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AFL Commission approves MRO makeover

THE AFL on Tuesday wrote to all clubs to advise the AFL Commission had approved a range of recommendations presented to it at its meeting in Melbourne on Monday.

The Commission had considered recommendations to the AFL and AFL Women’s Match Review and Tribunal following an in-depth review of each system, which included canvassing the views of all stakeholders and industry groups and the endorsement of the AFL & AFLW Competition Committees.

Separately, the Commission also approved changes to the Laws of the Game for State League and community application relating to Laws 5.5 (Counting of Players) & 7.2 (Procedure for Interchange). 

AFL Match Review/Tribunal: 

Striking

  • Stricter interpretation of prohibited contact (striking) free kicks.
  • Creation of a specific offence for strikes with negligible impact instead of utilising general misconduct.

Rough Conduct (High Bumps)

  • Implementation of strict liability for forceful head clashes where a player elects to bump an opponent.
  • No substantive change to the Regulations regarding the contesting the ball exception to Rough Conduct, but increased conservatism to be employed in its application.

Umpire Contact

  • In relation to Careless Umpire Contact, AFL umpires to vary their approach line to centre bounces where it is apparent players are favouring a certain side of the centre circle, and clearly signal their exit path. Where contact occurs and the infringing player is easily identifiable, the umpire to pay a free kick.
  • The MRO to be stricter on fining players for incidental careless umpire contact when they have set up behind the umpire or run a path that intersects the umpire’s exit line. Players being tagged that attempt to utilise the umpire as a block will also be fined when contact occurs.
  • Addition of a Tribunal Guideline for Intentional Umpire Contact, whereby charges will result for actions that are aggressive, forceful, disrespectful or demonstrative.
  • Creation of a new offence of “Unreasonable or unnecessary contact with an umpire” to fine contact which isn’t covered by the new Intentional Umpire Contact guidelines, but is not able to be deemed careless.

Use of Studs

  • Enforce a stricter adjudication of use of studs in both marking contests and general play, starting with free kicks but extending to fines & suspensions when there is an associated impact.

Other Administrative and Procedural Issues

  • Modify the penalty for Intentional Conduct High-Impact High-Contact incidents from a direct referral to the Tribunal to a MRO fixed penalty of three matches.
  • Modify the process specified in Regulation 17 in relation to sanctioning clubs for melees to be in line with the standard weekly judicial timelines.
  • Change the classification of Stomping and Eye Gouging from Classifiable Offences to Direct Tribunal Offences.
  • Amend the AFL Regulations to ensure the Tribunal Jury must follow the Table of Offences for graded direct referrals unless there are exceptional and compelling circumstances.

These changes will come into effect in the 2019 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.

AFL Women’s Match Review/Tribunal: 

  • The AFL Women’s Low-Level Classifiable Offences sanction table be modified to comprise Reprimands and financial sanctions only;
  • The early plea discount is removed for suspensions, and AFLW clubs risk a $5000 bond (with 50% included in the football department soft cap) by challenging charges at the AFLW Tribunal.

The endorsed changes to the AFL Match Review/Tribunal system listed above will also be implemented for the 2019 AFLW competition.

Laws of the Game – 19th Player Scenario (for State League and community application):

Following the 19th player incidents that occurred in the 2018 SANFL and NEAFL competitions, a number of changes to the Laws of the Game applying at State League and community level were endorsed:

  • The penalty following a count be modified from a loss of points for the entire match to a loss of points in the relevant quarter to the time of the count.
  • The team runner also be able to call a count in addition to the captain and vice-captain.
  • The Controlling Body be provided with wide powers to further determine the matter by way of a fine, reversal of match result or other sanction as it deems appropriate (including overturning the loss of points scored).
  • A post-match review be added to the Laws where a club or other person can request the Controlling Body assess evidence of a potential 19th player breach, with powers to further determine the matter if sustained.
  • The penalty for interchange infringements be modified to a free kick and 50m penalty to be aligned with the AFL & AFLW Competitions.

These changes to Laws 5.5 and 7.2 will come into effect in the 2019 Laws of Australian Football.