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  • Writer's pictureJosh Kempton

AFL "terrible at looking after past players": says concussion advocate

Concussion advocate Peter Jess believes a class action lawsuit being brought against the AFL by former players is the sign of a broken system.

Personal injury firm Margalit Injury Lawyers announced their intention yesterday to bring a case against the game’s governing body on behalf of “numerous” former players who believe they have not been properly compensated for concussion-related issues.

Jess, one of the first player agents in Australian sport, said the preference should be for the issue to be resolved out of court.

“What it tells you is that when you have a group of people who say ‘we have an issue and the only way we can resolve this is via court’, then what it says is that we have a systemic problem in how we manage our game,” Jess told Sports Breakfast.

“The AFL are good at putting on a show, but terrible at looking after their past players, so my view is that we need to extract the compensation system out of the AFL. It should be with a body that is completely standalone, and it can then give a proper compensation system and proper funding.

“If you’re classified as an employee, then you should have a right, if you’ve been injured at your workplace, you should have a right to be compensated on a proper basis.”

The class action mirrors a 2017 case brought by former NFL players against their league for concussion management, with the parties eventually agreeing to a settlement worth around $1 billion.

Jess said that figure had since inflated to six or seven billion dollars.

“We did a direct comparison with the size of our ex-player cohort and what the US are finding, and on my analysis, we would need a fund of two and a half billion dollars to satisfy the compensation requirements,” he said.

“The CEO of Bet365 received [over a four year period] $2.5 billion. That was her salary from gambling. In the same time, that was the aggregated amount [players] received from the TV rights. So what does that tell us? I’d say we’re stupid (to say) that we can’t afford this.

“What he need to look at is who is making the commercialisation out of our game. If we can have somebody look at us who is running a gambling business in Australia whereby [the CEO] can get $2.5 billion in a four year period and not contribute one dollar to the damage that’s being created by these guys putting on the show, then we are a complete commercial laughing stock.”

A recent point of awareness in the concussion discussion is CTE, a condition where the brain degrades due to repeated head trauma, with post-mortems conducted on deceased footballers Polly Farmer, Danny Frawley, and Shane Tuck confirming they were suffering from the condition.

Jess said major sports bodies had made a conscious decision to downplay the links between repeated concussion and CTE.

“CTE’s been known in sport since the ‘70’s, became more common in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, the first (confirmed) death from CTE was in the 90’s and that was in the UK that was confirmed neuropathologically, so we’ve known about it for a long period of time,” he said.

“My view is the peak bodies have a lot to answer for, not only for the elite but also sub-elite, because what happens is the return to play protocols drill down throughout the game.

“It probably would not have been allowed in any other workplace. The AFL appears to be a beast that doesn’t have to adopt proper corporate standing.”

The AFL released a statement yesterday saying the health and safety of players was the league’s key priority, citing changes made to concussion protocols over recent years.

IMAGE: Fox Sports


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