Ben Keays celebrates what he thought was a goal late in Adelaide's loss to Sydney in round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has backed the League's score review system and said a goal umpire's failure to refer a game-defining decision to the ARC during Adelaide's one-point loss to Sydney was "a mistake" and would have been overturned if it was reviewed.

The goal umpire who made the incorrect decision has been stood down for the rest of the season, and the result of the game will stand.

Just 80 seconds remained on the clock and the Crows trailed by two points, having roared back from a 32-point deficit at the last change, when Ben Keays snapped what he thought was a goal from the pocket, sparking wild celebrations at Adelaide Oval. 

But the goal umpire signalled a behind, believing the ball had hit the post. The goal umpire did not call for a score review, and play continued with the Swans holding on for a nailbiting one-point win. 

The defeat ended Adelaide's finals hopes, leaving the Crows two wins outside the top eight with just one round remaining. 


"The result stands. This was a mistake and they happen repeatedly through games by players, officials and others," McLachlan said on Sunday morning.

"The challenging part through this is the moment of this and ultimately the mistake could have been reviewed and wasn't. It could have been changed. That's the challenging part of this. 

"Last night in the umpire's mind there was a clear noise and a clear deflection. On review from the video evidence that wasn't right.

"It was a human error that happens repeatedly through games across the course of the year, but this is an error that given the context and the moment was of great consequence. 


"I want to acknowledge that it was a mistake and I take accountability for the mistake on behalf of the League. I have spoken to the goal umpire and he is taking personal accountability for that mistake."

The controversial call comes just a week after another contentious ending when there was inconclusive evidence to overturn a decision that Carlton defender Caleb Marchbank had touched a shot on goal from Melbourne midfielder Christian Petracca in the dying seconds of a game that was decided by four points.

But McLachlan said the current goal review system works and would have corrected the soft call if the decision was referred to the ARC.


"The reality is the system would have dealt with this. The ARC would have dealt with this if it was referred," he said. 

"It is a human error and a decision by the goal umpire that meant we have this situation today. Every decision is broadly reviewed. The kick-in was so quick, it was within 10 seconds and the moment was lost and gone. The system, I don't feel is at fault. 

"I think all football supporters and people understand there are mistakes that happen across the course of a game. We all make mistakes every day. But what I do acknowledge and take accountability for is that at that moment, in that point of the season, it is a mistake of consequence."

Isaac Heeney celebrates on the siren of the round 23 match between Adelaide and Sydney on August 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Adelaide CEO Tim Silvers expressed the Crows' frustration with the decision in a statement on Sunday morning, but accepted the club had no other option but to accept the outcome, which ends the best season yet under Matthew Nicks' watch.

"Human error is, and always will be, part of football and we recognise our own performance in the first half of the season-defining game was not at the standard we expect either," Silvers said.

"We are also extremely proud of our players' effort, commitment and never-give-up attitude, which was again on show.

"The failure to video review the scoring attempt in question is inexplicable given the enormity of the moment, not just for that game but also what it meant for our finals chances and those of other teams in the competition.

"Having spoken to the AFL and with no further avenues to explore, we have no choice other than to turn our focus to the final home and away match of the season. While we will not participate in the upcoming finals series, we are determined to build on the progress our young playing group has made this year."