AFL Tribunal

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AFL Tribunal
JurisdictionAustralian Football League
Composition methodTribunal
Appeals toAppeals Board

The AFL Tribunal is the disciplinary tribunal of the Australian Football League (AFL), an Australian rules football competition. The Tribunal regulates the conduct of players, umpires, and other officials associated with the AFL and its clubs.

Points system[edit]

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.[1]

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:

Manner of action Points
Intentional 3
Reckless 2
Negligent 1
Accidental or Incidental Charge Rejected
Degree of impact Points
Severe 4
High 3
Medium 2
Low 1
Negligible Charge Rejected
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 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. 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 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); this is doubled for a Grand Final offence
  • Loading (for poor record)
  • Good Record Deduction
  • Early Guilty Plea Deduction

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

Grand Final penalties[edit]

Any reportable offence that occurs during a Grand Final match will receive a double penalty: the offence's original base score as determined by the Match Review Panel is doubled after the additions and deductions previously mentioned. This loading is meant to discourage excessively rough or violent play, as any penalties given as a result would not apply until the following season.

This was instituted as a result of fighting in the 2004 AFL Grand Final between Alastair Lynch and Darryl Wakelin, and several brawls during the match, which resulted in the Tribunal handing down stiff penalties - Lynch was suspended for ten matches and fined $15,000 - and adding the double penalty rule.

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]


Since 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 16 weeks or more 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 75% of their original length (e.g. a previous suspension of four weeks will only count as three weeks under this policy), but any immediate suspension is to be considered at its full length. If any player receives an immediate first suspension of 16 weeks or more, 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 after 12 months. However, only one request can be made. Should a player be exempted and re-registered, any further suspension will result in permanent, irrevocable deregistration.[3]

Deregistration is only practiced in country and suburban football competitions; it is not practiced by the AFL as of 2019,[4] as the deregistration policy was designed for serial aggressive offenders, not low-level repeat offenders: in the event, the AFL has not had been a repeat offender issue at AFL level (where a player has been receiving repeated lengthy suspensions for repeated behind-the-play offences) since the mid-1990s.[5]


AFL Tribunal[edit]

AFL Appeals Board[edit]

AFL Grievance Tribunal[edit]

AFL Match Review Panel[edit]


Since the overhaul, the heaviest suspension for a single offence has been eight weeks, handed out to Fremantle's Dean Solomon for elbowing Geelong's Cameron Ling in round 15 of the 2008 season, and to West Coast's Andrew Gaff for striking Fremantle's Andrew Brayshaw in round 20 of the 2018 season.[7]

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).[8]

The longest suspension was handed out in June 2010, St Kilda's Steven Baker was suspended for a total of nine weeks after he pleaded guilty to three striking charges and was found guilty of a misconduct charge, all against Geelong's Steve Johnson.[9] He was the first person to be charged with misconduct for interfering with an injured opponent.[10]

In May 2014, Melbourne midfielder Jack Viney was sent straight to the tribunal following a bump which resulted in Adelaide forward Tom Lynch breaking his jaw.[11][12] Viney was found guilty of rough conduct by the tribunal, and suspended for two matches, after it was ruled that he had alternate options rather than elect to bump Lynch.[13] Melbourne subsequently appealed the suspension,[14] which was overturned,[15] making it just the second time since 2005 that an appeal against the AFL Tribunal's ruling was overruled.[16]

In June 2017, the AFL challenged the tribunal's verdict for the first time in history, following an off-the-ball incident involving Richmond player Bachar Houli and Carlton's Jed Lamb: Houli was originally given a two-week suspension for striking Lamb during the first quarter of the Round 14 match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Houli was reported for the incident, which saw Lamb sit out the remainder of the match, and sent straight to the tribunal the following day. When his case went before the tribunal that week, he was given the two-week suspension, but part of the reason the penalty was low was due to character reference statements given by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and media personality Waleed Aly. Following an announcement of the penalty, there was a public outcry about the length of the suspension. The following day the AFL announced they would challenge the decision, and the matter would be heard in front of the appeals tribunal. Following an extensive review hearing, Houli's suspension was doubled from two weeks to four weeks.

In June 2018, Greater Western Sydney player Jeremy Cameron became the first player in AFL history to be referred directly to the tribunal more than once in his career, where he was found guilty of striking Brisbane Lions player Harris Andrews and suspended for five matches.[17][18] He had previously been sent straight to the tribunal after breaking Rhys Mathieson's jaw during a pre-season match in 2016, for which he was suspended for four matches.[19]

In February 2019, Greater Western Sydney player Nicola Barr became the first player in AFL Women's history to be referred directly to the AFLW Tribunal, where she was found guilty of rough conduct against North Melbourne's Ashleigh Riddell and suspended for one match.[20][21]


VFL/AFL records[edit]

