Free agency was a disaster that had slaughtered equalisation and creating a two-tier AFL where the strong clubs preyed on the weak according to Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane.
The AFL needed to fix compensation for clubs losing players as the gap between strong and weak clubs was widening and turning the AFL into a version of the English Premier League.
"We say we have equalisation in play when really you do not at all because free agency slaughters that and the draft system is slaughtered by it," Cochrane said.
"You cannot say to people you have competitive balance and equalisation and then have this system that lets players go from weaker clubs to the strong.
"Either be honest and say it's a free for all and everyone have a crack or have an equalisation system. Just be honest do you want a free for all free agency or do you want equalisation? Because you have neither at the moment and it's a disaster.
"The only free agents who walk now are free agents who leave lower clubs and go to stronger clubs."
His comments come with his club's co-captain Tom Lynch a free agent yet to re-commit to the club. On Monday night Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said his club was keen on Lynch and he had personally met with the player. Richmond and Hawthorn are also eager to secure the full forward.
Cochrane would not speak about the Buckley meeting with Lynch or about his captain's contract status but said he was frustrated with the state of free agency in general.
"I am not about talking about any one free agent I am about raising attention that if they continue with this it's going to be a massive long term problem for the AFL," he said.
"Look at the bottom four of the last five years it is the same culprits, the same names cropping up.
"You have to give people hope, you don't give them hope if you give them draft picks and they then just leave as free agents to stronger clubs.
"It's a real problem and if you don't address it long term you will turn it into the EPL and then the media rights will go down because broadcasters will say we only want five games a weekend and we won't have the other four and they will be pushed off to other platforms. The money for the broadcast rights will go down and ultimately it effects every club the strong and the poor.
"It's in the long term interests of the AFL to find a solution."
Cochrane said it was too late to abandon free agency now because the players would not tolerate that but the mechanisms around compensating clubs for losing players needed to be changed.
"The horse has bolted, you clearly cannot change free agency and get rid of it because the Players Association have got it and won't let it go but the AFL have to find a better way to compensate clubs for losing players," he said.
Cochrane said he had raised the matter at Commission level and with other club presidents and had a receptive hearing.
He did not champion one particular change but said all compensation measures needed to be considered.
"Free agency will eventually turn the AFL into the English Premier League with the same four or five clubs at the bottom and the same four or five at the top. It is rewarding the strong clubs and punishing the poor.
"We have been playing by the Marquess of Queensberry's rules but if you won't then I can be Robin Hood and start taking from the rich and giving to the poor."
He said the system now where the recipient club does not lose a draft pick when they get a free agent but a new pick enters the draft to compensate the club that is losing a player only served to punish the rest of the competition by moving them a place back in the draft order.
Michael Gleeson is a senior AFL football writer and Fairfax Media's athletics writer. He also covers tennis, cricket and other sports. He won the AFL Players Association Grant Hattam Trophy for excellence in journalism for the second time in 2014 and was a finalist in the 2014 Quill Awards for best sports feature writer. He was also a finalist in the 2014 Australian Sports Commission awards for his work on ‘Boots for Kids’. He is a winner of the AFL Media Association award for best news reporter and a two-time winner of Cricket Victoria’s cricket writer of the year award. Michael has covered multiple Olympics, Commonwealth Games and world championships and 15 seasons of AFL, He has also written seven books - five sports books and two true crime books.