AFL Tribunal

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The AFL Tribunal is the disciplinary tribunal of the Australian Football League (an Australian rules football competition).

Points system[edit]

Source: AFL Tribunal 2011 Guidebook [1] Prior to 2005, any player who was reported would face a hearing at the AFL Tribunal. This process had become problematic, and in 2005, a new system (similar to that used by the NRL Judiciary at the time) was adopted. The changes were primarily made to reduce the number of tribunal hearings, and to improve the consistency of penalties.

The current tribunal process is as follows:

Match Review Panel[edit]

On-field umpires and certain off-field observers can report players for incidents which occur during games. On the Monday after the round of football, each incident is then reviewed by the Match Review Panel, a small panel of former players and umpires. Within the review, the Match Review Panel grades the severity of the incident in three factors, and awards activation points depending upon the severity. The three factors are:

Conduct
Manner of action Points
Intentional 3
Reckless 2
Negligent 1
Accidental or Incidental Charge Rejected
Impact
Degree of impact Points
Severe 4
High 3
Medium 2
Low 1
Negligible Charge Rejected
Contact
Point of impact Points
Head or Groin 2
Elsewhere on Body 1


The activation points from all three categories are added together to give the total activation points for the incident. It is important to note that an incident involving accidental/incidental conduct, or negligible impact, will be rejected and the player will receive no penalty, even if the activation points in the other categories are high. Because of this, any offence must rate at least three activation points to be considered further.

Next, activation points are converted into an offence level:

Activation Points 3-4 5 6 7 8 9
Offence Level 1 2 3 4 5 Ungraded

Next, the player is given a number of base demerit points, based on the type and level of his offence. The base demerit point totals are standardised in the Table of Offences. As an example, any player charged by the Match Review Panel with a Level 4 Kicking offence receives 550 base demerit points. This is where the Match Review Panel's role in the Tribunal process ends.

Player response[edit]

Following the Match Review Panel's findings, a player's base points are subjected to a series of additions and deductions (which are described in the next section) to arrive at a number of total demerit points. Each 100 total demerit points that a player finishes with then corresponds to a suspension for one match; e.g. a player who finished with 225 demerit points will receive a two-match suspension. If a player finishes with fewer than 100 demerit points, he is not suspended, but receives what is known as a reprimand.

Because the penalty is standardised and pre-announced by the Match Review Panel, the player has the option to plead guilty to the charge and receive his penalty without the need to attend a Tribunal hearing; he receives a deduction for doing this (see next section). Alternatively, a player may choose to appeal the findings of the Match Review Panel, and attend a Tribunal hearing to argue the case. Players may appeal to try to have their entire charge withdrawn, or may argue for a reduction in one of the three factors; e.g. a player could try to have the conduct factor reduced from reckless to negligent. Should a player successfully reduce the severity of his infraction, the penalty is re-evaluated and the player is again given the choice to plead guilty or further contest the revised charge.

If an incident is ungraded (i.e. has nine activation points), the player is required to attend a tribunal hearing.

Residuals, additions and deductions[edit]

Residuals (also called carry-over points) are any points a player may still have below the 100 required for a suspension. For every 100 points accrued, the player is suspended one week and the 100 points are subtracted; e.g., a player with 225 demerit points is suspended for two weeks; 200 points are correspondingly subtracted, and the remaining 25 are residual points; or, if a player receives a reprimand with 93.75 points, all of these points are residual as they are not enough to draw a suspension. Residual points from a previous offence will be added to the base demerit points of the player's next offence if it occurs within one year; a player's residual points are cancelled if a year elapses without a punishable offence.

A player with prior suspensions over the past two years is subject to an additional penalty known as loading. For each week in excess of two that a player has been suspended over the past two years, he receives an additional penalty of 10% of the current offence's original base score, up to a maximum penalty of 50%; e.g. a player suspended for three matches will receive a 10% loading, while one suspended for seven matches will receive a 50% loading. (Prior to 2013, the relevant period was three years, and loading began with the first match suspended.)

