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AFL Bans 'Hush Money' Payments

br> AFL players caught paying "hush money" to victims of alleged sexual assault could be sacked under new rules designed to change attitudes towards women among some of the stars of the sport.
In widening the definition of "conduct unbecoming" in the AFL player rules, it will be illegal for a player, official, agent or club to pay a victim on the player's behalf "to avoid the costs and inconvenience of litigation".
In releasing the AFL's policy on the treatment of the women - Respect and Responsibility - AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the league's penalties for sexual assault offenders ranged from fines to suspension and delisting.
"(The penalties) deal with players who have been found guilty (in a court) and also players who have been committed to trial and players who have paid money in a situation not to proceed with an action," Mr Demetriou said.
"Our policy is unashamedly to be educational and preventative and we hope we never have to implement any sanctions.
"We are all about doing everything we can to make sure these things don't happen."
The AFL began to address the issue of sexual discrimination and violence against women in March last year after St Kilda players Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna were caught up in allegations of sexual assault after the team's win in the pre-season grand final. The incident followed a series of rape allegations against Canterbury Bulldogs NRL players.
After a police investigation that lasted almost two months, the case against the St Kilda pair did not proceed because of insufficient evidence, but they may face civil action from the alleged victim.
The incident prompted the AFL to deal with the problems damaging a sport that prides itself on having a 49 per cent female supporter base.
In the past, accusations of sexual misconduct against AFL players have been treated purely as legal matters and most cases never make it to court.
Banning payment of so-called "hush money" to women who have claimed to be assaulted by a player is the most significant part of the new AFL policy, which comes in the wake of similar AFL policies aimed at stamping out racial and religious vilification.
Mr Demetriou said there was no intention for the new rules, which also put the onus on clubs to immediately report to the AFL any case of sexual misconduct against its players or officials, to bypass the legal system.
"We do not seek to usurp the criminal process that's in place," he said. "We have just incorporated it into our rules so that there is not a grey area and it's very clear to our clubs and our players that there are rules in place that can be enforced."

The Australian (9-11-2005)
Peter Krupka


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