Andrew Demetriou speaks to the media. Photo: Kate Healy
AFL chief Andrew Demetriou has launched another attack upon the ''madcap philosophy of winning at all costs'' in a passionate speech in which he admitted to having made ''recent errors of judgment''.
Demetriou used the opening address of the 2013 season to stress that the recent scandals involving Essendon, Melbourne and Adelaide had given fans reason to doubt the game.
He called for the competition ''to slow down, to return to a more languid past, to understand what it is that makes sport a wonderful thing to watch, to be part of''.
''If our game is reduced to a madcap philosophy of winning at all costs then we have lost the spirit of sport and we need to pull out all stops to get it back,'' he said.
The AFL chief, who denied for months in 2009 that Melbourne was manipulating match results and who controversially took leave for more than 25 per cent of last season, would not elaborate after his address what specific ''errors of judgment'' he was referring to.
But he said he was aware of calls for change. He conceded: ''I can see the blemishes - and strengths - that have passed under my watch during the last decade, and I can say with great surety, that despite some recent errors of judgment by some in the AFL community, myself included, despite some murmurings in the media calling for a new direction and a new culture for the AFL, despite the warnings given to us - and to sport in Australia - by the Australian Crime Commission and the federal government, our game has never been stronger.''
He accepted there had been anger following the ACC announcement about allegations of corruption and drug use in Australian sport.
''Our fans have had reason to doubt us in recent months,'' Demetriou said. ''We have had to deal with breaches of our rules by the Adelaide and Melbourne clubs. We have had Essendon coming forward and admitting flaws in its operations and seeking answers on its governance and processes, and we've had a cloud over all sport following our briefing by the ACC.
''Serious matters all, and we cannot avoid this truth: what infects any of us, has the capacity to infect us all. Our fans have quite reasonably been outraged by what's been happening, and with great justification.
''Many of our wonderful players and many brilliant sports medicine practitioners are similarly angry - besmirched as they have been by poor behaviour, driven by poor values and poor judgments.''
Swans captain Jarrad McVeigh spoke at the function and said it was fine to push the boundaries, within the rules. ''But in the end, I believe that hard work is the only secret and it will always prevail.''