Essendon's 1993 premiership win will forever be tainted by the fact it was won by cheating the salary cap.
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RAIN MAN: Want to know the precedents the AFL will use in deciding Adelaide's penalties? We look back at footy's worst salary cap cheats.
Blues fans will know a thing or two about what Adelaide fans are going through right now. Back in 2002, Carlton was slammed with the toughest AFL penalties on record for systematic breaches of the salary cap in 2001 and 2002. The league found the club had rorted the salary cap to the total of $1.37 million by making under the table payments to four players: Stephen O'Reilly, Stephen Silvagni, Craig Bradley and Fraser Brown. A statement from then-AFL chairman Ron Evans condemned a "complex and deliberate scheme" of illegal payments that constituted "blatant cheating". Carlton was already under a suspended sentence for twice rorting the salary cap in the '90s, including failing to disclose payments of nearly $240,000 to Bradley.
Penalties: The Blues were fined a record $987,500, causing a cash-flow crisis that forced the club to take out a $1.5 million loan from the AFL. Carlton were also stripped of picks one, two, 31 and 34 in the 2002 national draft, all picks in the 2003 pre-season draft and its first and second rounders in the 2003 national draft. Out of interest, Brendon Goddard and Daniel Wells were taken one and two in 2002.
Before Carlton's dirty dealings unravelled, the Bombers were the AFL's pre-eminent salary cap cheats. Back in '99, a joint league and ATO investigation into Essendon's finances found the club had systematically breached the cap to the tune of $514,500 between 1991 and 1996. The investigation was sparked after the AFL 'became aware' of a document showing Mark Harvey had received nearly $30,000 in incentives outside of his contract in 1997. They are, to date, the only club found to have cheated the cap in a premiership-winning year (1993). "Everybody knows I'm not great at maths," Kevin Sheedy quipped years later after being dubbed a salary cap cheat by Eddie McGuire.
Penalties: The Bombers were fined $388,000 for cap breaches and draft tampering and hit with a further $250,000 in back taxes by the ATO. The AFL also stripped Essendon of their first two picks in the 1999 national draft and froze them out of the pre-season and rookie drafts entirely.
Demons fans didn't get long to gloat at Essendon before their own salary cap cheating was exposed. Melbourne president 'Diamond' Joe Gutnick volunteered to the AFL that the Dees had committed cap breaches totalling $810,000 during the '90s. In a statement, Gutnick said the club had a fundamental duty to their supporters and to the game itself to own up.
Penalties: After an audit by the AFL, Melbourne were fined $600,000, of which $250,000 was suspended. The Dees were also banned from taking their second and third round selections in the 2000 draft, and were forced to hand over pick five in the 1999 draft to Fremantle as compensation for Jeff White's tainted trade. The Dockers selected Leigh Brown.
The best of the rest:
Fremantle: Were frozen out of the 2002 pre-season draft thanks to a salary cap breach put down to an injury crisis that saw the Dockers overspend in match payments during the 2001 season. The Dockers had already committed to taking Fabian Francis in the draft and were forced to make a cash settlement to the ex-Port Adelaide player, who had moved his family to Perth in anticipation. Francis was expected to be drafted to Fremantle the following year but did his knee in the WAFL in 2002 and never played AFL football again.
Sydney: Were slapped with a $50,000 fine after they admitted to making illegal payments to Greg Williams in 1990. Diesel was suspended for 11 matches and fined $25,000 for accepting cash under the table.
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