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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

After an eight month investigation, the AFL has determined that the Melbourne Demon player's were not directed from above to deliberately lose games in 2009. However, the club was fined $500,000

for lack of diligence concerning "key personnel", specifically then senior coach Dean Bailey and football operations manager Chris Connolly.

The investigation included interviews with 58 current and former players, coaches, administrators and officials of the club as well as analysis of computer files and emails. After all the evidence was reviewed and considered, along with the remorse expressed by Connolly and Bailey, acting AFL Operations Manager Gillion McLachlan announced that both Connolly and Bailey would be suspended for "acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the AFL". Bailey is suspended through Round 16 of the 2013 season and will not be allowed to have any role on match days or during training. He will be allowed to continue working at Adelaide and the club is already considering alternate roles for him.

Connolly, whom the AFL determined had a more significant role with pre-game planning and comments made during a football department meeting, is suspended February 25 of this year until February 1, 2014. His suspension bans him from having any role or position involving either Melbourne or any other club.

To prevent any similar incidents in the future, the AFL has already announced an alteration to the draft rules to make it more difficult to qualify for priority draft picks. McLachlan admitted that the priority system, whereby a club with four wins or less in a season, receives extra draft selections, was a contributing factor.

The League has already announced measures to increase the scope, resources and personnel of the AFL Integrity Unit. There is also a recommendation for each of the 18 clubs to establish their own integrity units. Another initiative, first announced after the recent ACC revelations and drugs investigation, is the Whistleblower Policy, which will allow anyone with knowledge of any illegal activity to come forward with assurances that their identities would not be revealed.

On a related note, former Hawk president Jeff Kennett was interviewed on a television show after the sanctions were handed down by the AFL. He was critical of what he referred to as the "culture of the AFL". While he believes the current AFL boss has done a good job for the most part, he said it may be time for the Commission to closely examine Demetriou's role and that it might be time for him to step down. He said the AFL had mishandled recent issues regarding drugs, tanking and salary cap violations which, in his opinion, was causing fans to lose faith in the administrators.

During the interview he said, "The culture is wrong, it needs improving. It has become ... a culture of defense: protecting the players, protecting the name of the code .... at times it is a culture of intimidation ... Andrew has been overseeing the culture for ten years ... We are discussing issues ... that are pulling the game apart."

Kennett believes the AFL has been damaged by such issues as players avoiding a drug "strike" by reporting themselves for use and players missing matches for alleged drug use without the public's knowledge. He was also critical of the various sanctions handed out over the past months, suggesting there was no consistency and saying "they have protected some ... they have vilified others like Matt Rendell, but they've let [Adelaide chief executive] Steven Trigg off ... no one has any confidence in the system any more." Kennett said these - as well as the Melbourne sanctions - were examples of poor governance.

Demetriou has already indicated he plans on stepping down within the next several years. Once the he does, Kennett suggested that the AFL should look beyond the industry for a new boss.

Source: Herald Sun, Melbourne Age

Article last changed on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 2:36 PM EST


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