Today’s news that six NRL stars will be interrogated over alleged match fixing, and face jail if they refuse to co-operate with investigators, brings into sharp focus a recurring issue for professional sports people. Having endured the debacle that was the recent ASADA doping investigation into the AFL and NRL, and more recently still match fixing allegations in the sport of basketball and the greyhound industry live baiting scandal, it is very clear to me that few sports administrators, and virtually no sports men and women, have any real appreciation of the concept and purpose of the right to silence, and the interplay between contractual and legislative obligation as it affects statements against interest. We all have a right to silence, but that right can be taken away in defined circumstances by legislation in clear terms, or it can be surrendered by contractual agreement. But under Queensland law, the fact remains that a confession of wrongdoing is not admissible in any prosecution if it was not made voluntarily.
It seems that invariably, when allegations of this kind are raised, sporting clubs are quick to “go to the mattresses” in a public relations sense, doing all they can to sure up public perception by being seen to be forthcoming and cooperative with investigating authorities. That may be good corporate practice for the club, and undoubtedly makes for good public relations, but it may not be the best interests of those who are fed to the lions in the process. Recent experience has demonstrated that most clubs are quick to advise their players to disregard their legal rights in favour of the image of the sport, or perhaps more particularly the good of the club. But at the end of the day, business is business and schnapps is schnapps, and more than one sportsperson has ultimately found themselves expendable in the interests of the club.
Whether or not they believe they have done anything wrong, I would advise any professional sportsperson faced with interrogation regarding alleged criminal behaviour, to take the time and effort to get clear and comprehensive advice from a competent lawyer before blindly adopting any party line proposed, either by their club or by their industry.
Chris Nyst, Lawyer, Novelist and Film Maker