AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has urged players to "walk away" from provocation when out in public, disagreeing with Richmond coach Damien Hardwick after two Tigers were involved in an incident.
Hardwick was supportive of players Shai Bolton and Daniel Rioli after they came to the defence of Rioli's partner, who was being hassled by a patron.
Bolton fractured his wrist and will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks, while Rioli received stitches under his eye but is fit to play this weekend against GWS.
"A player's partner was put in a situation she didn't feel comfortable with and Daniel stood up and tried to eradicate the situation and was punched in the eye," Hardwick told Fox Footy.
"I don't condone violence, but the reality is if you put anyone in that situation they're going to stand up for their partner and their mates.
"From our point of view, we back in the players. We're disappointed it's come to that situation."
CLUB SUPPORTS WOUNDED TIGERS Richmond backs Rioli, Bolton behaviour
McLachlan said the AFL Integrity team was still undergoing its investigation into the incident.
"My view is – I respect Damien's view as Damien's view – but it's different. I think our players, and I ask all players that they don't condone violence and they should be walking away," McLachlan said.
"It's difficult at times, I know provocation exists and circumstances are always relevant, but my general position is people need to walk away and be above that."
When asked about poor crowds on Mother's Day on Sunday – specifically the 15,277 who attended Hawthorn v West Coast at the MCG – McLachlan said it's an issue the fixture team may have to address.
"It was a really poor crowd, but Mother's Day has been seriously poor crowds. I think our crowds, frankly, have been amazing.
"They are patchy, and they're probably not at the pre-COVID level, but we are eight rounds into a men's season, and have border closures and surges with public transport, and we've had a crowd of mid to high 70s, Saturday night there was a very good crowd. But you look at what our benchmarks are, and some are at that level and some are below.
"We had three games on Mother's Day, is that the right solution? I love my mother, I had lunch with her, people love their mothers. And I reckon it's a day we have to work around a bit better than we have historically."
A number of senior AFL figures – including coaches John Longmire and Chris Scott and AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield – have this week been calling for an increase of the soft cap, which had been slashed following last year's COVID-induced restructure of the industry.
"These are good discussions, we're getting the views of the clubs. They're not necessarily consistent from different perspectives across the clubs. We're trying to get a consensus of the clubs as well as across the industry," McLachlan said.
"We've got forms and data back on all the issues: distribution, soft cap, a whole series of other stuff which has come back from clubs. We've put some stuff to the Commission yesterday and then we've got a meeting with the (club) CEOs around the 25th May.
"It's just not consistent. I think people understand we're forecasting about $280 million in revenue across the industry this year, but there are areas where we have cut deeply and need to look at. The health and our wellbeing of everyone in our industry is a priority, and we will do what we need to address that."