Swift and unreserved apologies from North Melbourne and coach Brad Scott have potentially spared the embarrassed coach an AFL suspension.
As expected, the league came down hard on Scott and the Kangaroos for the coach accusing umpires of bias against Kangaroos player Lindsay Thomas following last Friday night’s fiery loss to Hawthorn.
After meeting Scott and North football manager Geoff Walsh on Tuesday, the league fined the club $50,000 and the coach $30,000.
Significantly, no part of the heavy fines was suspended.
North immediately accepted the penalties.
In one of the game’s all-time colossal mistakes, Scott claimed in his post-match media conference the umpires had told North players they were not paying Thomas high free kicks because he was a ducker.
Within 12 hours North admitted the claim of preconceived bias was wrong and immediately apologised.
Scott did likewise on Monday, saying the mistake was his alone and added it was up to the AFL what his punishment should be.
AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said after the penalties were announced that a suspension for Scott was considered.
But he also pointed to North’s speedy retraction, which avoided a protracted AFL investigation, and the sincerity of the apologies from the club and coach.
“On this occasion, I thought the apology was very, very strong, it came very swiftly and I thought they presented that very well today,” Evans said.
But he also again made it clear on Tuesday the AFL was furious at Scott’s comments.
He added North were fined because more could have been done to stop Scott making the claim.
“We felt Brad’s comments had gone past more than just criticism of umpires and we felt they actually went to the integrity of our umpiring staff … and the AFL itself,” Evans said.
“We felt there were actions there, not just the comments, but actions that maybe the club could have averted this.”
AFL counsel Andrew Dillon was also with Evans when they met Scott and Walsh.
Evans said he would meet North again in the wake of the controversy.
“We will get to that,” he said.
North play the Crows on Thursday night at Adelaide Oval.