Hird 'terribly disappointed' over charges
Essendon coach James Hird says the club will be vigorously defending itself against charges laid by the AFL for bringing to code into disrepute.PT1M23S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rw58 620 349 August 14, 2013
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The hearing into Essendon, its coach James Hird and three officials for bringing the game into disrepute should be conducted before an independent panel, otherwise the AFL Commission would be opening itself up to a perception of a conflict of interest and legal appeals, a leading Melbourne sports lawyer has said.
Ian Fullagar, a partner at Landers and Rogers, said Essendon could seek an injunction to delay proceedings if the AFL Commission continues with its plan to hear the matter against the Bombers as well as Hird, Mark Thompson, Dr Bruce Reid and Danny Corcoran for their roles in overseeing the club's controversial supplements program.
James Hird reiterates his determination to fight for his reputation as he leaves his Toorak Wednesday morning. Photo: Ken Irwin
"I don't believe the AFL commission can hear it without being exposed to perceptions of conflict of interest and if they continued you would then seek to enjoin the AFL to have the matter heard by an independent body," Fullagar told Jon Faine on ABC774.
"The charges are going to proceed there’s no doubt about that, any deal that was going to be done is long past.
"Essendon should be seeking to have it heard before an independent party. Just the perception of the AFL Commission hearing the matter doesn’t sit well for me after months and months in which they would have been monitoring this very closely and receiving regular reports on it.
"If I was advising Essendon I’d say we could have a good point here that there is at least a perception of bias or perception of conflict of interest in the AFL commission hearing this.
"In our time of advising sporting bodies we’ve always taken such decisions out of the hands of the governing bodies of the sports and put them into independent hearing bodies to deal with, to protect the directors if nothing else from such allegations and putting them in difficult positions."
Fullagar said the panel should be made up of "intelligent legal minds from outside Victoria ideally (who) haven’t been exposed to the front and back page daily media bombardment this matter has been generating for several months".
"The AFL would (then) be free to prosecute the charges and the panel would be given the power to issue whatever sanction it may want to issue if the charges are found proven."
Fullagar said while the definition of the charge of bringing the game into disrepute was "quite a grey area", Essendon and its officials could not simply argue that they had done nothing wrong because players had not been charged after the ASADA interim report.
"The club has a whole range of employer obligations to its players and workplace health and safety obligations, it’s an occupier of land, so there’s a few broader duties that the club and its key officials owe to its personnel than saying 'they didn’t get charges so we’re not responsible'," he said.