Port Adelaide has launched an astonishing attack on the AFL and the Seven Network in retaliation for Sam Powell-Pepper’s three-match suspension for making “inappropriate contact with a female”.
An investigation into Powell-Pepper’s conduct at an Adelaide nightclub lasted more than two weeks, with the player sidelined throughout.
The 20-year-old was suspended for another week on Wednesday by the AFL, who announced its investigation concluded that Powell-Pepper was “intoxicated in a public place” and made “inappropriate contact with a female”.
Port Adelaide was seething on Thursday with club president David Koch accusing the AFL of “railroading a kid in trying to rebuild their reputation with women because of the misdemeanours of their own former executives”.
Simon Lethlean and Richard Simkiss stood down from senior executive roles with the AFL in 2017 after engaging in “inappropriate relationships” with junior female employees in the football industry.
Koch added that the AFL’s integrity officers “refused to see” CCTV footage of the Powell-Pepper incident.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said the comments would “cause a major explosion” at AFL headquarters.
Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas then aimed fire at the Seven Network’s Adelaide team in a testy press conference on Thursday afternoon (local time).
Thomas said Seven – who employ Koch – sensationalised the Powell-Pepper incident and their coverage had influenced the AFL’s findings.
“From the moment the first tweet from Channel 7 hit the public, which had words around it such as ‘sexually assaulted a woman’ … we believe that set the tone for the entire investigation,” Thomas said.
“Reporting from that moment throughout the 16-day investigation about ‘sexual assault’, ‘groping’, ‘sickening turn of events’ – we believe in hindsight, having viewed the evidence, way overplayed the incident.
“What that meant was the investigation is immediately on the back foot … a public perception was being created and controlled and Sam had no opportunity to defend his position. His name was out there.”
While Thomas acknowledged Powell-Pepper was found guilty of “inappropriate touching”, he added it was “a long, long way away from sexual assault”.
He was keen to stress that “the issue was not reported by the police, either by her [the woman involved], or the AFL integrity unit and they are duty-bound to do that if they believe a sexual assault has occurred”.
“We think that this has been way overplayed,” he said.
Thomas added that Port Adelaide “would reserve all of our rights” in terms of possible legal action against Seven and that “behind closed doors” discussions would be taking place.
The statement that ignited everything
Announced by Triple M on Thursday, Koch said: “The whole respect and responsibility policy leaves the clubs in the dark. They take complete control. I issued them a grievance notice before they would start talking sense.
“My biggest issue was they are railroading a kid and trying to re-build their reputation with women because of the misdemeanours of their own former executives.
“In Sam Powell-Pepper’s case, a woman anonymously made these claims, did not press charges with police, which we were happy for her to do.
“We have vision of the entire night and the head of the integrity unit refused to see it.”