The AFL has found Melbourne not guilty of tanking in 2009, but that the football manager Chris Connolly and coach Dean Bailey at the time acted in a manner prejudicial to the integrity of the game.
The AFL on Tuesday announced Connolly would be suspended until February next year and Bailey, now an assistant coach at Adelaide, would be suspended for the first 16 games of 2013.
The Crows announced Bailey would keep his job at the club and be welcomed back into the fold, while the Demons confirmed Connolly would also return after his 12-month suspension. Both will be on full pay.
Melbourne was fined $500,000 because it was responsible for the actions of the pair, even though the league found the club did not deliberately lose matches.
AFL deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan denied Connolly and Bailey had been made scapegoats, but admitted some responsibility for the saga by having the priority pick rule in place.
Bailey was punished for decisions related to resting players and playing them out of position, but the AFL accepted he coached to the best of his ability on game day.
Connolly was found to have put pressure on Bailey to make those decisions during the infamous meeting revealed in the Age last year dubbed ‘the vault’.
McLachlan, said Connolly and Bailey had admitted to their involvement in Melbourne’s 2009 strategy and had all accepted the punishments.
Melbourne president Don McLardy said the Demons accepted the AFL’s decision and the league’s ‘‘right to protect the game’’.
However he admitted the investigation could have been handled better.
‘‘I have my issues with the whole process, but that is only my opinion,’’ McLardy said. ‘‘We have been under duress for seven months, and we’re happy it’s now been resolved.’’
McLardy admitted he believed the AFL’s decision on Tuesday had not cleared up what constitutes tanking in the AFL.
‘‘It is a cloudy area, and I don’t think anyone has a clear idea what tanking is.’’
McLardy said the internal damage from the controversial period in 2009 under investigation had been ‘‘significant’’, but believed the club had emerged with ‘‘strength and courage’’.
The president said he would contact the club’s sponsors in the next 24 hours to reassure them, in light of the massive $500,000 fine - the third biggest in AFL history – and it would be business as usual.
McLachlan said Connolly made a ‘‘terrible and stupid’’ decision to make comments to Melbourne club staff during the 2009 season. It is understood the comments he referred to were Connolly addressing the football department staff, advising them of the need to look after the club’s future.
‘‘There is no allegation that is able to be sustained that Dean Bailey didn’t coach on his merits or any players didn’t play to their utmost abilities,’’ McLachlan said.
‘‘Connolly has accepted he went into a football department meeting and he made a terrible and stupid decision in the context of an AFL rule that has now changed (priority draft picks) and in the context of a pressure and expectation of success.
‘‘He made a comment regarding the performance of the team, a desire to secure a priority pick, and I know he now regrets that comment.’’
Melbourne won only four games in 2009 and secured the priority picks to snare Tom Scully and Jack Trengove.
It is understood Connolly told colleagues of the need to lose games after the Demons beat Port Adelaide late in the season.
Mclachlan said the AFL’s integrity unit compiled 58 interviews with Melbourne staff, coaches and past and current players in preparing 800 pages of evidence that led to the charges against Connolly and Bailey.
He said all of Melbourne’s 2009 season was looked at, but matches in the last third of the season were scrutinised more closely.
With Matt Murnane