Expect Essendon to be charged early next week. For the AFL, that's just in the nick of time, as the finals deadline beckons.
Essendon must be allowed time to mount a defence in what is a complex matter. If a charge of bringing the game into disrepute lands on Monday, this would give the club exactly a fortnight before the next AFL Commission meeting - the anticipated time for hearing the case - on Monday, August 26.
This would be just four days before the final Friday night game of the home-and-away season. That is cutting it fine, in terms of protecting the ''integrity'' of the 2013 finals - one of the objectives the AFL outlined in dealing with the Essendon case, although Andrew Demetriou also suggested this week that a pre-finals outcome was a wish, rather than an absolute necessity. The AFL boss could see the sand disappearing down the finals hourglass.
Essendon is well aware of the time squeeze, which puts the pressure on all parties and shapes as a negotiating tool. Legally, the AFL also will recognise - as it did in the Kurt Tippett/Adelaide case - that the club cannot be denied ''natural justice'' or the league could potentially give the club grounds for a legal challenge to any verdict.
A lawyerly argument can be made that 14 days is barely adequate to prepare a case following a 400-page report that took months to compile.
Adelaide initially was given a week, from charges laid until the hearing, but the grace period was extended to 18 days in November last year, after the club and football manager Phil Harper requested more time to prepare. Harper received a two-month suspension.
Alternatively, Essendon has to consider whether it wants a premiership points punishment to be postponed, only to cop it next year - which would wreck 2014 and cause all manner of fall-out (trying selling memberships for a literally ''pointless'' season). There will be a very compelling, pragmatic case for taking the hit immediately - playing ball with city hall - rather than risking a legal battle that might fail and put the club in a worse position.
The AFL can also argue that the Dons have been dealing with the substance(s) of the scandal since February and have had ages to form a legal game plan. Legal posturing - threatening legal action - is nothing like actually carrying out the threat.
Clubs have successfully managed injunctions - the Sydney injunction stalling Andrew Dunkley's suspension enabled him to play on Wayne Carey in the 1996 grand final - but Dunkley still served his three-match ban, which, incidentally, was for clobbering James Hird.
Essendon can say, ''You're running out of time before the finals.'' The AFL can reply, ''So are you.''
Ideally, for the sake of everyone's sanity, the officials facing possible charges - including Hird - should be charged in tandem with the club. This is the likely outcome early next week. But, in terms of finals, finalising the verdict for coaches and other officials is not crucial. In theory, individuals' charges can be dealt with after Essendon's season is done.
If Hird and other coaches, plus Dr Bruce Reid and football operations manager Danny Corcoran are the remaining officials who can be charged, it is not clear what position the AFL can take on Dean Robinson, bearing in mind that ''the Weapon'' is no longer employed by an AFL club. Nor is Stephen Dank, who supposedly plays the lead role in ASADA's 400-page potboiler, without having spoken to the drug authority. ASADA, with its new powers, still holds out hope of interviewing Dank.
Last November, Adelaide's veteran football official John Reid, an architect of the Tippett deal, was no longer employed by the Crows when the Tippett shenanigans were uncovered. Reid, though, gave evidence and took a six-month suspension from his non-existent duties.
That the ASADA part of the investigation is not concluded is another complication for Essendon and the AFL. If the players don't have an ironclad guarantee that they'll avoid ASADA's clutches, as their association acknowledged, then Essendon can conceivably be punished twice. This does not seem likely, since the report paints the players as unwitting victims. It is not a scenario any of the parties wants.