Eddie McGuire rips 'smart-alec' politician as AFL faces gambling probe

When it was put to AFL boss Gillon McLachlan that the league could easily cover lost revenue from betting sponsorships, Eddie McGuire arced up.

Eddie McGuire and AFL boss Gillon McLachlan.
Eddie McGuire says AFL boss Gillon McLachlan should have hit back harder at a parliamentary inquiry into betting advertising. Pictures: Channel 9/Getty Images

Eddie McGuire has labelled a federal politician a 'smart-alec' after they suggested to AFL boss Gillon McLachlan that 'the sky's not going to fall in' should limits be placed on betting advertising. McLachlan, along with NRL counterpart Andrew Abdo, fronted the parliamentary inquiry into betting advertising on Wednesday.

The inquiry, chaired by Labour MP Peta Murphy, put McLachlan offside when she suggested the potential loss of revenue from various betting companies would be easily covered by other sponsors willing to fill the void. He said in reply that there would be a 'net loss' to AFL revenue as a result of any potential ban or limitation on sports betting advertising, something both the AFL and NRL have indicated would be a popular move among fans tiring of endless gambling advertisements.

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"There would be a net loss of revenue and then decisions would have to be made," McLachlan said. "We're not for profit.

"We actually spend that money for running access and a pathway into our game at a community and an elite level , and the committee needs to understand that. I don't believe that brand advertising per say is too much; I think the inducements are a problem."

Discussing the inquiry on Footy Classified, McGuire arced up at Murphy's suggestion, saying sporting codes in Australia had only been able to ink lucrative deals thanks to the federal government's legislation in the first place. He said the government should be giving more tax dollars to the AFL to grow the game - but also said he was supportive of gambling advertisements being reigned in.

"It does annoy me when politicians get up with smart alec questions like that when, in fact, they were the ones who legislated it in the first place, that poker machines came into the community, that sports betting was brought in," McGuire said.

"I would have liked to have seen Gil McLachlan say there, 'OK, here's what we'll do: we'll cut out sports betting, but you give us the tax and put it into football and put it into the television industry and put it into something that you legalised and legislated to be allowed to happen'.

"We've been talking over this for 15 years, about the amount of sports betting. I brought it up at a presidents meeting when my five-year-old said to me at three-quarter time, 'Dad, dad, we've won'.

"I said, 'What are you talking about? There's still a quarter to go'. He said, 'We're a $1.01', because there was nothing there other than (betting ads).

"So I get it, but I get a little bit (sick) of this, 'Oh, the world won't fall in'. Oh yeah, money's just growing on trees, is it?"

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Murphy had earlier questioned how the AFL could hold itself up as a community leader with social licence. She pointed to a survey done by the AFL's fan association that found three in four fans want gambling ads banned from broadcasts, with their frequency surpassing umpiring and rule changes as the No.1 concern.

"I find that extraordinary because no one likes the umpiring and rule changes, ever," Ms Murphy said. "There must be a point where ... notwithstanding how much money the AFL can get to operate from that product, the social licence has to kick in and there has to be a consideration of that sponsorship."

Labour MP Peta Murphy.
Labour MP and inquiry chair Peta Murphy suggested the AFL would easily find other major sponsors to fill any potential void created by limitations on betting advertising. Picture: Parliament House

Earlier, Tabcorp boss Adam Rytenskild said it was clear tougher regulation was needed to protect the community, suggesting the amount of gambling advertising had "gone too far".

"Australian families and children should be able to watch live sport and television without being bombarded by gambling advertisements," he said.

"A generation of children now talk about the odds of their team winning this weekend and see betting as a norm, rather than a choice - we don't want that for the next generation."

With AAP

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