Longest suspension
Qualification - 20 matches

Player /
Charges Season Matches
Club Notes
Stephen Dank 34 x Doping 2016 Life Essendon [22]
Doug Fraser Bribery 1910 99 Carlton
Alex Lang Bribery 1910 99 Carlton
Fred Rutley 2 × kicking, 3 × striking and melee involvement 1925 89 North Melbourne 1
Bill Burns Kicking 1909 46 Richmond 1
George Topping Striking 1910 35 Carlton
Bert Franks Abusing and threatening an umpire 1910 33 South Melbourne 1
Tommy Downs Kicking 1931 29 Carlton
Percy Sheehan Striking and melee involvement 1910 28 Carlton
Jack Shorten Striking and melee involvement 1910 28 Collingwood
Elijah Taylor Breach of AFL COVID protocols and bringing the game into disrepute 2020 and 2021 27 Sydney/none 2
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 22 none 3
Jaidyn Stephenson Gambling on AFL matches 2019 22 Collingwood 4
Tom Baxter Striking and melee involvement 1910 21 Collingwood 5
Ted Whitfield Attempting to strike an umpire, abusing an umpire and 2 × misconduct 1945 21 South Melbourne
Dick Condon Sustained abuse of umpire 1900 20 Collingwood 1
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 Prior to 1926, some players found guilty of serious offences were given a lifetime suspension, but in each case the penalty was later commuted.
2 Taylor was suspended for the rest of the 2020 season (five matches) for violating the AFL's COVID protocols. During this suspension, he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend by police. Taylor pleaded guilty to the charges and was suspended for all of 2021; since Sydney had deregistered him prior to his second suspension, Taylor was not officially listed as a player at the time of his second suspension.
3 Cousins was suspended for a period of twelve months for "bringing the game into disrepute", equating to 22 matches. His former 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.
4 Stephenson's suspension was backdated, and he thus only missed ten matches, having been provisionally suspended.
5 Baxter was later exonerated on appeal due to mistaken identity.

Not listed above[edit]

One noteworthy suspension imposed by the VFL/AFL Tribunal was against John Bourke of the Collingwood Reserves.

In an outburst broadcast on Australian television on 28 April 1985, Bourke kicked Sydney Swans Reserves ruckman Patrick Foy in the groin in response to Foy tagging him throughout the game. When umpire Phil Waight attempted to order Bourke off for the incident, Bourke shoved Waight to the ground and kicked him, struck the Collingwood runner, and then jumped into the stands to attack a Swans fan. Bourke was suspended for 10 years plus 16 matches (240 matches total), which was commuted in 1992 to seven years (157 matches).

While this suspension is not listed above (because he was not a member of a senior team), it remains one of the most infamous suspensions in the modern history of the sport, and was covered by Australian media for some time afterward.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "AFL Tribunal 2011 Guidebook" (PDF). Australian Football League. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-29.
  2. ^ "The Supreme Court Hearing". Archived from the original on 19 February 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  3. ^ "AFL National Deregistration Policy, May 2011". Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  4. ^ Warner, Michael. "AFL says it has no plans to implement a life ban as used in local footy". Herald Sun. News Corporation. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  5. ^ Warner, Michael. "AFL says it has no plans to implement a life ban as used in local footy". Herald Sun. News Corporation. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  6. ^ "One-man MRP in sweeping changes for 2018". Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  7. ^ Beveridge, Riley (7 August 2018). "Tribunal hands down Gaff verdict". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Steven Baker suspended for seven weeks". Herald Sun. 21 August 2007.
  9. ^ Paton, Al (29 June 2010) St Kilda's Steven Baker rubbed out for nine weeks after misconduct appeal fails at tribunal; Herald Sun
  10. ^ Matthews, Bruce (29 June 2010) Saint Nick's rule traps Steven Baker; Herald Sun
  11. ^ Guthrie, Ben; McNicol, Adam (6 May 2014). "Viney sent straight to Tribunal as Deledio contests his charge". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  12. ^ Robinson, Mark; Edmund, Sam (5 May 2014). "Jack Viney faces the tribunal for his bump on Tom Lynch but should he be suspended?". Herald Sun. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  13. ^ Scmook, Nathan (6 May 2014). "Past, present players outraged as Tribunal hits Jack Viney with two-game suspension". Bigpond. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  14. ^ Faulkner, Andrew (7 May 2014). "Melbourne to appeal AFL tribunal's suspension of Jack Viney". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  15. ^ Windley, Matt (9 May 2014). "Young gun Jack Viney free to play after AFL Appeals Board rules in favour of Melbourne". Herald Sun. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  16. ^ Australian Associated Press (8 May 2014). "Melbourne Demons midfielder Jack Viney beats controversial AFL ban". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  17. ^ "No Jezza, no worries for the Giants". The Roar. 29 July 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  18. ^ Ramsey, Michael (6 August 2018). "Gaff could face biggest AFL ban in years". The Courier. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Brisbane won't hold any grudges towards Jeremy Cameron after errant elbow on Harris Andrews". 26 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  20. ^ Black, Sarah (11 February 2019). "Giant sent straight to Tribunal for off-the-ball bump". AFL Women's. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  21. ^ Black, Sarah (12 February 2019). "Giant to miss Blues clash after ban for bump". AFL Women's. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  22. ^ Connolly, Rohan (28 November 2016). "AFL throws out Stephen Dank appeal, ASADA goes whack". The Age. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  23. ^ john bourke (collingwood) hits umpire - his story on YouTube

External links[edit]