You poach, you pay
Melbourne coach Mark Neeld. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
AFL clubs will face six-figure fines for poaching opposition coaches under a radical new scheme supported by some of the most influential club bosses in the game.
A working party, established to put some ''integrity'' - according to league boss Andrew Demetriou - into the increasingly hectic coaching movement between clubs, met for the first time three days ago.
The party, which included Collingwood and Hawthorn chief executives Gary Pert and Stuart Fox, along with AFL integrity officer Brett Clothier, found that some recent coaching moves not only lacked morality but involved illegal and underhand behaviour.
Under the proposed scheme, which already operates in the English Premier League, Melbourne would have been forced to pay Collingwood the equivalent of Mark Neeld's 2011 pay packet for approaching and signing the Magpies' assistant coach as its head coach before the end of Collingwood's 2011 campaign.
That penalty is one of a range of schemes being debated, with the party having established that the competition must work to prevent the practice of coaches not only breaking contracts but also removing valuable and confidential information from their clubs during the season.
Demetriou told The Age he had supported Pert's push to regulate the coaching industry. ''Gary Pert wants us to look at a way of establishing the integrity of a contract,'' he said. ''Are we mature enough as a code to get to a situation where we don't have coaches breaking contracts and leaving clubs before their season is finished? I think that's a concern.''
Joining Pert, Fox and Clothier are AFL Coaches Association boss Danny Frawley and his No. 2, Paul Armstrong, club football bosses Neil Balme (Geelong) and Peter Rohde (Port Adelaide) - both former senior coaches - and football agents Craig Kelly and Daniel Richardson. The party plans to put a recommendation to the clubs before the end of the season.
It is understood that at least one assistant coach during last year's finals downloaded key strategic, tactical and intellectual property from his club as he prepared his presentation for a senior coaching position elsewhere.
Pert, along with several Collingwood senior players, remains unhappy with the scenario that unfolded less than a fortnight before the grand final, in which Melbourne signed Neeld. Pert said earlier this year that supporters were entitled to expect crucial senior employees remained at their contracted clubs until the season had finished.
Geelong chief executive Brian Cook - who lost Brenton Sanderson to Adelaide just days before the grand final - told The Age last month that his recent experiences had taught him that coaches' contracts were meaningless.
Pert said yesterday the fact that the issue was a difficult one to resolve should not stop the industry from trying to fix or at least improve it.
''This is not a Collingwood problem, this is an industry problem,'' he said. ''In general terms, a large percentage of the industry understands there's issues, but what you have at the end of each year is half the clubs under pressure to find a new coach and the other half wanting stability. We need to find a better way because the situation changes from year to year.''
The working party will also strive to prevent clubs from poaching contracted assistants and placing them in positions of similar seniority but changing job descriptions to justify the breaking of a contract.
Yesterday's meeting of the 18 club coaches were given an outline of the move to regulate the industry when addressed by Frawley and AFL football boss Adrian Anderson.
Anderson, flanked by AFL medical officers Harry Unglik and Hugh Seward also addressed the coaches in a bid to emphasise the seniority of club doctors over high-performance experts.