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AFL suspends payments to Essendon over Hird 'pay'

Callum Twomey  December 12, 2013 9:00 PM

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Suspended Essendon coach James Hird

The public statements from the AFL, from myself as CEO over the last week, were in the belief that Essendon had concluded its payment arrangements and begun the suspension period. The AFL has since sought confirmation and is yet to receive it



THE BATTLE between the AFL, Essendon and James Hird's family and legal team continues over whether or not the suspended coach is being paid, or allowed to be paid, by the Bombers during his 12-month ban.

Stung by a claim from Hird's wife that the AFL is aware that he is being paid by Essendon, the League reacted on Thursday afternoon by suspending its regular payments to the Bombers until the club clarifies its position. 

Hird's lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, then hit back on Melbourne radio, insisting the there is nothing in writing that states Hird cannot be paid.

"The agreement with the AFL was documented," Burnside told 3AW.

Click here for the full coverage of the Essendon supplements scandal

"There's an agreement between the AFL and Essendon, there's an agreement between the AFL and Hird. 

"And you would think that if the AFL insist that Hird not receive pay during the time he was suspended that it would be in the agreement, and it is not."

Earlier in the afternoon, the AFL stated it would withhold Essendon's monthly payments after writing to the club last week and again on Monday concerning the pay situation around Hird.

The League's statement said there was "a clear intention" when Hird was penalised in August over Essendon's supplements program that he could not be paid by the Bombers or work in any way for the club. 

"Since September, the AFL has been in consultation with the Essendon FC concerning the terms of James Hird's suspension, including the fact he cannot be paid by the club for a period of 12 months," chief executive Andrew Demetriou said.  

The club has also been notified if it "continues not to comply" with the terms of the suspension then it will have to appear before the AFL Commission in Melbourne next week.  

The club is yet to reply to the AFL's letter and until it does will not receive money from head office. 

In a statement on its website on Thursday afternoon, the Bombers said: "Essendon Football Club has been in regular contact with the AFL about the terms of James Hird's suspension.

"The club will respond to the AFL's statement relating to this matter in due course and will not be making any further comment until that time."

Demetriou recently strongly denied Hird was being paid by the Bombers or AFL, but since then Tania Hird has claimed her husband is still being paid as part of the accepted sanction. 

On Wednesday, she told News Corp that her husband agreed to a sanction with pay in lieu of taking the AFL to court.

"Of course he's being paid, that was the deal," Mrs Hird said.

"Andrew Demetriou knew it, the AFL knew it."

Mrs Hird also accused the AFL of "threatening" her husband and the Bombers and wanted the governing body to "stop distorting the truth".

Demetriou said he thought the pay situation had been resolved when he said recently that Hird was not being remunerated.  

"The public statements from the AFL, from myself as CEO over the last week, were in the belief that Essendon had concluded its payment arrangements and begun the suspension period. The AFL has since sought confirmation and is yet to receive it," he said.

Hird's punishment was part of the club's penalties,  which included a $2 million fine and being banned from this year's finals, for its controversial 2012 supplements program.

The AFL's total distribution of funds to Essendon in 2012 was $11.98 million.