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Brownlow Winner Patrick Cripps (file photo)

First year field umpire Michael Pell and three others were arrested in mid-November for leaking Brownlow votes. Apparently. the votes from specific matches were leaked. The AFL was alerted by one of its betting partners who detected suspicious betting and the AFL launched an investigation, leading to the arrests. The irregularities and leaks did not compromise the Brownlow count on the night according to the AFL. The bets which raised red flags ranged in size up to several thousand dollars.

However, the fallout could be severe in that it allegedly involves a match official divulging information. A police statement said in part that, " ... The criminal offenses police are investigating are engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of event or event contingency, and using corrupt conduct information for betting purposes ...". When the three others were arrested, cell phones and computers were also seized. Criminal charges are pending, but conviction carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Police are investigating how many matches potentially had votes released and the magnitude of the bets involved. If the allegations are found to be true, the umpire could also face AFL sanctions.

The Brownlow Medal was won by Carlton's Patrick Cripps in a close count, but the police and the AFL has said there is nothing to indicate that the result of the count itself was impacted. Police are still investigating. In another statement, they said, “Victorians are well known for their love of AFL and in particular, the prestigious Brownlow Medal award, but equally they want to know that there is integrity, fairness and honesty behind this award. We have been working with the AFL and Sport Integrity Australia ... and we will continue to work together to target, disrupt and apprehend people who commit these offenses ... ".

After each game, the three field umpires vote for the best three players on 3-2-1 basis with three being the best. The votes are then placed in a sealed envelope and stored with an outside agency and not opened until the Brownlow ceremony. On the day of the count, Brisbane’s Lachie Neale was the $3 favorite with bookies. Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver was second favorite at $3.50, with Cripps $5.

Those who want to bet on the outcome have several options: betting almost all year round, they can pick a quinella, or selecting a player to finish in the top three or top five. Picking the leader at the half-way point is also another popular option, so, too, selecting who will top a club’s count. Another multi-bet option is when players are grouped in the positions they regularly line up in, for instance midfielders and ruckmen, with people aiming to pick who will poll the most votes. Voting irregularities can be easily detected by an algorithm used by betting agencies.

As for Pell, he began in the Essendon District Football League and was promoted at the beginning of 2022. He was an emergency umpire in 2021. He also officiated a VFL and AFLW Grand Final. Like all umpires, he was given a handbook outlining the rules of conduct. As is the case with club officials and players, umpires are prohibited from betting on AFL matches.


Article last changed on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 - 8:00 PM EST


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