In the wake of Jeremy Finalyson's three-match suspension for a homophobic slur, is society more confident about where the AFL stands concerning issues of this nature or more confused?

Finlayson's "hurtful" and "totally unacceptable" words gave the AFL an opportunity to set the standard amongst the industry, saying it would not tolerate such behaviour.

The AFL also revealed that if it wasn't for the Power forward's immediate remorse and ownership of his mistake both privately and publicly, the "sanction would have been higher."

Yet, merely a month ago, an AFL coach, who has a history of walking the fine line, was treated differently.

So why is there a difference in punishment between a player and an official?

Date your minds back to a pre-season game between North Melbourne and St Kilda, where an unjustifiable bump from Jimmy Webster saw Jy Simpkin levelled into next week.

In support of his captain, Kangaroos coach Alastair Clarkson went after Webster, and his teammates, verbally during the quarter-time break.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Alastair Clarkson, Senior Coach of the Kangaroos addresses his team at quarter time during the 2023 AFL Round 02 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Optus Stadium on March 25, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Clarkson directed an expletive-laden remonstration toward the Saints defender, reportedly using the term "c---sucker" during the verbal stoush.

As a result of the "inappropriate" and "unnecessary" comments made by the four-time premiership coach, he was slapped with a two-week suspension (wholly suspended until the end of 2025), a $20,000 fine and required to undergo appropriate Pride in Sport training that the AFL approved.

In 2021, Adelaide champion Taylor Walker was slapped with a six-game ban and a $20,000 fine (donated to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program in South Australia) for breaching Rule 35, which relates to discrimination and racial and religious vilification at a SANFL game.

To surmise, Walker, six weeks, Finlayson, three weeks, and Clarkson, a two-week suspension (wholly suspended until the end of 2025).

Where's the consistency?

Admittedly every situation is different and should be treated accordingly but the lack of dependability from the AFL to make the correct decision is what makes the snowball roll even further down the mountain.

Following Finlayson's outcome, AFLPA boss Paul Marsh is calling for an "urgent review of the sanctioning framework", pleading for more consistency, according to a statement he made.

Although agreeing to the punishment handed down to Finlayson and "the opportunity for further education, understanding and behavioural change," Marsh adds: “We have fundamental concerns about this and historical AFL outcomes that result in discrepancies when sanctioning players in comparison to officials.

"We believe the AFL is consistently inconsistent and there are double standards in its approach to dealing with players compared to others on behavioural matters.

"This issue highlights the lack of clarity on how the AFL handles these situations and we want this to be the catalyst" for change.

“If this type of conduct is a three-week sanction for a player, it should be for everyone involved in the game and this should be clear to everyone in the industry upfront rather than the open-ended approach that is currently in place.

“I have expressed the AFLPA's concerns directly with Andrew Dillon, and we are seeking an urgent review of the AFL's sanctioning framework.”

Regardless if the Finlayson penalty is justified or not, the absence of consistency has let the league down.

Once again, the AFL has overpromised on its intent and underdelivered on its outcome.