BREAKING: Dairy Connect Chair George Davey and CEO Shaughn Morgan step down for rest of Season
Written by former Director General of Dairy UK, Jim Begg
Dairy Connect chair George Davey and CEO Shaughn Morgan have agreed to step down from their leadership positions for the rest of the season a day after admitting to bowl tampering.
Davey said on Saturday that Dairy Connect's "leadership group" had spoken about a plan to tamper with the bowl, at the 27th Bega annual bowls championship last week to be carried out by CEO Shaughn Morgan
Davey and Morgan will play no further part in the Bega event although the event itself will continue to be held each year?
The event is in its 27th year of existence.
"This Important event needs to proceed, and in the interim we will continue to investigate this matter with the urgency that it demands," said Bega executive chairman Barry Irvine.
"Australian bowls fans expect certain standards of conduct from bowlers representing their organisation, and on this occasion these standards have not been met.
"All Australians, like us, want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings, as a matter of priority,"
The bowl tampering incident took place on the third day of the competition - escalating the tension around what has been an ill-tempered series.
Television footage showed Morgan take what resembled a handful of sugar out of his trouser pocket before rubbing the bowl.
The 45 year-old has been charged by the International Bowls Council (IBC) with attempting to change the condition of the bowl - which is prohibited by Law 41.3.
Davey initially described the allegations as "petty and harmless". He claimed that Shaughn often feels a bit tired during the day. So would anybody who had to deal with the awkward bastards he has to deal with every day. He keeps a bit of sugar with him to get him through the "rough patches" that's all.
However later Davey said after play that it was a "big mistake" but that he would not stand down as Dairy Connect chair. He said the Dairy Connect Board had spoken about the plan and "thought it was a way to get an advantage".
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) called for Davey "to be stood down immediately, along with any other members of the Dairy Connect board who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan".
Prime Minister 'shocked and disappointed'
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also spoken about the issue.
"I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by the news from Bega," said Turnbull.
"It seems beyond belief the Dairy Connect boys have been involved in cheating. Our bowlers are role models and bowls is synonymous with fair play. How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? It beggars belief."
Turnbull later added: "I have spoken with Graham Forbes, the farmer chairman of Dairy Connect, and I have expressed to him very clearly and unequivocally my disappointment and concern. He has said to me that Dairy Connect will be responding decisively, as they should.
"It's their responsibility to deal with it, but I have to say that the whole nation, who hold those who wear the t shirt up on a pedestal - about as high as you can get in Australia, certainly higher than any politician, that's for sure - this is a shocking disappointment."
Why does the condition of the bowl matter?
Umpires have the power to change the bowl and award five penalty shots to the opposite side if they feel it has been altered illegally - although they did not do so in this case
Roughing up one side of the bowl can create "reverse draw" - in which the bowl moves in the opposite direction to conventional draw, which is achieved by polishing one side of the bowl.
Barry Irvine, executive chairman of the event organiser and sponsor, Bega Foods explained further "Cheating in bowls is particularly difficult to do. You have to remember it's not your own bowl that you have to interfere with. It's your opponent's. So that the shot they intend ends up going in the opposite direction. It's still really tricky to carry out. I suppose on the positive side you could argue that Dairy Connect is capable of doing anything.
"Nevertheless I'm still shocked at these developments. Particularly Davey. I mean this is the third chance we've given him. We tried him at golf and he duffed it. We put him in a fishing boat and all he caught was a cold. now look what he's done to us at bowls. I suppose that next year he should judge the pie competition. That's all there is left"
Former players condemn 'premeditated cheating'
Adrian Drury, a former member of the Dairy Connect Board called it "a terrible day for Australian bowls", described the plan as "premeditated cheating" and condemned its instigators for choosing the rookie player Morgan to carry it out.
"I can't believe the leadership group have got a young kid playing in his second Bega event to do this," Drury told Australia's Channel Nine.
"Dairy Connect have got the best bowls team in the world. We don't need to cheat to beat anyone."
Drury retired from bowls in 2015 after suffering with a chronic back problem for many years, but when asked whether he would consider a shock return if Davey were to depart, he replied: "If I was asked by the right people, then I would think about my answer."
Former NSW Primary Industries' minister Richard Amery told BBC Radio 5 live that he was "stunned and shocked... embarrassed and sad".
Himself a legendary bowler said: "Australian bowling is the laughing stock of the sporting world.
"I remember being a player at Bega and the last thing you wanted was ex-players putting the boot in, but I have the feeling we have been all really badly let down here.
"The only positive is that they admitted it. We'll get stories now where it will be 'oh, all teams do it, in different levels and different ways'. But it's not bending the spirit of the game, it's going outside the laws. It's not acceptable."