Frustrated football tribunal members are calling for laws to be introduced compelling all parties to be present for hearings after an incident they likened to "Rafferty's Rules" this week.
Tribunal members from Thursday night's South West District league hearing, where Colearaine premiership player Trevor Row was handed a three-match suspension for headbutting a Tyrendarra opponent, bemoaned the absence of the reporting umpire and the victim.
The three-man panel of veteran adjudicators Ian Yewers, Robert Anderson and Paul Jones told The Standard they were unhappy only Row, his advocate and a witness - Coleraine water carrier John Boxer - attended the Warrnambool hearing.
- Read more:Footballer suspended for headbutting
Victim Tye O'Connell and the reporting umpire Neil Ball were contacted by phone but did not attend the hearing.
"It's very hard to talk over the phone to people you don't know....because otherwise it can sort of look like Raffety's rules," Anderson told The Standard after the hearing.
"A headbutting charge is a serious charge. So you want to hear both sides and give them equal opportunity.
"But it was very difficult."
Yewers echoed Anderson's concern.
"Without the video, it would have been hopeless," he said. "Given the only person we could question was in the room - he would have got off.
"It would be nice for people to be made of aware of this. The leagues have got to get their acts together and make sure the players are here. And we need to be backed by the (AFL Western District) - surely they could make sure by-laws that said if you're not here, then you're suspended until you turn up."
AFL Western District senior operations manager Brad Pole said tribunals were run in accordance with AFL Country Victoria rules, which stipulated charged players and advocates must attend and cannot play until they do.
However, the rules don't require the reporting umpire or player offended against to attend in person.
Pole said AFLWD tribunals were held in Warrnambool and could involve players from as far away as Dartmoor, Ararat, Lismore and Derrinallum.
"The people who come to tribunals are often farmers or shift-workers and have families," Pole said. "It's not reasonable to expect them to work all day and then drive late at night across the countryside to attend a tribunal, or take a night off work.
"If witnesses and umpires were forced to attend in person, then umpires wouldn't make reports and witnesses wouldn't make themselves available.
"And as far as the operation of the tribunal goes, it shouldn't really make much of a difference, because the league prosecutor can still ask questions, as well as the tribunal members and advocate.
"The positives of using video link far outweigh the negatives."
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