Brown Paper Bags?
Carlton is a club that has undergone a great many image transformation over the years. It started as a respectable working class club but slowly developed a love of recycling brown paper bags. First, the paper bags were used to secretly pay players outside the salary cap, then it was to avoid rape allegations coming to light and finally it was to get a bit of extra sponsorship money from a confessed price fixer.
The Carlton Football Club was formed in 1864 and, although initially a working man's club, it was always successful. Over the course of the 20th Century, Carlton notched up a VFL/AFL record of 16 premierships and until 2002, had never won the wooden spoon for finishing last.
It is unknown why the club chose the colour blue, but one story proposes that a Melbourne official returned from Britain with a load of red and blue woollen socks. The official kept the red for his own team but gave Carlton the blue, thus resulting in Carlton being referred to as the blues.
Over the years, there have been some attempts to give the club a less generic identity. For example, they were sometimes referred to the Butchers because their jackets were reminiscent of butchers of the late 19th century. Some newspapers also referred to them as the Brewers, probably because of region brewed a great deal of beer that was enthusiastically drunk to celebrate Carton winning games and drowning sorrows when they didn’t. After WW II, an attempt was made to introduce a Cockatoo mascot, but this was not successful. For whatever reason, it seems Carlton fans wanted to be a colour and nothing more. What blue symbolised perhaps changed according to who was being asked. For its working class supporters, perhaps it referred to its blue collar fan base; however, as the club broadened its supporter base, blue seemed more reminiscent of the suits and bankers that took over as the face of the club.
By the 80s and 90s, Carlton’s image had well and truly changed and it was said that cheering for Carlton was like cheering for a multinational; that yelling "get em blues" was akin to yelling "get em Microsoft". The club was powerfully rich, arrogant and had an outspoken corporate president at the helm. It was the glamour team supported by cool celebrities, including A-listers such as Sale of the Century host Tony Barbar and his side-kick Jo Bailey.
Even the suburb of Carlton discovered the lofty heights of success. Where once the houses of Carlton were filled with factory workers with fridges full of beer, the suburb was now filled with restaurateurs with fridges full of soymilk, jars of Metamucil and instructions for the liver cleansing diet. Yep, Carlton had it all! But behind the celebrities, trends and glamour lurked a dark side that would bring the club to its knees. President John Elliot started the remould the club in his own image. Instead of raising revenue by increasing the popularity of the club, Elliot formulated corporate money making schemes. And so when Essendon and Collingwood moved to MCG to provide a big game atmosphere, Elliot redeveloped the suburban Princes Park as part of a grand plan to bludge off other AFL teams.
Elliot knew Princes Park (also known as Pig's Arse Park) was not as popular as the MCG but he envisaged other clubs playing home games at the ground and Carlton taking a cut of the takings. Carlton spent millions building boutique stands; Elliot even named one of them the "John Elliot Stand" in tribute to himself. But Elliot's pot of gold revealed itself to be a white elephant. In 2002, the club posted losses of $7.5 million and then $11.1 million in 2004 - most of which related to devaluing assets at Princes Park. Admittedly, Elliot's plan had a bit of logic behind it but fans of other clubs just couldn’t stand the idea of playing at Carlton making money off them. These clubs supported building a brand new stadium at Docklands where many of them ended up losing money by playing there, but they were happy because at least Carlton was not profiting.
Self-interested players also let the glamour go to their heads and over-estimated their worth. In 2002, Carlton made extensively use of brown paper bags to collectively pay them $1,400,000 more than players from any other club. They rewarded Carlton for its generosity by delivering the club the first wooden spoon in its history. Once the salary cap cheating was exposed, the club pleaded for mercy on the grounds that it was in financial strife and had finished last. The AFL was not sympathetic and so fined the Blues $900,000 and stripped them of their first two draft selections.
John Elliot was given the arse and quite poetically personally went bankrupt. His replacement, Ian Collins, seemed just as bad. In 2005, basic rules of accounting got mixed up and the club found itself with a tax bill of a $1,000,000. The bill could have been avoided had the club run itself more along the lines of a members owned organization. Collins also shifted Carlton to Docklands and knocked down some of Princess Park stadiums in a way that in a manner that seemed to publicly disown the Elliot. Aside from wanting to humiliate Elliot, Collins seemed to have a conflict of interest because as well as being Carlton President, he was Docklands Stadium CEO.
