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Gil McLachlan ends ‘tough week’ by committing to taking a stand on social issues

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The AFL won’t stop taking strong positions on social issues, the league’s boss has told Neil Mitchell.

Amid what Gillon McLachlan called a “tough week” in which the AFL apologised to fans and suspended a player for punting on himself among other off-field issues, powerful Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett accused the league of grandstanding on social issues.

“That’s not their job,” Kennett said, citing campaigns on gay marriage, racism and crowd behaviour as examples.

But McLachlan disagrees.

“People do look to us for community leadership,” he said.

“I think we have a responsibility to do it.

“We don’t try to lecture, but we try to make our position clear.”

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But there will be no strong position against accepting money from gambling companies.

Many commentators and fans have suggested the AFL is conflicted on taking a strong stance against gambling footballers like young Collingwood player Jaidyn Stephenson when the league and its clubs are in bed with gambling companies.

The AFL’s current betting partner is BetEasy. That deal ends after the 2019 season but McLachlan confirmed the league intended to secure a betting partner in 2020.

“Even if we had no relationship you would see wagering everywhere, it is something that’s in our community,” he said, adding that a partnership gave the league access to information and allowed the AFL to control “prevalence”.

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Meanwhile, McLachlan was not interested in defending the controversial ‘behaviour awareness’ vests featured at Marvel Stadium last week.

Neil: Those silly vests, have they been burnt, destroyed?

Gil: I hope so.