Essendon chairman David Evans could potentially be the only key member of the club's hierarchy to survive if the Bombers are found to have breached anti-doping rules, an expert on corporate governance says.
Brendan O'Connell, from Melbourne's RMIT University, says everyone at the club who has had a "hands on" involvement in the current supplement controversy could be culpable.
Professor O'Connell says coach James Hird and senior assistant Mark Thompson, along with other key management, would have clauses in their contracts relating to bringing the club into disrepute.
He says all those with a direct involvement in the supplement program overseen by Stephen Dank would be responsible if any charges arose out of an investigation of Essendon by the AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
"Whether or not the investigations prove that illegal substances were taken, we have to recognise that what has seemingly occurred there is some fairly unorthodox practices that have certainly pushed the envelope to the maximum at the very least," O'Connell told SEN.
He said it may be possible that Essendon has breached its duty of care to its players in terms of their workplace health and safety by exposing them potentially to "cutting edge" drugs that may not be well-tested.
O'Connell said Hird and others including chief executive Ian Robson could be culpable in a way that Evans and the club board were not.
"The people that are responsible for the day-to-day operations of an organisation are essentially the chief executive officer, the football manager and the coach," O'Connell said.
"They are the ones who deal with operational matters and the players directly."
He said that the controversy had already brought the club into a degree of disrepute.
"The contract of employment of people like the CEO and the coach – just like the players – would have a clause in there about not bringing the club into disrepute.
"Just as a player might play up and get into trouble and cause a controversy, something like this is a little akin to that."
Dank claims he did not inject any Essendon player with a prohibited substance and said Hird was aware of the program the club had in place for its players.
He also said he would be surprised if the players were unaware of what supplements they were taking because they were fully briefed.
Dank said any peptides given to players were "very, very legal" under the WADA code.