THE AFL has concluded matters regarding its investigation into the on-field performance of the Melbourne Football Club during the 2009 premiership season.
AFL acting general manager of football operations, Gillon McLachlan, said the AFL had conducted 58 interviews as part of its investigation, comprising both current and former players, coaches, administrators and officials of the club. The AFL also undertook forensic analysis of Melbourne Football Club's computers, files and email system.
After considering the evidence gathered by the AFL, Mr McLachlan said the AFL had found as follows:
· There had not been a directive from the Melbourne FC board or executive management that the team should deliberately lose matches in any game during the 2009 premiership season.
· The Melbourne FC, its coach and team did not set out to deliberately lose in any matches during the 2009 premiership season.
· Melbourne FC then-general manager of football operations Chris Connolly during the 2009 premiership season had acted in a manner concerning pre-game planning, comprising comments to a football department meeting, which was prejudicial to the interests of the AFL.
· Melbourne FC then-senior coach Dean Bailey, having regard to Mr Connolly's comments, during the 2009 premiership season had acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the interests of the AFL.
Mr McLachlan said the basis of the AFL's findings was the testimony received from current and former players, coaches, administrators and officials.
Mr McLachlan said Mr Connolly and Mr Bailey had agreed to accept the charge and the AFL, after formal sign-off from the AFL Commission, took into account the levels of co-operation from and remorse of each of the charged parties. He said the AFL Commission had approved the following sanctions under AFL Player Rule 1.6:
· Chris Connolly is to be suspended until February 1, 2014 from occupying any office or performing any function (including attending matches or training sessions) for or on behalf of any club, such suspension to commence Monday, February 25, 2013.
· Dean Bailey is to be suspended from coaching for the first 16 rounds of the 2013 premiership season. During this time, he will not be permitted to have any match-day role or any role working with players but he may remain employed by the Adelaide FC if it so chooses.
The Melbourne Football Club accepts that in relation to this matter it must bear ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the club personnel in key roles, and has accordingly agreed with the AFL to a fine of $500,000.
"The proper operation of the Total Player Payments (TPP) provisions and draft are the fundamental planks to the continued development and ongoing success of the AFL," Mr McLachlan said.
"The Draft rules allow for the distribution of elite talent among the AFL to clubs and helps to ensure the long-term future of the 18 AFL clubs. However the rules absolutely do not provide for teams to manipulate the draft or TPP provisions for their own ends.
"The AFL will continue to actively police the competition’s key structural planks and there can be no room in our game to disregard or breach our rules."
Mr McLachlan said if any person came forward with new evidence involving clubs acting in a manner which was prejudicial to the interests of the AFL, the AFL’s integrity department would examine any such evidence.
Mr McLachlan said the AFL had also looked at its player rules to ensure that no club, player, official, coach or administrator would have a reason to contemplate such actions in the future.
"The AFL has strong faith in our clubs, players, coaches and officials that they give of their best at every opportunity, and this is obviously the expectation of their fans," Mr McLachlan said.
"At the start of the 2012 season, the AFL announced the alteration of the rules to make it harder to qualify for a Priority Selection for poor performance.
"In addition to that previous action, the AFL Commission has already announced that the AFL integrity unit will be further resourced, while it will be recommended that clubs establish their own internal processes around Integrity.
"The AFL Commission has also announced the introduction of a Whistleblower Policy, and this will include any matters that may relate to team performance, separate to information about performance enhancing drugs.
"In addition, the AFL will continue to annually review the operation of the rules relating to the national draft," he said.