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AFL denies deal to Essendon players

Jobe Watson of Esssendon is congratulated by his father Tim after winning the 2013 AFL round 05 ANZAC Day match between the Essendon Bombers and the Collingwood Magpies at the MCG, Melbourne on April 25, 2013. (Photo: Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)
Essendon great Tim Watson with son Jobe
The AFL was still trying to do a deal with Essendon on the Sunday night before the Tribunal handed down its (ruling)
Ex-Bomber Tim Watson

THE AFL has denied a claim it offered a deal to Essendon two days before the League's independent Anti-Doping Tribunal delivered its verdict.

Bomber great Tim Watson, father of club captain Jobe Watson, alleged on Monday morning the AFL attempted to persuade the club to accept a penalty.

According to Watson, that offer was made on the Sunday night before the Tuesday March 31 ruling of the Tribunal, which was ultimately "not comfortably satisfied" that Essendon players had been administered banned drugs.

Watson was frustrated by what he perceived as a general misconception that the process had not been independent.

"I'll tell you how independent they were, those (anti-doping tribunal) panel members. The AFL was still trying to do a deal with Essendon on the Sunday night before the Tribunal handed down its (ruling)," Watson told Melbourne radio station SEN.

"That's how independent they were. The AFL had no idea what was coming. Fact.

"It's going to the heart of people saying – which has been a great source of my frustration – people saying that in some ways Essendon were looked after by the Tribunal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"The AFL, alongside ASADA, were prosecuting the players. The AFL weren't helping the Essendon football players in any way. And for people to suggest that there was no independence with that Tribunal is just absolute rubbish."

However, on Monday afternoon, the AFL issued a statement rejecting Watson's allegation.

"The AFL wishes to state its position for the record after claims made on Melbourne radio this morning, Monday June 8, that the AFL had sought to offer a deal to Essendon FC players in the days before the handing down of the finding by the Anti-Doping Tribunal on Tuesday March 31," the AFL statement read.

"It was correct to state that the Anti-Doping Tribunal headed by David Jones was totally independent of the AFL and the outcome of its findings was unknown to the AFL until the decision was read out on the day by the Tribunal Chairman.

"However, it was totally incorrect to state that a deal was put to the Essendon players in the days before March 31.

"A number of meetings occurred in the weeks before the Tribunal’s decision, including on the Sunday, between the club and the AFL, to discuss contingency plans in the event that the Tribunal found the players guilty."

The supplements saga is still some way from completion after the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal's verdict.

However, Watson believes the Court of Arbitration for Sport will arrive at the same not-guilty verdict.

"The evidence is the evidence, and it just doesn't stack up," he said.