After months of deliberating, the AFL finally delivered its punishment to Melbourne in relation to alleged accusations of deliberately losing AFL football matches in the 2009 season.
Much to the surprise of footy followers, Melbourne as a club was found not to have deliberately lost matches.
The AFL stated that there was no directive from the board to deliberately lose matches, nor did any of club, coaches or team members go out and lose matches deliberately in the 2009 premiership season.
Contrary to these claims by the AFL, former Melbourne head coach Dean Bailey and former general manager of footy operations Chris Connolly acted in ways unbecoming to their respective roles at the club.
As a result of these actions, the AFL went on to suspend Connolly from holding any AFL job or performing a role at any AFL club role until February 1st of 2014.
While Connolly is now banned from his role at Melbourne until early next year, Dean Bailey has moved on to his job at Adelaide as the strategy and innovation coach. These findings also stipulate that Bailey is suspended from all actions at the Crows for the first 16 rounds of the upcoming premiership season.
The Melbourne Football Club as an entity was found to have been responsible for the actions of both Connolly and Bailey, and for that they were slapped with a $500,000 fine.
Later in the afternoon, Melbourne president Don McLardy released a statement to supporters, assuring them that all was well within the Melbourne camp.
“Chris Connolly has also accepted his sanction in the best interests of the club. Chris is an outstanding football person whose contribution to the game and our club over many years has been immense,” he said.
“By accepting the sanctions, our club and team can run out on Friday night in their first NAB Cup game clear of any distractions and prepare for Round 1.”
Quite evidently, the club’s hierarchy is content with the findings laid down by the AFL. They will now look towards more on-field matters rather than dealing with defending the club on a regular basis.
This seemingly never-ending saga seems to be done and dusted, but today’s sanctions raise some questions as to how the governing body came to these baffling conclusions.
Firstly, the obvious question on the minds of footy fans is how can a club be seemingly found not guilty of deliberately losing footy matches yet still have two senior members as well as the club overall penalised.
It seems rather strange that those at AFL HQ regard Melbourne as a club that hasn’t broken any law, yet they still punished two senior members quite heavily.
The phrase “conduct unbecoming” was uttered a few too many times to become a coincidence through the press release. That phrase leaves footy fans in the dark as to what sort of conduct is becoming or unbecoming in any instance.
Another question prevalent in this saga is the very real possibility that Connolly was used a scapegoat in this matter.
Footy journos across the country pointed the finger at him as where the buck stopped when it came to this investigation. While over the course of this long and strenuous process many high figures at Melbourne were named, Connolly was always at the centre of this ordeal.
While it appears that this is the case, it still remains a possibility that the AFL blamed the actions of the club as a whole on Connolly, and to a lesser extent, Bailey.
Regardless of any footy fans’ point of view on this saga, it is heartening that it has seemingly come to a close. While there still remains extreme doubt on the legality of this punishment dished out by the AFL, it closes a chapter that fans would rather forget.
All that we hope for is that the next time a major investigation is carried out by the AFL for any particular reason, there is more clarity as to what punishment is going to be handed down.
The least AFL House can do is reward those fans who stick by the game through and through by presenting clear and valid responses, rather than the shady ones dished up throughout this extensive process.