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Demons and league on collision course

AN EXPLOSIVE and costly legal stoush is looming between the AFL and the Melbourne Football Club as the league's investigation into the tanking affair continues to aggressively interview and re-interview witnesses who worked at the club in 2009.

The Demons have claimed the league's investigators have adopted intimidating and threatening tactics in a bid to obtain information from past and present Melbourne staffers.

Melbourne coaches and football department officials have alleged investigators Brett Clothier and Abraham Haddad have told them they would be thrown out of the industry should they fail to answer questions fully and honestly.

Demon directors and executives have also been angered at the alleged practice by Haddad and Clothier of turning off and on their official tapes during recorded interview sessions while reminding witnesses their future in the AFL could be at stake.

The Demons are also concerned at allegations some witnesses were talked into confessing their presence at certain scenarios after being told that others had already incriminated them.

Melbourne has engaged the services of of former Federal Court judge and Victorian Solicitor General Ray Finkelstein, QC, to handle its defence against allegations it deliberately lost games of football in 2009 in a bid to win early draft picks.

The case will concentrate in part on the definition of "tanking" or the practice of manipulating team performances. It is not known when the AFL investigation will wind up, with the league still going through software and paperwork taken from the club over the past months.

Fears that Melbourne could be banned from the 2012 national draft and potentially lose father-son pick Jack Viney appear alleviated by the fact the inquiry will run beyond November.

The Demons have not been called to face next week's meeting of the AFL Commission.

Witnesses have already told the AFL's investigation team that former football boss Chris Connolly underlined the importance of winning no more than four games that season in a Junction Oval tin shed nick-named "the vault" after the club had unexpectedly strung together successive victories that year.

Knowledge of "the vault" has become one term adopted by the investigators when instructing past and present football department officials of their requirement to answer all questions put to them fully and honestly.

Several initially said they had no memory of incriminating conversations but later changed their minds when reminded of their obligation under rules covering all league and club employees. Others recalled Connolly's comments when told others had already given evidence they were present.

Those interviewed and re-interviewed have included Dean Bailey, Josh Mahoney and Barry Prendergast but about 15 people were present when Connolly allegedly threatened staff they would be sacked should the team continue to win games.

Almost all are understood to have been contacted by the AFL and several have been repeatedly recalled and questioned.

The club is expected to put forward Connolly's claim that his comments – including his invoking of a disappointed and cancer stricken president Jim Stynes after a Port Adelaide victory – were tongue-in-cheek.

It is also playing down the significance of the meeting in the vault. It will also cast doubt on the true nature of chief executive Cameron Schwab's disappointment with Bailey in the rooms after the Port win.

Clothier, a former tax lawyer, had his team beefed up last year when the internationally recognised police officer Haddad joined the AFL as its first intelligence co-ordinator.

As the league intensified its fight to preserve the game's integrity and protect it from match-fixing and the threat of performance-enhancing drugs, Haddad, who worked in Sierra Leone and Cambodia and has worked as a tactical intelligence operative for the Victoria Police sexual crimes squad, came on board and quickly had his involvement at head office widened.

37 comments

  • If these claims of "turning cameras off and on" and threats of harassment/intimidating are found to be true, then the AFL has no choice but to scrap this investigation.
    It seems the integrity of the AFL is being questioned not by the likes of the MFC or the AFC, but by it's own investigators.
    Will be interesting to hear Andrew's and Adrian's opinion on this one.

    Commenter
    Lafayette
    Date and time
    November 13, 2012, 12:45AM
    • Agreed, if the AFL are using these types of tactics, then they have little integirty themselves. Talk about double standards. Melbourne are probably guilty, as are some other clubs, but the AFL making threats to induce confessions, that is pretty dodgy.

      Who holds the AFL to account?

      Commenter
      Rod
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 9:12AM
    • Why are you questioning the integrity of the AFL investigators? they're just reminding these employees that fall under AFL rules and regulations that if they do not HONESTLY comply, that it will be a breach of their employment terms and conditions, that’s just laying down the facts. They are not coercing them do or say anything that’s not true!!

      Commenter
      Dan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 10:57AM
    • Its all smoke and mirrors.

      The integrity of this club has been called into question by exploiting a rule designed to help clubs build to becoming competitive in the hope of winning a premiership through good coaching young hopefuls and administration. The priority pick was not designed for clubs to be able to aim for it over a number of seasons through poor management of players and coaches in the hope of building a super team.

      This story is a vein attempt to turn the blow torch onto the AFL in the hope that it lessens the blow for the Demons.

      But now teams who legitimately fall to the bottom of the ladder will not have the same opportunity that the Demons have enjoyed to assist in any rebuild.

      Commenter
      PeeRod
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 12:51PM
    • Please. Melbourne officials are upset that they're reminded to tell the truth, reminded of the implications of lying, and are concerned about repeated interviews? If they had nothing to hide, they would be telling the truth in the first place, and not changing their story. And repeated interviews is a basic tactic to look for changes in answers. This is basic stuff, and the MFC are crying like school kids. Harden up, co-operate with the investigation, cop your whack and move on MFC - nobody blames you for tanking, but you did it. Suck it up.

      Commenter
      Marshy
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 12:59PM
    • And all of this is based on a game that Melbourne LED when the final siren blew...

      Commenter
      Kinross22
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 10:12PM
  • the "vault" is a tin shed? no wonder they got found out.

    Commenter
    spaceben
    Location
    the moon
    Date and time
    November 13, 2012, 7:18AM
    • If Stynes knew about this and accepted it then his legacy is irretrievably ruined. It would be inappropriate to continue to offer an award in his name.

      Commenter
      hmmm
      Date and time
      November 13, 2012, 8:06AM
      • Yeah, they honour Ted Whitten too, of course he only hit people. Get some perspective hmmm.

        Commenter
        flog
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 9:03AM
      • @Flog
        You refer to Whitten's aggression ...and compare it to systematic tanking in order to manipulate the draft.... and then you ask me to develop some perspective?
        I am glad that irony is not fatal.

        Commenter
        hmmm
        Date and time
        November 13, 2012, 10:27AM

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