Tony Abbott and Andrew Demetriou. Photo: Wayne Taylor
One year after the so-called ''blackest day in Australian sport'' AFL chief Andrew Demetriou has offered the federal government the competition's full support for its beefed-up integrity resources in the battle against corruption in sport.
Emerging from two days of talks in Canberra where Demetriou met Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the league boss is understood to have endorsed the appointment of retired Federal Court Judge Garry Downes who will review the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation into Essendon and the Cronulla Sharks.
Outlining the recent appointment of two former senior Victorian police to its now 14-strong integrity department, Demetriou told government ministers he supported the decision to expedite the ASADA investigation into the Essendon supplements program.
He also offered the benefit of the AFL's integrity resources and intelligence to the government in the proposed continued crackdown on corruption.
Demetriou was tight-lipped on the detail of his first official meeting with the federal Coalition but had a private briefing on Wednesday with Sports Minister Peter Dutton before joining a contingent of Australian sports chiefs to meet Mr Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with Mr Dutton.
Demetriou, flanked by his legal counsel Andrew Dillon, held separate talks on Tuesday with Mr Turnbull's staff on prospective changes to the anti-syphoning laws governing the broadcasting of sport.
He was in Canberra along with the national chiefs of cricket, netball, tennis and soccer as part of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports overseen by Malcolm Speed.
Wednesday's meeting focused upon the fight against corruption in sport, anti-doping, ticket scalping and anti-syphoning.
Any hope that the MCG will be made available earlier in the year to coincide with the opening round of the AFL season before 2016 has been dashed with the Abbott government's refusal in the short term to help fund a new home for cricket at the Junction Oval. The AFL's
view is that the situation could remain unchanged until at least 2018 when Cricket Victoria's current agreement expires.
The AFL will host a staggered start to the home-and-away fixture with Carlton and Richmond contesting the first MCG clash in round two on March 27.
Demetriou said he remained hopeful that major sponsor Toyota would continue its partnership with the AFL despite the decision to stop manufacturing cars in Australia. Describing the Toyota announcement as ''very unfortunate'' Demetriou said he had held talks with company bosses on Tuesday and that the AFL had begun discussions with Toyota regarding extending its AFL contract beyond 2014.
The end of the current agreement this year will mark 11 years for Toyota as major sponsor of the AFL, and Demetriou said he expected the car company would continue to maintain a high profile selling cars in Australia.
''They [Toyota] gave us a briefing around the time they made their announcement,'' he said. ''It's very unfortunate. We understand their reasons and they didn't take the decision lightly. As it happens we've already started talking about extending our agreement and we are hopeful they will continue to be a great partner with the AFL as they have been for 11 years.''