Andrew Demetriou: "The (AFL) commission... to the best of my knowledge and in the time I've been involved in football, has always acted in the best interests of the game. It's independent." Photo: Josh Robenstone
In a push set to escalate legal wrangling in the Essendon drugs probe, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou says he wants the fine detail of the conduct unbecoming charges laid this week made public.
Denying he has a conflict of interest in the case - an assertion formally lodged with the AFL's solicitors by James Hird's legal team on Wednesday - Demetriou maintains he should contribute to any AFL Commission hearing into the matter.
Despite the growing sense that the matter is more likely headed to the Victorian Supreme Court, the league CEO said on Friday he remained optimistic that a resolution could be found through a commission meeting on August 26.
Legal experts from multiple camps working on the case, however, estimate it would take weeks to hear the matter, even if it did proceed to the AFL Commission as the league hopes.
If that process commenced on August 26 - the date set by the league for a commission hearing - several lawyers involved in the matter have told Fairfax Media it would likely drag on well into the September finals series and beyond.
In a letter of demand to the AFL outlining three key points this week, Hird's legal team argued that any hearing should not occur until at least two weeks after the finals series.
Acting on independent legal advice but with the knowledge and, seemingly, the support of his club, Hird is also demanding an entirely open hearing and says an independent tribunal - rather than the AFL Commission - should hear the case.
The letter from Hird's legal team sent to the AFL on Wednesday specifically objected to the involvement of Demetriou on future judgments on the Essendon scandal. It set a deadline of Monday, August 19, for a response and representatives for Hird are making no secret of a preparedness to go to the Supreme Court if pushed.
Neither the AFL's Minter Ellison legal representatives, nor the AFL, would say on Friday whether any of Hird's three demands were possible, or whether any had already been discounted. They would not say whether the consent of all charged parties - Essendon, Hird, Danny Corcoran, Mark Thompson and Bruce Reid - was required under the ASADA Act if the league was to make public the full detail of the conduct unbecoming charges laid on Tuesday night.
A second letter, also sent on Wednesday from the Hird camp, demanded that the AFL's solicitors provide particulars around the 18-page document that lays out charges against the Essendon coach in narrative form.
Given Hird disputes the majority of information in his AFL charge document - and the fact his lawyers are challenging the validity of ASADA's ''interim report'' used by the AFL to help make its case - Fairfax Media has been told that the mooted public release of all charge details would only deepen the legal fight.
In a radio interview on Friday, Demetriou defended the independence of the AFL Commission and his suitability to take part in the judgment of Essendon.
"The commission … to the best of my knowledge and in the time I've been involved in football, has always acted in the best interests of the game. It's independent," the AFL CEO told 774 ABC radio.
"I read various reports about challenges and so forth. Well, I guess that will play out with lawyers and I'll leave it up to them."
Asked specifically whether his presence on what is usually a nine-member body could compromise the commission's independence in the Essendon case, Demetriou said: ''I don't think so, but that will be up to advice from lawyers. But I don't see any reason why I'm conflicted, no.
"I received the [ASADA interim] report when every other commissioner received the report … so I've got no issue sitting on the commission whatsoever."
At the beginning of the saga, Bill Kelty withdrew himself from any commission discussions on the matter due to his relationships with Hird and ex-Bomber chairman David Evans.
Hird is adamant that Demetriou is a ''witness'' in the case. His argument relates to Demetriou's public commentary - particularly a comment in April when the AFL chief said Hird should consider standing down - and the pair's conflicting version of events around a February phone call between Demetriou and Evans.