When a footballer punches another player, why do they often end up at the tribunal rather than in court?
On-field assaults have dominated AFL news in recent weeks, with separate incidents involving Richmond's Bachar Houli, Melbourne's Tom Bugg and former AFL diversity manager Ali Fahour.
Police have charged Fahour with intentionally causing injury, recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault — but such charges are uncommon.
Monash Law School's Dr Eric Windholz told the ABC's The Outer Sanctum podcast that many on-field incidents met the criminal law definition of assault.
However, there are some common defences against assault that come into play that mean charges are not laid.
"Self-defence, duress are common defences; consent can also be a defence," Dr Windholz said.
So what do players consent to when they enter the sporting field?
"I'd say they consent to conduct in the rough and tumble of the game, conduct in the competition for the ball," Dr Windholz said.
"I think anyone would be hard pressed to say they consent to being punched 20 to 40 metres behind play, or to be punched when just standing around when the ball is not even in play."
The question then becomes: Why don't the police and the prosecuting authorities intervene?"
The reason, he said, was that authorities tended to respect the autonomy of sporting bodies.
The AFL has rules that prohibit unnecessary violence on the sporting field, Dr Windholz said.
That doesn't mean police never get involved — the most famous being when, in 1985, Hawthorn's Leigh Matthews broke the jaw of Geelong's Neville Bruns.
"He was charged by police, he pled guilty and he was fined $1,000," Dr Windholz said.
"As far as I'm aware it's the only time the police have intervened at the AFL or the VFL level."
Suburban charges more common
Dr Windholz said it was more common for criminal charges to be laid over incidents at suburban matches, such as the one involving Fahour.
"The suburban leagues have done a huge effort lately to eliminate thuggery from the game," he said.
He said that while debate raged on whether the AFL should introduce red cards, suburban leagues had already done so.
"And indeed the incidents today are much rarer than what they have been in the past," Dr Windholz said.
"But we still as a society, I think, need to have a debate about our attitudes to violence in sport."