'Against the spirit of the game': AFL's veiled swipe at Hawks coach

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Pictured here, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson addresses his players during an AFL game.
Alastair Clarkson escaped a fine for criticising the umpires after his side's loss against the Swans. Pic: Getty

The AFL has indirectly blasted Alastair Clarkson after the four-time Hawthorn premiership coach's recent scathing criticism about umpiring.

While not naming Clarkson, the AFL on Tuesday released a statement condemning comments by "senior AFL coaches and players relating to umpiring".

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AFL football operations boss Steve Hocking has written to all clubs saying more is expected of leaders within the competition.

"The comments made in recent weeks are against the spirit of the game and are not examples of the conduct required by leaders within the AFL," the AFL statement read.

"The message today is to be expressive, have an opinion, and provide insight for fans, but to do so in a manner that shows a level of respect to all involved.

"We recognise that this year has been challenging for so many in the community and those within the football industry are not immune to those challenges."

In Saturday's post-match press conference, a furious Clarkson hit out at star Sydney forward Tom Papley for "milking" free kicks after the Swans' seven-point victory against the Hawks at the SCG.

Clarkson wished umpires paid free kicks to "everyone who is knocked off the ball like (Papley)" and said the 22-13 free-kick count in favour of Sydney was "like an extra player on the ground".

His comments were slammed by veteran journalist Caroline Wilson, who brought up his rap sheet of indiscretions on Channel Nine’s Footy Classified and urged the AFL to come down hard on the coach.

But on Monday night, Clarkson denied disrespecting umpires after the Hawks' fourth-straight defeat, which left them slumped in 15th on the ladder.

"If you listened to my whole press conference it was pretty measured and composed," Clarkson told Fox Footy.

"I spoke about swings and roundabouts in terms of free kicks that come and go your way.

"I didn't think I was in any way being disrespectful to either the umpires nor Tom Papley. If anything I'd chose my words differently."

Clarkson’s remarks come after recent AFL criticism

It comes a month after Clarkson caused headlines for saying the state of the game was "dreadful" because of umpiring interpretations of the holding the ball rule.

The 52-year-old said he just gives his view because "people want our opinion".

"I'm quite happy to never do any media, I'm happy to not have an opinion at all," Clarkson said.

'You make comment on what you see and what you think is going to be of benefit to the game from the lens that you look at it through.

Seen here, AFL journalist Caroline Wilson and Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.
Caroline Wilson wanted the AFL to come down hard on Alastair Clarkson. Pic: Ch9

"The AFL in their wisdom have got the power and the decision making tools to do what they think is best for the game.

"They would be very very foolish just to listen to any one person in the game, irrespective of their standing in the game."

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley was also vocal about umpiring after the ladder-leader's upset loss to St Kilda on Saturday night.

Hinkley said umpiring is "more confusing today than it has ever been".

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