Sports integrity is center stage issue in Australia after two Australian Football League (AFL) stars engaged in suspicious behavior with a person known for his gambling habits and former business connections.
Punter Meets AFL Stars
Eddie Hayson, a prominent gambler and former brothel owner, met at a restaurant table in Sydney with two of the highest-profile players of the league, Dustin Martin and Lance Franklin, raising questions among sports integrity and police officials regarding the matters they discussed.
According to media reports, the Richmond Tigers player arrived in Sydney in December and arranged a meeting with the notorious gambler, while Sydney Swans Lance Franklin booked the dinner table at the restaurant, having no idea who the guy who joined them midway through the meals and drinks was.
Hayson, Martin, Franklin and former footballer Tom Derickx spent at least an hour-and-a-half before the Richmond player left with Hayson, CCTV footage obtained by the NSW police revealed. The police were alerted about the meeting by the newly established national watchdog Sports Integrity Australia.
Being an intersection point of criminal interests, professional betting and the elite sports world, Eddie Hayson has been of interest to sporting integrity bodies and police for years, yet with no proof he was engaged in unlawful dealings. His betting record includes an estimated AU$2 million win after acting on inside information.
NRL & AFL Advocate Against Such Associations
In 2006, Eddie Hayson and fellow bettor Steve Fletcher allegedly received a tip that then Newcastle Knights of the National Rugby League (NRL) star Andrew Johns was injured and would not play and the pair capitalized on the inside info, but the subsequent inquiry by the NRL did not find anything and no criminal charges were pressed.
Later on, the NRL expressed serious concerns regarding Hayson’s friendship with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and league star player Kieran Foran, requesting his team put a clause in his contract which prohibits the player from associating with the gambler who has lifetime bans from Sydney’s Star casino and TAB.
The former brothel owner admitted in 2014 when he lost his business and declared insolvency with AU$52 million of debts, to have provided free sex services to footballers as a way to promote his business, but with no strings attached with regards to returning the favors, he outlined, yet refused to deny whether the players on the receiving end of his services participated in games he gambled on.
The controversial restaurant meeting is exactly what the AFL has been advocating its clubs to tell their players to avoid engaging with as certain associations lead to reputation risks.
Sports Integrity Australia, the sports integrity watchdog which alerted police officials about the meeting, was established in June following an inquiry into coordination between police, sporting codes, and regulators.