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AFL chiefs' resolve may be too late to keep B -

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TIM PALMER: As the Essendon Bombers doping scandal continues to dominate coverage of the AFL, its rival clubs are stepping up the pressure for the Bombers to resolve the conflict in-house.

But a sports law expert says that horse has bolted. The matter now seems destined for the courts after Bombers coach James Hird lodged a writ in the Supreme Court, challenging the integrity of the AFL's judicial system.

Simon Lauder reports from Melbourne.

SIMON LAUDER: With the AFL laying bare its case against Essendon for bringing the game into disrepute and Bombers coach James Hird bypassing the AFL, asking the Supreme Court to intervene, the other stakeholders in the game have sent Essendon a clear message.

The heads of the 17 other clubs have delivered a message through Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, unanimously expressing confidence in the AFL's management and the AFL Commission which is due to sit in judgement against Hird and Essendon.

PETER GORDON: In our view it is of paramount importance that every effort be made to resolve these matters within the AFL industry.

MATT HARVEY: It's like the circling of the wagons.

SIMON LAUDER: Senior law lecturer at Victoria University, Dr Matt Harvey, is researching football governance.

PETER GORDON: Clearly now that Hird has gone to the courts, that's opened up a new front and it's one that is beyond the AFL and the presidents' control. Now we'll see what the courts have to say about the AFL's rules.

SIMON LAUDER: It seems like a plea to Essendon to not go to the courts and to deal with this in-house.

PETER GORDON: Yes but that horse has bolted. Perhaps this meeting should have been held earlier because Essendon have been gathering their impressive legal teams for some time now so perhaps the AFL and the clubs should have acted earlier.

SIMON LAUDER: What do you think of the AFL's method for dealing with conflict and misconduct claims?

PETER GORDON: Oh, I think the AFL is too dominated by business people. They seem to have lost sight of the basic elements of a fair judicial system; that you don't have the same group being both prosecutor and judge and jury. And that's what the current system provides. So the AFL lays the charges and then the AFL Commission, which is the peak governing body of the AFL, hears the charges.

But their rules provide for this procedure so it's not possible now to interpose an independent tribunal. But I think they should consider in the future changing their rules to have an independent tribunal for these sort of cases.

SIMON LAUDER: So you think when the dust settles the AFL will have to go back and rewrite its own rules?

PETER GORDON: I think they would be wise to do that. I don't think they can do it now, that would be policy on the run. It will be interesting to see if the rules stand up to scrutiny in court.

TIM PALMER: Senior law lecturer at Victoria University, Dr Matt Harvey, speaking to Simon Lauder.