THE hidden deal that persuaded Kurt Tippett to remain an Adelaide Crow could halt the AFL career of club chief executive Steven Trigg and remove Tippett's right to play the game during his prime after both men were charged on Monday night with serious rule breaches.
AFL football operations chief Adrian Anderson also charged Adelaide's retired former football operations boss John Reid – who signed the unlawful letter in 2009 – and the club, which fears expulsion from one and up to four national drafts.
Tippett, Trigg and Reid, along with Crows chairman Rob Chapman and his board, will face the AFL Commission next Monday in a hearing which could last two days.
The AFL's decision to charge individual club officials over the Tippett affair does not bode well for the Melbourne Football Club, which is being investigated for a plan to deliberately lose games.
Melbourne looks certain to take part in the 2012 national draft, from which Adelaide will almost certainly be rubbed out, because the Demons tanking investigation is far from complete and – unlike Adelaide – Melbourne is threatening to mount a defence against any charges.
Tippett, Trigg, Reid and the Crows have been charged with draft tampering and breaches of the league's salary cap rules. Anderson wrote to all three men and the Crows: "Contrary to Rule 17 of the Rules, in or about September and October 2009, you engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Draft."
The second charge states: "Contrary to Rule 17 of the Rules, between September 2009 and October 2012, you engaged in conduct in breach of the Total Player Payments provisions in the Rules."
Under the AFL rules, Adelaide faces a hefty minimum six-figure fine and a ban from the national draft. The Carlton 2002 precedent would indicate that two national drafts would be a more likely maximum punishment.
Tippett, who still remains hopeful of playing for Sydney but could be taken by the Giants in the pre-season draft, faces a lengthy deregistration and a heavy fine. Trigg could be removed from his AFL club role and fined, while Reid, who no longer works in football full-time, faces a heavy fine.
The former football boss has already had his reputation damaged after the complexities of the Tippett side deal were revealed.
Chapman only learnt on Monday night of the charges' detail and had no comment. The club said in a statement: "Throughout the past three years and the recent trading period it was always the club's intention to comply fully with all AFL rules on the draft and player payments.
"The club draws attention to its exemplary record and reputation of total and willing compliance with all AFL rules that govern the draft and total player payments over the past 22 years. We have the highest regard for those rules and the reason that they exist."
Although Trigg remained silent about the deal for three years, the Crows on Monday night continued to claim that it was their decision to come forward and co-operate which led to the AFL investigation.
The AFL's legal team contacted Tippett, Reid and Trigg and the Crows' board on Monday night to summon them to next week's commission talks on the eve of the 2012 draft. The good news for Adelaide, which would have had its first pick at No.20, is that it is well placed for next season even without a choice in this year's draft. Last year it secured 17-year-old Brad Crouch – a player worthy of a top five pick this year.
Adelaide is expected to plead guilty after promising it would release Tippett to the club of his choice at the end of his contract for a second-round draft pick and also to playing some role in suggesting third-party agreements worth $200,000.
The club is understood to be working on an impassioned bid to minimise its punishment. Tippett's manager, Peter Blucher, is not covered by AFL rules and is expected to come before the AFL Players Association's player agents board. The AFLPA indicated it would not deal with Blucher until after next week's commission hearing. He also faces deregistration.
Tippett's last game for Adelaide came in the club's narrow 2012 preliminary final loss to Hawthorn. Last month he was on the verge of signing a four-year $4 million deal with Sydney before the issue of Swans player Jesse White prevented a deal from taking place.
Trigg and Chapman admitted the secret agreement to the AFL but will next week claim it was not intentionally secretive and was undertaken at a time when the rules governing third-party agreements were less defined.
The Adelaide board has always said it had no knowledge of the secret agreement first revealed by Fairfax Media and that only Trigg and his former football boss Reid knew of its existence.
Sydney has kept in constant contact with a devastated Tippett, who was the highest-paid player at Adelaide over the past three years after a deal that led to Reid's admission: "We sold our soul when we did that deal."
Reid's regret was more linked to the fact the young and largely unproven player earned an annual $700,000. He has continued to claim that no salary cap cheating was involved.
Tippett has lodged a legal claim against Adelaide for inducing him to enter into an unlawful agreement with the club – an agreement struck in a bid to prevent the then 22-year-old from committing to Gold Coast. That claim remains on hold until next week's hearings have been completed. The AFL investigation into the Crows was completed last week after Anderson's investigative team finished its exhaustive search through the club's files and computer records.