MELBOURNE Football Club president Don McLardy says the $500,000 fine handed down to it following the completion of the AFL's match-fixing investigation is a small price to pay to uphold the integrity of the game.
Acting General Manager of Football Operations, Gillon McLachlan yesterday announced the findings of the AFL's seven-month probe, which included 58 interviews, with both current and former Demons players, coaches, administrators and officials, as well as forensic analysis of the club's computers.
Although the club itself was not found guilty of deliberately losing matches during the 2009 season, its two most senior footballing personnel at the time, Dean Bailey and Chris Connolly, were not so lucky.
Penalised for acting in a manner "prejudicial to the interests of the AFL", then-football operations manager Connolly has been banned from football for a year while then-head coach Bailey has been suspended from coaching for 16 rounds.
Announcing the penalties, the AFL said that Melbourne had accepted it must bear ultimate responsibility for the conduct of key club personnel, and agreed to the $500,000 fine - the third largest ever dished out by the league.
"We now need to abide by the umpire's decision and with what's been going around in Australian sport in the last few weeks, I don't think there's any doubt that all of us realise that integrity is the most critical part of our game," McLardy said in response.
"If we're caught up slightly in that, for the good of Australian sport, then that's the small price we have to pay."
The punishments handed out to Connolly and Bailey stem from comments made during a Demons football department meeting in 2009 about a desire to 'win' that year's wooden spoon, and with it the first two picks in the national draft - one a priority draft pick.
"Connolly has accepted he went into a football department meeting and he made a terrible and stupid decision in the context of an AFL rule that has now changed (priority draft picks) and in the context of a pressure and expectation of success," McLachlan said.
"He made a comment regarding the performance of the team, a desire to secure a priority pick, and I know he now regrets that comment."
McLachlan added that Bailey admitted to bowing to pressure and making selection and player management decisions with regard to those comments.
The Demons have vowed to support Connolly, who is still an employee as General Manager - Club Development, while the Adelaide Crows have backed Bailey, who is now an assistant coach to Brenton Sanderson.
"We are extremely disappointed at the significant suspension which Dean has incurred following the AFL's investigation," Crows chairman Rob Chapman said.
"(But) the Adelaide Football Club will continue to provide its full support to Dean during this time and is totally committed to retaining him as a valued employee of the club."
Despite its heavy fine, McLardy said the Demons felt vindicated.
"I think it's a good example of waiting for the facts to come out, before making character and personal judgments about people," he said.
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