Any player with more than six years (increased in 2013, previously five years) experience who has not been found guilty of a punishable offence over the previous five years receives a 25% deduction.

Any reportable offence that occurs during a Grand Final match will receive an addition called the double penalty: equal to the offence's original base score as determined by the Match Review Panel. This addition is applied after the additions and deductions previously mentioned. This loading is meant to discourage excessively rough play encouraged because any penalties given as a result would not apply until the following season. A rough fight in the 2004 AFL Grand Final between Alastair Lynch and Darryl Wakelin resulted in the Tribunal handing down stiff penalties and adding the double penalty rule.

Finally, players will receive a 25% deduction by accepting the Match Review Panel's finding without contest; this is typically known as an early guilty plea. As a result of this rule, players are often faced with the option of accepting a shorter suspension with an early plea, or contesting the charge and risking a longer suspension if unsuccessful. Note that if a player contests the match review panel's assessment at the Tribunal, and successfully has the number of base demerit points changed, the penalty is re-evaluated, meaning the player, in spite of attending a hearing, can still take an early guilty plea on the revised charge.

The final offence score is thus calculated from this series of discrete steps:

  • Residual (from prior offence(s))
  • Base Score (from Match Review Panel)
  • Loading (for poor record)
  • Good Record Deduction
  • Double Penalty (for a Grand Final offence)
  • Early Guilty Plea Deduction

Each addition or deduction is made to the final result of the previous calculation step.

Offences attracting financial penalties[edit]

The Match Review Panel also assesses a variety of offences for which players are fined but not suspended, including wrestling, negligent contact with an umpire, making an obscene gesture, etc. As for physical offences, there is a standardised table of penalties, which depend upon the nature of the offence, and any prior similar offences; e.g. a player's second wrestling offence attracts double the penalty of his first. As for physical offences, a player can accept his penalty with an early guilty plea, receiving a 25% reduction in his fine, or he may contest it and risk the full penalty.

Appeals Board[edit]

If a player wishes to appeal against a decision handed down in a tribunal hearing, he may take his case to the AFL Appeals Board. The board will re-hear the case, with a different set of panel members, and may uphold or change the Tribunal's original decision. The Appeals Board was established in 1998 following a recommendation from Justice John Hedigan of the Supreme Court of Victoria, after several tribunal findings were appealed through the Victorian court system during the mid-1990s.[2]

Deregistration[edit]

As of May 2011, under the official AFL Deregistration Policy, any player who accumulates a total of at least 10 weeks of suspensions over the course of his football career (both inside and outside the AFL) receives a formal notice that further suspensions can result in his automatic deregistration from the league. Any player who accumulates a total of at least 16 weeks of suspensions over the course of his career will be automatically deregistered from the AFL and barred from any further participation. Any previous suspensions within the AFL are carried over at only half their original length (e.g. a previous suspension of four weeks will only count as two weeks under this policy), but any immediate suspension is to be considered at its full length. If a player receives an immediate first suspension of at least 16 weeks, deregistration is left to the discretion of the League.

A deregistered player may apply for an exemption to re-register or appeal the deregistration under the appropriate laws of the league. However, only one request can be made. Should a player be exempted and re-registered, any further suspension will result in permanent, irrevocable deregistation.[3]

Administration[edit]

AFL Tribunal[edit]

AFL Appeals Board[edit]

AFL Grievance Tribunal[edit]

AFL Match Review Panel[edit]

Chairman
Mark Fraser[4]
Members
Peter Carey; Paul Broderick
Former Members
Andrew McKay (chairman) (2007–2010)

History[edit]

Since the overhaul, the heaviest suspension for a single offence has been an eight-week suspension handed out to Fremantle's Dean Solomon for elbowing Geelong's Cameron Ling in round 15 of the 2008 season.

