The Melbourne Football Club tanking scandal refers to issues involving the Melbourne Football Club and allegations that it had tanked towards the latter part of the 2009 season – that is, that it had intentionally lost matches near the end of the season so that it would receive a priority draft pick in the upcoming draft. The club was found not guilty of charges related to tanking, but senior coach Dean Bailey and general manager of football operations Chris Connolly were both found guilty of related charges.
In August 2012, AFL Integrity Officer Brett Clothier announced a full investigation into Melbourne's 2009 season, regarding allegations that the Demons had tanked games during the season in order to secure a priority draft pick that year, available to clubs winning fewer than five games. The press had published such allegations previously, but the investigation was prompted most specifically by statements from former Melbourne player Brock McLean during a television interview in July 2012, when he revealed that he requested to be traded from the club at the end of 2009 because he was dissatisfied with its match strategies during that time. Melbourne club officials, led by board chairman Don McLardy, denied the tanking allegations.
Then-senior coach Dean Bailey had previously made statements, interpreted by some as an admission of tanking, at the press conference which followed his sacking as senior coach in August 2011. Bailey was quoted as saying:
I had no hesitation at all in the first two years of ensuring this club was well placed for draft picks. I think what we've done is the right thing by the club, and if it cost me my job, so be it. But the club is always bigger than the individual. I was asked to do the best thing by the Melbourne Football Club and I did it. I did the right thing by the Melbourne Football Club. I put players in different positions to enable them [to develop] … I think the whole football club agreed we wanted to develop our players so we did.
Throughout the AFL's investigation into Melbourne's 2009 season, three matches in particular were investigated:
The investigation lasted 203 days and Clothier interviewed over 50 people associated with the club. The league released its findings in February 2013, and found the club not guilty of tanking.
However, it did find Dean Bailey and then-general manager of football operations Chris Connolly guilty of "acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the competition". This related most specifically to a meeting in July 2009, which became known colloquially as "the vault", in which Connolly allegedly openly discussed the potential benefits to the club of tanking. The guilty parties received the following penalties:
None of Melbourne, Connolly or Bailey contested these penalties.