DESCRIBING the entire Essendon supplements scandal as "disturbing," AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has said the saga would serve as a wake-up call for the sport.
He spoke at the packed media conference at AFL House on Tuesday evening after handing out a raft of penalties to the Bombers and key officials.
"It was a drama we hope we'll never see again," he said.
Fitzpatrick said the AFL was moved to impose the heaviest sanctions in the history of the game in order to protect two "non negotiables" of the AFL – health and safety of the players and the integrity of the competition.
"We have sent a clear and unequivocal message to everybody that nothing comes ahead of the duty of care to our players," he said. 

"This is a powerful affirmation that no single club or individual is above our great game."
The AFL said there was an acknowledgement that the Bombers did not deliberately set out to break the rules.
But Fitzpatrick added: "Essendon has acknowledged that its supplements program failed to protect the health of players, there was a risk that players could have been banned substances administered, and Essendon is unable to determine whether banned substances were administered.
"As such, it has been determined that Essendon has brought the game into disrepute." 

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said Essendon coach James Hird, now serving a 12-month suspension for his role in the saga, would be warmly welcomed back to the game at the end of August next year.

"James Hird spoke very well to the commission. He apologised. He is remorseful and he has accepted that his actions contributed to the Essendon Football Club breaching rule 1.6.

"You've heard the AFL say on many occasions this code is a very forgiving code and in accepting James Hird's suspension we've made it very clear that of course he is welcome back into the game."

Demetriou said he was satisfied with the AFL's processes since the Bombers self-reported to the League on February 5.

"It was a very complex issue. There was a very long, lengthy investigation that involved lots of interviews, lots of documents. Lots of forensic investigation and the seizing of mobile phone records. It was a very detailed investigation.

"Once the investigation was underway there was always going to be speculation about what was occurring in this investigation."

Demetriou said the AFL's commitment to protect the integrity of the game was demonstrated by its significant investment in its world-leading integrity unit.

"These are things that are going to be uncovered and we make no apology for not only uncovering it but also dealing with it and that's what the expectation of our supporters is: that this game, that this Commission deals with these matters."

He added that the decision to leave the Bombers out of this year's finals was straightforward for the League.

"This is without doubt the most significant matter that has come before the Commission and perhaps one of the most serious issues that's ever faced the game.

"The Commission needed to give full effect to the rules and regulations of the game to protect the integrity of the game to make sure this never happened again," Demetriou said.

The AFL confirmed late on Tuesday night that Essendon would be placed ninth on the ladder with its tally of 2013 season wins, losses , points for and against, percentage  and premiership points all recorded across its 22 premiership season matches, but with an asterisk  signalled against its premiership points to denote the club was stood down from the 2013 finals.