In Round 4, 2008 Barry Hall of the Sydney Swans was suspended for seven matches after striking West Coast's Brent Staker. In 2007, Steven Baker of St Kilda was suspended for seven matches for rough conduct on Jeff Farmer (although the base suspension was only four weeks, with residual points and a significant loading due to his poor record his penalty increased to seven).[5]

In June 2010, St Kilda's Steven Baker was suspended for a total of nine weeks after he pled guilty to three striking charges and was found guilty of a misconduct charge, all against Geelong's Steve Johnson.[6] He was the first person to be charged with misconduct for interfering with an injured opponent.[7]

Suspensions[edit]

VFL/AFL records[edit]

Longest suspension
Qualification - 20 matches

Player Charges Season Matches suspended Club
Doug Fraser Bribery 1910 99 Carlton
Alex Lang Bribery 1910 99 Carlton
Fred Rutley 2 × Kicking, 3 × Striking, Melee involvement 1925 892 North Melbourne
Bill Burns Kicking 1909 462 Richmond
George Topping Striking 1910 35 Carlton
Bert Franks Abusing and threatening umpire 1910 332 South Melbourne
Tommy Downs Kicking 1931 29 Carlton
Percy Sheehan Striking and melee involvement 1910 28 Carlton
Jack Shorten Striking and melee involvement 1910 28 Collingwood
Arthur Coghlan Striking and melee involvement 1925 26 Geelong
Stan Thomas Elbowing, striking and melee involvement 1925 26 Geelong
Dan Keily Sustained abuse of umpire 1917 24 Carlton
Arthur Ford Abusing and threatening umpire 1910 23 Carlton
Wally Warden Kicking 1928 22 Footscray
Ben Cousins Bringing the game into disrepute 2007 223 n/a3
Tom Baxter Striking and melee involvement 1910 211 Collingwood
Ted Whitfield Attempting to strike umpire, Abusing umpire, 2 × Misconduct 1945 21 South Melbourne
Dick Condon Sustained abuse of umpire 1900 202 Collingwood
Billy Gent 3 × Striking 1904 20 South Melbourne
George Holden Striking 1911 20 Fitzroy
Peter Reville 3 × striking 1934 20 South Melbourne
Phil Carman Striking and headbutting umpire 1980 20 Essendon
Chris Appleton Gambling on AFL matches 2010 20 Goal umpire
Wayne Siekman Gambling on AFL matches 2010 20 Interchange steward
John Wise Gambling on AFL matches 2010 20 Interchange steward

1 Baxter was later exonerated on appeal due to mistaken identity.
2 Prior to 1926, some players found guilty of serious offences were given a lifetime suspension, but in each case the penalty was later commuted.
3 Cousins was suspended for a period of twelve months for "bringing the game into disrepute", equating to 22 matches. His old club, West Coast, had deregistered him prior to his suspension, meaning he was not officially listed as a player at the time of his suspension.

One noteworthy suspension administered by the VFL Tribunal was that of John Bourke of the Collingwood Reserves team. In an infamous outburst broadcast on Australian television on 4 May 1985, he kicked a Sydney Swan in the groin. When the umpire attempted to send him off, he knocked the umpire to the ground, shoved several other officials including his team's runner, and then jumped into the stands to attack a spectator. The Tribunal ruled he was to be disqualified for seven years (commuted from ten-plus). This suspension is not listed because he was not a member of a Senior team, but it remains one of the most infamous suspensions in the modern history of the sport.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://mm.afl.com.au/Portals/0/afl_docs/Development/AFL%20Tribunal%20Booklet%202011-1.pdf
  2. ^ "The Supreme Court Hearing". Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "AFL National Deregistration Policy, May 2011". Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  4. ^ http://www.couriermail.com.au/sport/afl/mark-fraser-to-head-match-review-panel/story-e6frepf6-1225834894299
  5. ^ "Steven Baker suspended for seven weeks". Herald Sun. 21 August 2007. 
  6. ^ Paton, Al (29 June 2010) St Kilda's Steven Baker rubbed out for nine weeks after misconduct appeal fails at tribunal; Herald Sun
  7. ^ Matthews, Bruce (29 June 2010) Saint Nick's rule traps Steven Baker; Herald Sun