James Hird's legal team will call for Andrew Demetriou to be removed from future AFL Commission deliberations on any charges against the Essendon coach, believing the league boss has a conflict of interest in the case.
If, as expected, charges against the Bombers and the club's coach are made this week, Hird's legal team has already decided it will formally object to Demetriou sitting in judgment of the scandal that has tainted the season.
AFL expected to lay charges against Essendon
Fairfax sports columnist Roy Masters speaks with 3AW's Ross and John about expectations the AFL, not ASADA, will charge the Essendon Football Club today.PT4M22S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rr3z 620 349 August 12, 2013
Key to the Hird camp's claim would be a conflicting version of events around a telephone conversation on February 4, between Demetriou and former Essendon chairman David Evans, before the AFL club announced it was essentially opening itself up to an investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
It emerged last month that Hird claimed during an 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.
As AFL chief executive, Demetriou is a member of the league's nine-member commission chaired by Mike Fitzpatrick. But Hird's legal representatives - separate to the legal team representing Essendon - believe it would be inappropriate for Demetriou to take part in rulings concerning the coach.
Essendon players return to the rooms after losing to West Coast. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Bill Kelty removed himself from commission deliberations on the Essendon supplements probe months ago over his relationships with key figures in the case - specifically Evans, who resigned before the case came to a head, and Hird. Kelty is the chairman of the advisory board of Evans' stockbroking company.
With the AFL now desperate to deal with Essendon before the finals series, the formal call for Demetriou to be excluded from any commission deliberations on the complex issue would be triggered by the laying of charges - an action in the hands of AFL legal counsel Andrew Dillon.
If charges of bringing the game into disrepute are laid - as expected - Essendon, Hird and any other relevant individuals will be given time to mount their defences before a scheduled meeting of the AFL Commission in a fortnight.
Essendon and Hird continue to state their "right" to participate in this year's finals series and lawyers involved are adamant the case will wind up in the Supreme Court.
The fact that Hird's legal team already has a firm plan to object to Demetriou's future role in commission rulings - provided charges are laid - comes after veteran AFL agent Peter Jess described the
league boss as "seemingly compromised'' in the saga and said the penalties for Essendon ''should not be decided in-house''.
"Andrew is on the public record saying he has received briefings throughout this case. But the body that rules on this case must be independent,'' Jess said.
That stance is backed by US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart, who has called for the NRL and AFL to hand over their power to sanction players to ASADA, believing there's a conflict of interest if a sporting body is responsible for deciding the punishment of its own players. ''You can't police your own sport, even in the first instance,'' said Tygart, one of the key men responsible for exposing cyclist Lance Armstrong as a cheat.
''Sport organisers and administrators are going to take every inference or piece of evidence in favour to itself, to not embarrass themselves. It calls into question the legitimacy of the decision coming out of sport.''
Tygart described the investigations as the ''tipping moment for Australian sport''. ''Hopefully people realise that Australia is not immune from these same pressures of drug use and organised crime,'' he said.
With Adrian Proszenko