Image for Why I no longer support the Blues

An Open Letter to the Carlton Football Club

When I was 4 years-old I figured it was time to pick an Aussie Rules football team. Like many things at the time, this problem was solved with the help of Ice-Cream. Back in 1984, Pauls released a special VFL commemorative tin with all the teams listed around the sides and the years they had taken the flag.

It looked like this ...

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After some careful study and the complete utilisation of my mathematic skills I discovered that Carlton had won more premierships than any other team. That was it. I was to be Blue through and through, much to the chagrin of my father, who was still clinging to that anomaly in 1966 as the apex of football achievement.

Sorry, Dad. I ain’t no Saint.

For the next 30-odd years I stuck by the Carlton Football Club through the highs of ’87 and ’95 and the lows of the early noughties. I cheered on such legends of the game as Kerneham, Bradley, SoS, Ratten and later Kouda and Judd.

Every now and then I had the pleasure of jumping off the South Island to see the mighty Blues play live. ‘Twas a bloody big deal for a footy-starved Tasmanian to sit in the forward pocket and literally be able to count the freckles on Lance Whitnall.

In recent years I have found my interest in football being slowly destroyed by the intense corporatisation of the game. As is evident in so many other professional sports, big money does not necessarily lead to better entertainment. In fact, the opposite is often the case.

Another thing of which I have become increasingly aware is the horrific damage being done to communities by the scourge of Electronic Gaming Machines, or Pokies.

It is no secret that many sports teams rely on income from these insidious money vacuums, however it is not until you look closely at the real damage being done around Australia that you get a feel for why such business is rotten to the core.

Here are some facts–

1 in 6 regular Pokie players suffer from addiction.

For every problem gambler at least 10 friends and family suffer directly. Children aren’t fed, crimes are committed, families destroyed.

Current lack of regulation means that a player can lose up to $1500 in an hour.
Australians lose around $12 Billion every year in Pokies.

40% of the profits made by Pokie licensees come straight from problem gamblers.

All Pokie players lose. They are programed so that they return 85-90%. The longer you play, the more you lose. Even though 90% of the time you appear to be winning with all the bells and whistles that such occasions involve; ultimately THE POKIE ALWAYS WINS.

This morning I read an article in The Age that cited the Carlton Football Club as ripping off more money from punters than any other football club; over $19 million in the last financial year (that’s $7.6m from Pokie addicts).

With nearly twice as many EGM’s as the next worst club (Collingwood, naturally) this information made me wonder, how can I go on supporting a football club with such wanton contempt for the wellbeing of the community?

And it didn’t take me long to come up with the answer – I can’t.

Pokies are frequently (and accurately) referred to as the ‘crack cocaine’ of the gambling industry. They are HIGHLY addictive, cheap to use and worst of all, pushed on the most disadvantaged sections of our communities.

In recent times the AFL has found itself at the centre of numerous drug scandals. It beggars belief that the same organisations that claims to have a zero tolerance approach to drugs would be complicit in inflicting such suffering on the communities that support them week in, week out.

Now, I accept that this may seem an extreme reaction, particularly given the fact that this is not exactly ‘news’.

A quick Google search reveals that Carlton has a long, well-documented love affair with the Pokie industry. And it is not just the Blues; 8 other Victorian Clubs are profiting from the same dreadful racket.

It is an absolute bloody disgrace and I, for one, have had enough. From now on, and until such time as they can field a team without proceeds from EGMs, I will never, ever again utter the well-worn phrase ‘Carn the Blues.

From now on, I say - Damn the Blues.

Most sincerely,
Simon de Little