Uproar over AFL, Charlie Cameron tribunal farce as Pandora’s box opened

The AFL has cleared Charlie Cameron to play for the Brisbane Lions this weekend and “opened Pandora’s box”.

Cameron’s Tuesday night tribunal case has left commentators staggered after the star forward escaped suspension over his sling tackle on Melbourne defender Jake Lever.

Cameron dumped Lever to the ground in a tackle during the Lions’ Round 5 win at the MCG.

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The AFL Match Review Officer Michael Christian charged Cameron with careless conduct, medium impact and high contact and offered a one-match ban with an early guilty plea.

The Lions earlier announced they would fight the grading of the charge, while pleading guilty to the contact made.

Footy commentators were baffled when Tuesday night’s hearing ended with Cameron’s punishment being reduced to a fine on the grounds of “exceptional or compelling circumstances”.

The most controversial aspect of the case were four words used by the Lions during their arguments to have Cameron’s offence downgraded to a “low impact” ruling.

The Lions successfully argued Cameron’s “exemplary record and character” should have been considered by the tribunal panel as the panellists made their decision.

A call from tribunal chair Jeff Gleeson to allow the Lions to present character references surrounding Cameron’s off-field community work has baffled footy fans.

The AFL’s legal representative Sally Flynn objected to character references provided by Indigenous AFL great Eddie Betts and Indigenous elder Gregory Egert being submitted.

But Gleeson accepted the references under rule 19.6 of the 2024 AFL Tribunal code.

Cameron has never been suspended in his 207 career games though he has been fined five times, including three times for rough conduct.

Brisbane’s legal rep Adrian Anderson pushed hard for Cameron’s character to be a critical factor in the case and said just 0.5 per cent of AFL players get to 200 games and around half of them had been suspended at least one game during that time.

The decision of the tribunal has opened the door for future cases to use a similar defence of veteran players being given special consideration for showing good character on and off the field.

“I’m stunned,” AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson said after the verdict was announced.

“This has opened up avenues for a lot of people to argue.”

The Herald Sun’s Jay Clark said the league has opened up “Pandora’s box”.

“Every player now… will be spitting out their record and saying, ‘You know, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, I’ve never been suspended’,” he said on Fox Footy.

“So he’s played 207 games. Where’s the cut off now? It opens up Pandora’s box and the opportunity for more inconsistencies.”

Leading footy reporter Jon Ralph responded by saying: “We’re looking for consistency and it’s been thrown out the window”.

Former Geelong star Josh Jenkins was among those to question the decision.

AFL Tribunal’s official verdict

The AFL Tribunal found that this was ‘medium’ impact, but downgraded the sanction from a one-match ban to a fine based on exceptional and compelling circumstances.

We turn now to exceptional and compelling circumstances.

We find that those circumstances do exist here.

Cameron has played for 10 years without being suspended – 207 games suspension-free puts him in a very small minority.

Only 668 players of the 13,125 who have played the game at the elite level have played 200 games. Almost half of those have been suspended for one match or more.

Cameron is clearly in the unusual category in this regard.

This alone would not be enough in our view to result in us necessarily describing it as an exemplary record or, if it was, to exercise our discretion to downgrade.

We note in this matter Cameron has suffered five fines in his history, including three for rough conduct, the charge he faces tonight.

It is however the case that he has not been suspended for 207 games.

The matters that cause us to downgrade this sanction from a one-week suspension to a fine commensurate with a low impact grading are as follows:

1) While this was careless, it was at the lower range of careless. Cameron knew Lever had one arm free. He is much smaller and lighter than Lever and, as he said, lost control of a tackle. If he didn’t rotate 95-plus kilograms of Jake Lever, he would’ve landed squarely on his 74-kilogramme frame.

It was careless but not grossly careless.

We take into account Cameron’s guilty plea, his acceptance that he could and should have released Lever’s arm.

2) While this was medium impact for the reasons we stated, Lever suffered no injury or apparent discomfort.

The difference between this case and the three examples that were graded low impact was real but not significant.

3) The references from Eddie Betts and Gregory Egert provide impressive details of the work Cameron does in the Indigenous community.

He is a role model with an impressive AFL career, it is something for those he connects with aspire to.

These matters are not irrelevant when we come to exercise our discretion in respect of a first suspendable offence when no injury was suffered and was neither intentional or grossly negligent.

Exceptional and compelling means what it says. It will be a rare case when all of the circumstances combine to result in an exercise of discretion to downgrade a sanction.

This is such a case.

We determine in our discretion the appropriate sanction is the fine that would be imposed on Cameron if this was graded as low impact.

— with foxsports.com.au

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