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AFL gets tough on coach poaching

Poached coach: Ross Lyon.

Poached coach: Ross Lyon. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THE AFL has pushed ahead with its plan to impose massive fines on clubs that engage in coach poaching and will write ''integrity'' clauses into every new deal struck between clubs and their senior and assistant coaches.

The league's integrity boss, Brett Clothier, is seeking legal advice in a bid to establish a new coaching ''transfer fee'' that will force clubs that entice a coach to break his contract to pay one year of that coach's wage to his former club.

Under the proposed new system devised to both prevent and punish clubs from poaching contract coaches, Fremantle would have been forced to pay St Kilda Ross Lyon's entire projected wage for 2012 had Lyon not had an ''out'' clause in his contract with the Saints.

In assistant coaching terms Essendon - which lured the contracted Sean Wellman away from Melbourne at the end of 2010 - would have had to pay the Demons one year of Wellman's contracted wage.

The AFL's working party - established at the start of the 2012 season in a bid to instil some integrity into the frenetic coaching movement between clubs - has now met several times and should unveil the key platforms of its radical proposal to the 18 chief executives at next month's club conference.

In the event that a senior coach is enticed to break his contract and move to another team, the offending club would also be forced to pay 50 per cent of the former club's recruitment costs in finding a new coach.

Existing contracts will not include the new clauses but the AFL and the Coaches Association plan to include the new rules in every new coaching contract signed from October 31 this year.

The fear that the new fines - which could reach as much as $1 million in the event of a coach of the calibre of Mick Malthouse being poached - would advantage the wealthier clubs has been cast aside in the knowledge that poorer clubs losing coaches would at least receive compensation.

The working party, established at the urging of Collingwood CEO Gary Pert, is still seeking legal advice in a bid to prevent or at least discourage coaches walking out on clubs before the end of the season.

Collingwood lost Mark Neeld to the senior Melbourne job just days before the preliminary final while Geelong lost Brenton Sanderson to Adelaide at the same crucial juncture of the Cats' premiership campaign.

To avoid restraining coaches in their career paths, no club would be fined for poaching a contracted assistant coach and promoting him to the senior job.

However, the working party - which also includes Clothier, Geelong's Neil Balme, Port Adelaide's Peter Rohde and Hawthorn CEO Stuart Fox - is expect to push for a clause forcing coaches when required to complete their contracts.

A version of the proposed scheme already operates in the English Premier League.

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou told The Age in March that he had supported Pert's push to regulate the coaching industry.

''Gary Pert wants us to look at a way of establishing the integrity of a contract,'' he said.

''Are we mature enough as a code to get to a situation where we don't have coaches breaking contracts and leaving clubs before their season is finished? I think that's a concern.''

AFL Coaches Association boss Danny Frawley and his No. 2, Paul Armstrong, have been driving the issue since then with key player and coaching managers Craig Kelly and Daniel Richardson also on board.

- Senior members of the AFLCA met the AFL's football boss, Adrian Anderson, last Friday to seek stronger communication between the two bodies where tactics and rules are concerned.

Among those coaches attending were Damien Hardwick and Ross Lyon - who faced off at the MCG the next day - and John Longmire and James Hird, whose sides contested Saturday night's Etihad Stadium thriller.

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