AFL cuts off Essendon funds over James Hird pay row

AFL cuts off Essendon funds over James Hird pay row

The simmering feud between the AFL and Essendon escalated on Thursday with the league provisionally cutting off funding to the Bombers and threatening further action against them from the AFL Commission.

In a statement released on the AFL's official website, it was revealed that 'the AFL will withhold an amount from regular AFL discretionary distributions to the Essendon FC each month' until the league received a response from Essendon to its query about whether suspended senior coach James Hird was still being paid by the club.

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League chief Andrew Demetriou also stated that: "The Essendon FC has ... been advised in writing that if the club continues not to comply with the terms of the suspensions, the matter will be referred to the meeting of the AFL Commission in Melbourne next week."

Demetriou emphatically denied reports last week on Melbourne radio that Hird remained on Essendon's payroll.

"I can categorically tell you that part of the sanction from the AFL is that he (Hird) is suspended without pay from the Essendon Football Club," Demetriou told Melbourne radio station 3AW last week.

"It is one thing I will go to my grave on. I know 100 percent the AFL is not paying and I know that Essendon is not paying."

But according to recent News Limited reports, Essendon denied this was the case and that one of the key reasons that Hird didn't take Supreme Court action against the league was that he was assured his normal salary as well as an 'outstanding career development opportunity' while suspended.

Furthermore, News Limited reported that a verbal agreement between Essendon and the AFL about Hird being suspended without pay, which Demetriou insisted was struck, was never made.

Hird's wife Tania confirmed on Wednesday that the former Essendon premiership captain was still earning a wage from the club.

"Of course he is being paid. That was the deal. Andrew Demetriou knew it, the AFL knew it," Tania Hird said to the News Limited papers.

"It's time for the AFL to stop threatening my husband, it's time for them to stop threatening the club and it's time for them to stop distorting the truth."

Demetriou explained why he made his comments on 3AW last week by saying: "The public statements from the AFL, from myself as CEO over the last week, were in the belief that Essendon had concluded its payment arrangements (with Hird) and begun the suspension period."

The AFL's media statement on Thursday also said that the league had written to the Essendon Football Club twice in the past week seeking assurances from them that Hird was not being paid.

The league claim they still haven't heard back from Essendon.

"Since September, the AFL has been in consultation with the Essendon FC concerning the terms of James Hird's suspension, including the fact he cannot be paid by the club for a period of 12 months," Demetriou said.

"The AFL has since sought confirmation and is yet to receive it."

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