Andrew Demetriou says the interchange cap is coming in 2014, whether coaches like it or not, however the categorical declaration about the rule change has caught some clubs off guard.
Demetriou said on Tuesday that the AFL would be bringing in an interchange cap next season, and was simply using 2013 to work out the number of rotations - and other parameters - that would be attached to the new restrictions.
Several clubs, however, said that they were surprised to hear the AFL's chief executive talk so definitively about the introduction of a cap. An AFL spokesman said all clubs had been told the cap would be in place next season. And it's understood Demetriou met senior coaches at the end of last season to discuss the rule change.
While all clubs are fully aware that the AFL's intention was to introduce an interchange cap eventually, it appears not everyone knew categorically that it would be implemented as soon as 2014.
Demetriou made it clear on Tuesday.
''The fact of the matter is, unless people have got amnesia, the AFL Commission has already passed the rule,'' he said on SEN. ''It said at the end of the year the cap is coming in. And they wanted to look at this year to see if the actual number of 80 [the cap] is correct.
''There's no going back on that - that is already put in place.''
The AFL wrote to all clubs on October 16 to advise them the commission had approved several changes to the laws of the game for 2013. The letter, sent to all presidents, chief executives, football managers, coaches, assistant coaches and player development officers, noted this about the interchange system. ''… the AFL Commission had approved in principle a recommendation to impose a cap on interchange rotations but determined that a review of further data and analysis was required, including a trial in the 2013 NAB Cup. The proposal would then be revisited by the commission at the end of next season. As a result, interchange arrangements will remain unchanged for the 2013 season.''
It was reported by media outlets at the time that any changes to the interchange for 2014 were ''potential'', and there was still confusion at some clubs on Tuesday.
Collingwood football director Geoff Walsh, however, said Demetriou's comments came as no surprise to the Pies.
''We certainly knew it [an interchange cap] was coming in next season in some form or another. We have always been counting on it coming in,'' Walsh said.
The trial of the cap has been panned by a group of coaches, saying the rule change could have a dramatic effect on the game.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has called for the AFL to consider a more sensible cap of 120 rotations per team.
That idea was supported by Carlton football manager Andrew McKay on Tuesday.
''We would prefer there was no cap on interchanges. But if they are going to bring it in, we think a fair compromise would be one rotation per minute, so in essence 120 rotations for the game,'' he said.