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Leaked emails calling for Ben Amarfio removal tell story of cultural problems

Football clubs, executives, nepotism, and conflicts of interest all walk hand in hand on their way to holy matrimony. It’s just how they roll. It’s like a Neighbours storyline.

But hey, it’s the modern world. Four entities entering the sacred agreement of marriage is the next step to America truly blowing itself up.

You’ve heard Luke Darcy call a Western Bulldogs game? Eddie McGuire? Conflicts “everywhere”. And of course, you’d remember former AFL Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, holding an enormous stake in the consortium that owned ANZ Stadium, that one in Sydney with the horrendous sand bunker of a surface, yet hosted marquee fixtures, denying the Swans access to their own home patch for their most important games of the year.

Side dollars are important for all of us. Consortiums as a side offering are for the freemasons and other secret societies that we public school kids would sell our souls for.

The North Melbourne Football Club, as it stands, is not just the king of wishful thinking – thanks Go South, um, I mean West, geez, the last thing North need right now is Eddie McGuire’s agenda to push North Melbourne deep south into two head territory – but it is currently holding the title of kings of all things conflicting interest and wild acts of silo leadership.

The recent leaks to the media of its coterie group leader, Adrian Kinderis, a Kangaroos benefactor, and member of the Shinboners Club, calling for CEO Ben Amarfio and President Sonja Hood to immediately resign, is a level of juicy you rarely see in the modern day.

Leaked information at this level screams bad culture.

You know what else screams bad culture – your list manager, recruitment manager and national recruitment officer all resigning on the same day, which happened to be one week before the mid-season draft.


Oh, and more conflicting interest, it was reported by Sam Edmund that Football Director, Anthony Stevens, went rogue and appointed Geoff Walsh to review the football department, without approval from the CEO, and to top it off, Geoff Walsh is a director on the board of the Coaches Association, the very entity responsible for protecting coaches from this type of invasion and disrespect.

And what happened to Paul Roos as the consultant? He started in the coaching box, helped with post-match reviews, and is now consulting from somewhere in California?

Are these people for real!!??

But it was a quote from Leigh Mathews that had me thinking about North Melbourne’s leaders and whether we should actually be surprised by the level of misery we are seeing play out across all aspects of their business.

“When I look at the North Melbourne hierarchy from chairman down – it looks a bit to me like the blind leading the blind,” Matthews told Sportsday.

“You’ve got the chairman of the board, who’s only been around the board and the footy world a little bit at that level, never at club level in other words, never at an executive level.

“Ben Amarfio, who’s been there for a year or two, but didn’t come out of a football background.

“Who’s got credibility to be making decisions on a way a football club, particularly a football department of a football club, should be run?

You might remember that in 2018 Amarfio was one of the first executive leaders to be dismissed from Cricket Australia as a result of the Longstaff Review, which took a deep dive into the culture of cricket in the country in the aftermath of the sandpaper gate scandal.

David Noble, Senior Coach of the Kangaroos and CEO, Ben Amarfio share a laugh during a North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL Media Opportunity at Arden Street Ground on November 19, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

David Noble, Senior Coach of the Kangaroos and CEO, Ben Amarfio share a laugh during a North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL Media Opportunity at Arden Street. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

I’ll throw to Joe Aston, Financial Review, who wrote brilliantly of CA’s culture in 2018, with a particular focus on Ben Amarfio’s struggles with culture and managing conflicts of interest.

“Then there’s another CA executive, Ben Amarfio, who earned the moniker “Johnny Rivers” in 2016 when he was busted moonlighting as a Secret Agent Man for sports commentator James Brayshaw. That’s right, the executive managing cricket’s $120 million per year broadcast partnerships was approaching broadcasters “pitching the services of a mate”

“The broadcasters were appalled and unsurprised. This kind of behaviour from Amarfio was already fabled. Most mornings, in full view of his speechless colleagues at Jolimont, he had his secretary cook and serve him a hot breakfast in his glass-encased office. “Where’s the Worcestershire sauce?!” he famously thundered. What else would you expect from Eddie McGuire’s former sales director at Triple M’s Hot Breakfast?”

You should read the full piece. It is a masterclass in research, humour and delivery.

That’s right, such was the strength of friendship between Ben Amarfio and the former chairman of the North Melbourne Football Club, James Brayshaw, Amarfio was willing to leap all professional boundaries to help his mate find his next gig.  

I know what you are thinking.

Was the job-hunting favour returned by the former chairman when North Melbourne appointed Amarfio as CEO?

Nice coincidence, hey.

But perhaps more important is the fact that after years of poor performance and a whole host of cultural in-fighting, the North Melbourne recruitment panel responsible for recruiting the new CEO, clearly didn’t read any Joe Aston, or Peter Lalor, or Gideon Haigh, in the aftermath of the Cricket Australia executive staff cleanout.

Even AAP got in on the act of nailing Ben Amarfio to the wall.

“AAP understands the exit of Amarfio, CA’s general manager of broadcasting, digital media and commercial, was more messy. 

“Head of security Sean Carroll, a former Victorian police detective who oversees CA’s anti-corruption program and ensures players are safe while on tour around the world, was summoned to help evict Amarfio. 

“The scene unfolded in front of shocked staff.”

AAP continues…

“Much of The Ethics Centre’s report focused on Australia’s men’s team but it also highlighted a corporate culture that “privileges combativeness over collaboration”, noting “a lack of emotional maturity … is also seen among CA staff”.

Is it just coincidence that North Melbourne are in this mess?

I’ll let you decide.

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