James Hird was reportedly offered an opportunity for career advancement, including overseas travel, and a secure place in the AFL Hall of Fame, as part of a deal between the AFL and Essendon over his role in the supplements scandal.
As previously revealed by Fairfax Media columnist Roy Masters, Australian Sports Commission chairman John Wylie played a ''Henry Kissinger'' role when negotiations over sanctions broke down between the AFL's deputy chief Gillon McLachlan, the Bombers and Hird.
Andrew Demetriou: No deal done, but negotiations took place. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Masters reported then that AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick drafted Wylie when talks began badly, with Essendon chairman Paul Little viewing the AFL's proposed penalties as an ambit claim.
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has denied Hird is on a "paid holiday".
"There's no deal... The deal is what was announced on the day (of the AFL Commission Meeting). There were ongoing negotiations… He’s not on full pay. It is suspension without pay. He is not being paid by the Essendon Football Club," Demetriou told 3AW Wednesday morning.
Bombers coach James Hird vowed to take the AFL to court before accepting a 12-month suspension. Photo: Getty Images
He said the AFL Commission was not privy to discussions between Essendon chairman Paul Little and the Australian Sports Commission's John Wylie, and he and the Commission were unaware of any payments by third parties to Hird.
"There was no deals done, there were no inducements offered by the AFL. The agreement was reached on the day of the commission meeting."
Demetriou admitted there were discussions between Wylie and Little before the AFL Commission hearing into the supplements scandal, but disputed details in News Limited reports published overnight.
"There are always negotiations before any hearing..." Demetriou said.
He admitted that AFL employees, including Gillon McLachlan, had discussions with Essendon and Hird before the AFL Commission hearing, but insisted he had no knowledge of the substance of such meetings.
News Corp reports are alleging that sweeteners were offered to Hird to accept a 12-month suspension from coaching and drop a Supreme Court action against the AFL.
According to the reports Wylie on August 23 sent an email to Little outlining the terms around a 12-month suspension for Hird from all coaching duties.
''To the best of the AFL's knowledge and belief, Hird did not promote or encourage an unethical environment within the club; Hird has not brought the game into disrepute,'' Wylie reportedly wrote in the email.
He said Hird was to take responsibility for ''inadequate governance and oversight'' that gave rise to the situation.
''In the totality of the circumstances, the AFL will impose, and Hird will accept, a 12-month suspension from all coaching duties.''
In a separate document given to Hird, during talks with Wylie and Little, he is reputedly offered ''an outstanding career development opportunity'' if he drops legal action against the AFL, including a trip to Oxford University. Mr Wylie had previously captained the university's rugby team.
Essendon were ultimately fined $2 million and missed the AFL finals as punishment.
Demetriou denied the AFL or Essendon had contributed to any of the cost associated with the $120,000 MBA Studies it is claimed Hird has just completed in France.
It is reported that Hird independently applied to attend an exclusive business school, INSEAD, 55 kilometres south-east of Paris. INSEAD is said to be one of the world’s most elite business schools and is found in scenic Fontainebleau, a favourite weekend getaway for Parisians. Hird is reported to have passed an entrance exam in Singapore in order to study there.
The league chief said the AFL Coaches Association was supporting Hird during his 12-month suspension and part of that support is a financial contribution to study that all coaches receive, however Demetriou claimed he did not know the exact figure involved.
The AFL has sent a letter to all clubs clarifying elements of the reports that appeared overnight. Read more.
Demetriou said he had no intention of encouraging McLachlan or Wylie to make public their discussions with Hird or club officials leading up to the announcement of the penalties.
And he strongly denied that assurances that Essendon players would avoid receiving infraction notices from ASADA formed part any "deal" to induce Hird and the club to agree to the sanctions.
"It is absolutely absurd to suggest that the AFL said to someone 'offer up no sanctions against Essendon players'," Demetriou said.
"It’s not even within our remit, that’s an issue for ASADA. I’ve got no idea where that would have come from."
"What the public should know is that we were absolutely true to our process, that we said there was no predetermined outcome and that we would hear the matter on the day,’’ Demetriou said.
"We had absolutely no fear, no hesitation in this matter being taken to court.
"I had no fear about me being taken to court."
The AFL also handed down punishments to assistant coach Mark Thompson and football manager Danny Corcoran, while a settlement was negotiated with club doctor Bruce Reid.Thompson was fined and is coaching the Bombers during Hird’s suspension.
- with AAP, Will Brodie and Matt Murnane