AFL guilty in tanking war: Thomas

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 08 Januari 2013 | 14.43

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has warned anyone found guilty of tanking will "never work in football again". Source: Herald Sun

FORMER St Kilda coach Grant Thomas says tanking charges against Melbourne will blow up in the AFL's face if they end up in court.

Thomas, a vocal critic of league headquarters and CEO Andrew Demetriou, says the AFL is complicit in any rule breaking because it provided an incentive for clubs to lose.

Former Melbourne coach Dean Bailey and officials Cameron Schwab and Chris Connolly are believed to face charges including draft tampering and bringing the game into disrepute.

The AFL's tanking investigation centres on the 2009 season, when the Demons lost six of their last seven matches to finish the season on four wins and qualify for a priority draft pick.

"AFL is putting themselves into a corner with tanking saga that will eventually expose their own behavior & test their strategies legally," Thomas tweeted today.

"Any decent senior counsel would be able to rip the AFL apart in a witness box. Honorable Andy won't want to get in the box - GUARANTEED!"

Thomas said players always tried to win but officials could make decisions to reduce their chances.

He said it was impossible to prove the real motivation behind selection decisions and calls from the coach's box on game day. But he had little doubt tanking was real.

"If comp manager provides incentive for losing what do u expect? Players try but club realise greater reward is extra draft pick than 5th win."

Melbourne officials are digesting an 800-page document into  tanking allegations - and potential charges - against the club.

The documents were handed to chief executive Cameron Schwab, Chris Connolly and former coach Dean Bailey sometime before December 25.

Lawyers for the club, and Bailey's own personal representation, have been scouring the explosive allegations and must answer to interim AFL football operations manager Gillon McLachlan before the end of January.

The three parties involved must state their reasons why they should not be charged.

If the AFL does lay charges, it is likely to happen late this month, in order to give the Demons time to respond to the evidence and prepare their defence.

It is believed Bailey is facing three allegations which include tampering with the draft, not coaching to his full ability and bringing the game into disrepute in the 2009 season.

Schwab and Connolly however are only facing two charges -  tampering with the draft and bringing the game into disrepute.

At this stage lawyers plan to argue over the definition of tanking.

"The way the investigation has been carried out from a legal point of view is quite extraordinary, with some of the questioning," a source close to the Demons told Fairfax Media.

"There potentially could be a good challenge to the AFL rules. I think it's fairly fraught with danger the AFL going down this path."

The AFL investigation has centred on comments made in a Demons football department meeting run by football operations manager Chris Connolly, pictured with Dean Bailey, allegedly reminding staff about the importance of the extra draft pick. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: Herald Sun

Melbourne is believed to be willing to take the matter further if charged and found guilty of the offences, perhaps even as far as the Supreme Court.

While Melbourne could be hit with heavy fines or loss of draft picks, there is mounting belief the AFL would prefer to penalise individuals, rather than the club, if it is found guilty of deliberately losing games.

Former Melbourne player Brock McLean triggered the AFL investigation when he claimed in July he quit the club because it had set out to lose games in 2009.

"You can't create a good culture by going out and experimenting and trying to get draft picks and losing games of football," McLean said. "It goes against everything you're trying to do."

As revealed by Jay Clark for News Limited last week, the AFL has interviewed and re-interviewed a host of former and current officials who were at the club in 2009.

Some of the interviewees were subsequently told as many as 12 people had provided the AFL's investigators with potentially incriminating details about the club's intent throughout the second half of the 2009 campaign.

Melbourne administrators allegedly held a secret meeting in 2009 to plot their tanking strategy. The end game was to secure the first two picks in that year's national draft.

It is also believed the AFL has inquired about knowledge of a follow-up meeting between Bailey and Schwab at Schwab's house.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou previously warned any person found guilty of manipulating the result of a match would "never work in football again''.

Connolly, however, is at the centre of the storm after it was reported he reminded football officials about the importance of losing matches to improve the club's draft position.

But Robert Shaw, who was Fremantle's football operations manager when Connolly coached the Dockers, said previously that Connolly could not have been "solely responsible''.

Unusual tactical moves in the Dees' losses to Sydney (Round 17) and Richmond (Round 18) have been the subject of intense speculation.

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