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http://www.lawyers.com.au/legal-articles/2011/2/26/players-association-also-failed/

Players' association also failed

The Age

Saturday February 26, 2011

NICK HOLLAND

The Nixon affair has been handled badly by a body that knows better. RICKY Nixon dropped the ball through his "inappropriate dealings" with the teenage girl at the centre of the St Kilda nude photo scandal. The AFL Players' Association is now in the spotlight for fumbling the ball by not suspending Nixon pending the outcome of the investigation. While the actions of Nixon were inexcusable, the inaction of the AFLPA board is extraordinary!As a player manager Nixon has the highest obligation to the players that he manages. Managing young athletes is not just about obtaining the most lucrative contract for them but also about taking on the responsibility for the professional and personal welfare of the players they manage.Parents of young AFL draftees from regional and interstate areas often look to the manager to take on a substitute parenting role to guide their sons through the exciting but often turbulent world of AFL. Nixon as a former player and experienced player agent was abundantly aware of the trust parents of the young AFL hopefuls placed in him to act in the best interests of their children.Nixon, by his actions, clearly breached this trust. Despite his claims that he was assisting the girl, his duty was not to her but to his players. Nixon not only had a fiduciary responsibility but also was contractually obliged to act in his players' best interests. His obligation was of the highest standard and in many regards even higher than that of a parent/child relationship given the extra contractual agreement.The betrayal of trust is inexcusable on many levels. Firstly because the 47-year-old accredited AFL agent was engaging in inappropriate conduct with a teenage girl around the same age as most of the young men whose professional future he had been entrusted with and secondly because the woman 30 years his junior was responsible for intentionally and dishonestly damaging the reputations of some of his star players. Regardless of Nixon's protests that he was attempting to assist the girl, his obligation was to his players and not to the girl who had caused so much damage.The scandal has also placed a spotlight on the AFLPA accreditation and review process. Nixon was an accredited agent and had supposedly complied with the continuing education requirements to maintain his accreditation. Despite this, he said of the AFLPA investigation, "the end of the day they don't even know if they have the power to investigate me . . . what do they have to investigate?"If a leading player agent is not aware of the regulations governing his behaviour then the accreditation process needs to be evaluated and remedied. It should be abundantly clear to all player managers what their obligations are and the consequences for breaching these obligations.Nixon's comments suggest that the AFLPA needs to strengthen up the accreditation process so it is clear to player managers that they have a duty to act in a professional and conscientious manner for both the player's personal and professional welfare under the regulations of the AFLPA code.It is extraordinary that the AFLPA which has recently been flexing its muscles and crying out to be seen as independent from the AFL has failed to act by suspending Nixon pending the outcome of the investigation. The suggestion that it is up to Nixon to suspend himself and stand down during the investigation does not sit well and is a lost opportunity for the AFLPA to be strong voice and exert its presence and influence over this area. If the representative body can't make a strong decision perhaps the duty should be given to the AFL. Let's hope for the sake of all AFL players that when the findings of the investigation on Nixon are revealed, the AFLPA discovers its voice by making a firm and direct decision in the interest of AFL players.Nick Holland is a lawyer with Holding Redlich, Melbourne, a former Hawthorn best and fairest winner, sits on the VFL Tribunal and is an executive of the Law Institute Sports Law Committee.

© 2011 The Age

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