attention.

“[Professional sport] creates an environment that most [young] people probably wouldn’t deal all that well with,” said Eales.

“The media can have a big impact on young athletes’ lives; they build people up very quickly and then they knock them down when they make mistakes – and they inevitably will make mistakes. Athletes and those around them need to have their eyes wide open to a whole new world of scrutiny." The Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society plans to utilise the evening’s discussion as the basis for a book titled Changing Tactics. Leaders in the fields of ethics and sport will be contributing to the publication, including journalist, author and former Rugby League coach Roy Masters; Rugby League coach Wayne Bennett; Sydney Morning Herald journalist Glenn Jackson; former Rugby League referee, Bill Harrigan; and Dr Kath Albury, Senior Lecturer at UNSW who has been involved in the NRL’s sexual ethics education program for a number of years. Associate Professor Sandra Lynch, Director of The Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society, said the aim of the Changing Tactics publication was educational, and she hoped it would cause all those involved in junior and professional sport to consider what acting ethically requires of them.

“The book will explore and critique the attitudes and responsibilities of players and spectators; the demands that the public places on professional athletes; and the responsibilities of corporations and sponsors who benefit from their involvement in sport,” Associate Professor Lynch said.

“In addition to the book, the Centre aims to continue its research into sport and ethics, ensuring that the conclusions that any research draws are effectively communicated to professionals in a way that helps them understand their responsibilities and provides motivation to fulfil them. To achieve this, the Centre plans to offer ethics workshops to professional and amateur sports clubs, as well as school sports teams. The workshops will enable professional sportspeople and ethicists to motivate players, coaches and administrators to embrace the important place they can have as role models within their communities,” she said.

For further information please contact: Communications Officer, Elizabeth Fenech

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus

T: 02 8204 4407 E: elizabeth.fenech@nd.edu.au W: www.nd.edu.au/