After constantly being dragged through the mud, in 2009, Elliot hit back by confessing that Carlton had paid hush money to four or five women who said they had been raped by players in the 1980s and 1990s. Elliot said the payments had been made because he suspected the women were lying and it was a way to protect the club from bad publicity. This in turn made it a bit odd that he was bringing it up. The club was not impressed and reacted by banning Elliot from attending any events.
As well as having an unhappy board, the club also revealed that its coaching staff and playing list was anything but a happy family. The coach and his assistant refused to talk to each other. One player, Laurence Angwin, broke into a team mate's house to steal things that could be pawned. Even worse, the club's captain, Lance Whitnal, had a very public falling out with his brother. It seems his brother's kids didn’t turn up to his son's birthday party so he retaliated by not inviting them to the zoo. This escalated to death threats and vows from each brother to enlist hit men to kill each other.
At the time, Carlton's financial and social problems presented a moral dilemma for the rest of the competition. Many AFL fans, particularly those of Essendon, believed that if Carlton couldn't pay their way then they should be put into the VFL. Obviously Carlton's fans wouldn't be happy about that, but there was a perception that it served the fans right for picking a loser team. They would just have to learn the hard way and then choose a successful club like Essendon in future.
Fortunately for the club, they were saved by paper recycling billionaire Richard Pratt, although “saved” was perhaps the wrong choice of word. A police investigation forced Richard Pratt to confess that he made great use of the brown paper bags that had been destined for recycling. Specifically, he was a price-fixer and faced a $36 million fine after a court heard he was a cheat who had betrayed the public. Pratt seemed determined to run the Blues the same way. The club deliberately tanked matches to ensure it would get the number draft pick. Past players even came out and declared that they wanted to see the club lose. By tanking, Carlton was doing the equivalent of a businessman removing their tie and then pushing homeless people out of the way at the soup kitchen.
The priority pick system was created to help clubs in genuine need, not for clubs that were willing to lose a couple of games so that they looked needy. The system had to be discontinued because Carlton's actions (and fellow tankers Melbourne) had been so obvious.
With its reputation in tatters, in 2009 Carlton decided to make a scapegoat out of one of its players to show that it was a moral club of great integrity. The player in question was Brendon Fevola and his indiscretion was getting drunk during the 2009 Brownlow Medal Count. Of most concern seemed to be Fevola making a joke about having a "stiffy" and later criticising Carlton Captain Chris Judd's "Steven Segal" defence for his eye gouging of another player. Compared to salary cap rorting, tanking and tax evasion, the stiffy joke was mild while the Judd criticism was arguably a sign of Fevola having the integrity that the club itself lacked. But it seems at Carlton, the only ones expected to be Saints were players (with the exception of those named Judd) board members could be as dodgy as they liked.
Carlton Song carlton blues theme song
Roy Morgan research
Carlton Blues supporters were:
2004 - When comparded to other AFL supporters
2006 - When compared to other AFL supporters
Collingwood - In the VFA, Carlton was the league's only working man's club. When Collingwood entered the VFA in 1892, Carlton discovered it had a rival.
Over the years, numerous Grand Final clashes have flamed the hatred; none more so that 1970 when Carlton left no doubt that Colliwobbles was a real psychological phenomenon.
Richmond - Another working man's club like Collingwood which likewise battled Carlton in Grand Finals. Unlike Collingwood, Richmond was able to hold its own when the pressure was applied.
Essendon - In recent times, Carlton has also forged an intense rivalry with Essendon. Some of this stems from Carlton having 16 flags to Essendon's 16. Some of it also stems from Carlton's modern day glamour associations which rivaled those of Essendon.
Calton has a way of lifting itself when it plays Essendon. In the 1999 preliminary final, Essendon was expected to thrash Carlton on their way to a certain flag. But the Blues rose a level andknocked off Essendon by a point. Even though the Blues went on to lose the Grand Final, they still felt satisfied by denying Essendon a probable flag.
Two boys are playing football in a Melbourne park, when one is attacked by a Rottweiler. Thinking quickly, the other boy rips off a board of the nearby fence, wedges it down the dog's collar and twists, breaking the dog's neck. A reporter who is strolling by sees the incident, and rushes over to interview the boy.
"Then what are you?" the reporter says. "I'm a Carlton fan !!!" The reporter starts a new sheet in his notebook and writes, "Spoilt brat kills family pet".
|Was this more interesting than a news update of players in a recovery session standing around in the ocean looking cold or of a team 'training without incident'?|