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Ashley Browne  February 11, 2013 4:45 PM


Deakin University's Professor David Shilbury has questioned Essendon's internal controls

It's most disturbing from a governance point of view that senior managers at the club did not understand fully what was going on
ESSENDON'S governance and accountability processes have been questioned by one of Australia's leading sports management experts.

Professor David Shilbury - the head of the sports management school at Melbourne's Deakin University and a former member of the AFL Tribunal – says in his opinion it "beggars belief" that Essendon coach James Hird was unaware of the substances administered to his players by the club's fitness and sports science staff.

"I believe him when he suggests he only thinks he knows everything given to his players [rather than being certain], but it beggars belief that this would be the case," he told

"It's not acceptable, which means from a governance point of view, this is a massive story."

Shilbury believes that as coach of the Bombers, Hird should be across every aspect of the team's preparation and processes.

"That doesn't mean he needs to be an expert on everything, but if he's not sure, he needs to be able to refer things back up the line and if he's still not sure or comfortable, to exercise his power of veto," he said.

According to Shilbury, a specialist in the area of corporate governance in the sporting sphere, the AFL Commission is an industry leader in this regard.

But the cloud hovering over the Bombers confirms his view that the clubs still have work to do.

"My question is, what internal controls do they have in place so that the board can be comfortable about what is taking place in their football club?

"Ultimately, the board is responsible for all performance aspects of the club so they need to have in place the correct internal mechanisms so they can feed back up through the club and in to the board."

Shilbury said it was impossible to determine as an outside observer whether senior management deserved to lose their jobs over the drugs issue.

"I'm interested to know what mechanisms Essendon has in place, but it's most disturbing from a governance point of view that senior managers at the club did not understand fully what was going on," he said.

According to Shilbury, previous statements from Hird would suggest he has the final say in all football matters.

"But," he concluded, "there's ambiguity."