AFL Essendon's Legal Costs In Club's Supplements Scandal Could Reach $4.6M
Australian Football League side Essendon "will be forced to increase" its A$5M ($4.6M) debt to "pay for skyrocketing legal costs as it fights a charge of bringing the game into disrepute," according to Jon Ralph of the HERALD SUN. The "real winners from the legal battle are the lawyers working for the AFL and the Bombers, with some estimates suggesting the eventual combined legal cost" could reach A$4M. The AFL has retained law firm Minter Ellison, while Essendon and coach James Hird "are using separate representatives." The cost of the fight "would escalate if Essendon takes its battle to the Supreme Court," where barristers and senior counsel who charge as much as A$10,000 a day "would be needed." If the club is "found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, it could also face a multi-million-dollar fine from the AFL." Essendon is also "protecting lucrative sponsorships with Kia Motors and True Value Solar, with large companies increasingly demanding get-out clauses for controversies" (HERALD SUN, 8/14). In Sydney, McKenzie, Baker & Wilson reported Essendon club officials "have been unable to tell the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority or their players what drugs some of them were given when they were injected with a substance bought in Mexico by a Melbourne man suffering muscular dystrophy." The ASADA has been "unable to determine what was in the bottle bought in Mexico despite interviewing the chiropractor who provided it to Essendon players" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/15).
HIRD'S ATTACK: In Melbourne, Samantha Lane reported Hird "has mounted an extraordinary challenge to the AFL Commission by demanding a public hearing of the supplements case by an independent tribunal no sooner than two weeks after the conclusion of the finals." Hird's correspondence "asserted that league chief executive Andrew Demetriou is a conflicted party who should not sit in judgment of the matter." That demand was contained in "the aggressive three-point response to the AFL prepared by Hird’s lawyers, who are now also directly challenging the validity of a 400-page interim report that was prepared by ASADA" (THE AGE, 8/15). In Sydney, Chip Le Grand reported "along with Hird threatening to go to the courts if his demands aren't met, Essendon is understood to be considering seeking a Supreme Court injunction to give the club more time to respond to the allegations contained within the ASADA interim report" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/15).
CRONULLA RESISTING COMPARISONS: Also in Sydney, Brent Read reported National Rugby League Cronulla Chair Damien Keogh "has warned against drawing any comparison between events at Essendon and the possibility of charges being laid against the Sharks and some officials." Keogh: "I think the dynamics and the way it has unfolded have been significantly different and contrasting. There seems to be a sense that Essendon and Cronulla are the same -- one in the AFL and one in the NRL. I think it's significantly different and significantly different in a whole lot of ways. It's too early to draw any conclusions at this stage" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/15). In Sydney, Glenn Jackson reported the NRL "will not seek an interim report from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority on its supplements investigation." While the AFL's investigation has "resulted in charges for Essendon and club officials," the NRL will "let the ASADA investigation run its course before intervening if necessary" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/15).