Essendon to fight AFL charges
The AFL is charging four Essendon officials with bringing the game into disrepute, however the men, including coach James Hird, will fight all charges.PT2M17S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rxjm 620 349 August 15, 2013
James Hird has mounted an extraordinary challenge to the AFL Commission by demanding a public hearing of the supplements case by an independent tribunal no sooner than two weeks after the conclusion of the finals.
Correspondence lodged with the AFL’s solicitors on Wednesday afternoon specifically asserted that league chief executive Andrew Demetriou is a conflicted party who should not sit in judgment of the matter.
The Hird camp is making no secret of its intention to take on the league in the Victorian Supreme Court if required. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Hird’s legal team outlined three demands that would ruin the AFL's plans to deal with Essendon before the finals – chiefly, a categoric refusal to face a closed Commission hearing.
An August 19 deadline was set for an AFL response, with the Hird camp – including Julian Burnside, QC – making no secret of its intention to take on the league in the Victorian Supreme Court if required.
Acting on independent legal advice, but apparently with the support of his club, Hird is calling for the establishment of an independent tribunal that would hear in public the charges arising thus far out of the Bombers’ supplements scandal, instead of the AFL Commission – usually a nine-member body that includes Demetriou.
Fairfax Media learnt on Wednesday of the detail in the aggressive three-point response to the AFL prepared by Hird’s lawyers, who are now also directly challenging the validity of a 400-page interim report that was prepared by ASADA and delivered to the AFL 13 days ago.
The multi-pronged response was triggered by serious misconduct charges the AFL laid against Hird, Essendon and three others on Tuesday night. Six months into an Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority probe, Essendon, its head coach Hird, senior assistant coach Mark Thompson, club doctor Bruce Reid and football boss Danny Corcoran have been charged by the AFL with conduct unbecoming or prejudicial to the interests of the league.
Now that charges have been laid, Hird’s initial legal fight is bold but procedure-focused.
And if the AFL, which received two letters from the coach’s legal team on Wednesday, does not accede to the demands, the lawyers acting for Hird say they will not hesitate taking the case to court; a development that would worsen what has already proved a crisis for the code.
In calling for the Essendon hearing to be public and judged by an independent tribunal, Hird’s lawyers are claiming that AFL Commissioners, and particularly Demetriou, would come to the case with a prejudiced view because they were provided with ASADA’s interim report.
Hird objects to several claims in the interim report but after his day-long interview with ASADA investigators, in April, was not recalled for a further interview and was not given the opportunity to review assertions made in the report that ASADA delivered to the AFL on August 2. These grievances are now being pursued separately with ASADA.
While Bill Kelty removed himself months ago from any AFL Commission deliberations on Essendon due to his relationships with Hird and ex-Bomber chairman David Evans, Hird’s camp is adamant that Demetriou should also stand aside because they consider him a potential ‘witness’ in the case who has already indicated publicly that he has taken an adverse view of Hird.
The first argument relates to a conflicting version of events around a telephone conversation on February 4, between Demetriou and Evans, before Essendon announced it was essentially opening itself up to an investigation by ASADA. It emerged last month that Hird claimed in his interview with ASADA that he believed Demetriou tipped off Evans about the contents of the Australian Crime Commission report. Demetriou and Evans have both denied those claims, with Demetriou saying he could not have leaked the information because he wasn't privy to it.
It's understood that in the letter filed to the AFL's solicitors on Wednesday, Hird's lawyers also cited some of Demetriou's public comments on the case - specifically a statement in April when the league CEO said Hird should consider standing down from his job as senior coach. The letter says that public statement indicated Demetriou had formed an adverse view of Hird's conduct.