Amendments to the AFL & AFLW Tribunal for 2022

The AFL today wrote to all Clubs and the AFLPA to advise the AFL Commission had approved recommendations presented to it at its December meeting.

The Commission had considered recommendations to the AFL and AFL Women’s Match Review and Tribunal Guidelines following an in-depth review of each system, which included canvassing the views of key stakeholders and industry groups.

AFL & AFLW Match Review / Tribunal:

The Commission approved the following recommendations relating to the Match Review and Tribunal process to ensure the systems, guidelines and interpretations continue to evolve with the trends of the game.

The amendments are as follows:

1. Head high contact
Previously under the AFL & AFLW Regulations, “strong consideration” was required to be given to the potential to cause injury in certain circumstances. Regulations have therefore been amended as follows:

  • The potential to cause injury must be factored into the determination of Impact; and
  • Notwithstanding any other provision of the AFL / AFLW Regulations, any Careless or Intentional Forceful Front-On Conduct or Rough Conduct (High Bumps) where High Contact has been made and that has the potential to cause injury will usually be classified as either Medium, High or Severe Impact (i.e. not Low Impact) even though the extent of the actual physical impact may be low (e.g. the victim player has suffered no apparent injury). This reflects the approach that currently applies to the Impact determination for strikes.

The result of this change will be that, where there is Careless Conduct that is High Contact and has the potential to cause injury, a Medium Impact classification will usually apply, and a one match suspension will be the minimum sanction applied.

2. Sanction for intentional contact with an umpire

The AFL and AFLW Regulations have been amended to require the Tribunal to have regard to the number elements of the offence (aggressive, forceful, demonstrative and/or disrespectful) which are established in determining the sanction for Intentional Contact with an Umpire with the result that the more elements that are present the harsher the sanction that may be imposed.

Previously, the AFL and AFLW Regulations provided that contact with an Umpire that is aggressive, forceful, demonstrative or disrespectful will be deemed intentional and the Player will be directly referred to the Tribunal with no further guidance included as to the sanction that should be imposed.  

3. Fixed Financial Offence – Careless Contact with an Umpire

The AFL and AFLW Regulations provide that a player may be charged with the offence of Careless Contact with an Umpire by directly pushing an opponent into an Umpire or their direct path. Both Regulations have been amended to provide that a player may also be charged with the offence of Careless Contact with an Umpire by holding (in addition to pushing) an opponent into an umpire or their direct path.

4. Fixed Financial Offence – Tripping

Tribunal Guidelines have been amended to provide that:

  • It is open to the MRO to charge a player with Tripping where it is satisfied that a Reportable Offence was committed, replacing the requirement that the MRO be satisfied that the intention was to commit an act constituting a Reportable Offence (i.e. a careless trip is now sanctionable, when previously it was not subject to a sanction); and
  • Where minor contact is made (in addition to where no contact is made), the MRO can charge a player with an Attempt to Trip.

5. Structure of the Tribunal

The Tribunal has previously been comprised of a Chairperson and a three-member Jury of former players. The Rules have been amended so that the Tribunal will be made up of one Chairperson and two Tribunal Jury Members, the three of whom will be responsible for determining the decision of the Tribunal.

The AFL advises Jeff Gleeson QC has been appointed to the role of Chairperson of the Tribunal while Renee Enbom QC has been appointed as the Deputy Chairperson of the Tribunal. Renee will Chair AFLW Tribunal hearings as may be required when the season commences on January 7, 2022.

The AFL thanks long-serving Chairpersons David Jones and Ross Howie SC for their many years of exceptional service as the Chairs of the AFL Tribunal.

6. Cost consequences of Tribunal/Appeal fees

Clarity provided on the treatment of Tribunal and Appeal Board fees for the AFL and AFLW Competitions.

For the 2022 AFL Women’s Competition, this will be set as:

  • Unsuccessful Tribunal - $2,500 (i.e. 50% of the fee) included in soft cap;
  • Partially successful Tribunal – $2,500 (i.e. 50% of the fee) included in soft cap;
  • Successful Tribunal - $5,000 will be refunded;
  • Unsuccessful Appeal - $1,250 (i.e. 50% of the fee) included in soft cap; and
  • Successful Appeal - $2,500 appeal fee and $5,000 Tribunal fee will be refunded.

For the 2022 AFL Season, this will be set as:

  • Unsuccessful Tribunal - $10,000 (i.e. the entire fee) included in soft cap;
  • Partially successful Tribunal - $5,000 included in soft cap and $5,000 outside soft cap;
  • Successful Tribunal - $10,000 will be refunded;
  • Unsuccessful Appeal - $5,000 (i.e. the entire fee) included in soft cap; and
  • Successful Appeal - $5,000 appeal fee and $10,000 Tribunal fee will be refunded.

7. Use of video evidence of other incidents

The AFL and AFLW Regulations provide a list of prescribed video examples that the charged player and Tribunal Counsel may rely on before the Tribunal. The Tribunal Guidelines then provide that the Tribunal will not receive video evidence of any other incidents.

Amendments are as follows:

  • The list of prescribed video examples in the Tribunal Guidelines to only include examples from the previous two seasons.
  • Providing that the prescribed video examples are examples only and that the Tribunal is not bound by any previous decision of the Tribunal.
  • Both charged players and Tribunal Counsel may seek leave to rely on video examples of incidents charged by the MRO and/or determined by the Tribunal within the same season as the relevant incident which are truly comparable to the incident in question (and where the example is not truly comparable, the Tribunal Chairperson may either refuse leave to rely on it, or grant leave and instruct the Jury to disregard it).