The AFL has issued a please explain to Essendon, asking the club to clarify whether it is still paying suspended coach James Hird.
A league spokesman confirmed the Bombers and the AFL began preliminary discussions on Thursday to try to resolve the payment conundrum, which emerged in recent days, however there was no formal meeting because AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, chief executive Andrew Demetriou and deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan are in Adelaide.
It is understood Essendon was trying to clarify Hird's contract and whether it is binding and how it fits into the time frame of the suspension.
The AFL confirmed there is nothing in the deed of settlement for Hird's 12-month suspension that specifically states the coach-in-exile cannot be paid by Essendon during the period of his ban.
But the league insists it clearly outlined the terms in conversations with Bombers officials after the public release of the penalties, and one of the conditions - given verbally - was that Hird could not be paid by the club.
There is, however, a clause that prohibits those punished, including Hird, from disparaging the AFL.
Hird became the first coach ever to be slapped with a 12-month suspension after agreeing he did not take sufficient steps to avoid the risk of his players being administered banned drugs during the club's controversial supplements program in 2012.
Despite Demetriou categorically stating Hird could not, and was not, being paid by the AFL or Essendon, several media outlets claim that the Hall of Fame Bomber is still receiving - through the club - a salary.
The club said it would not comment on issues covered by ''confidentiality agreements''.
When asked on Thursday by a reporter whether he was still being paid by Essendon, Hird simply replied: ''Sorry, guys.'' An adviser for Hird's legal team has publicly expressed surprise at Demetriou's stance, claiming that nowhere in the official deeds of settlement agreed to by both Essendon and Hird is it written that the club cannot continue to support Hird financially.
An AFL spokesman confirmed that was true, but added: ''Subsequent to the sanctions being handed down, specific terms of James Hird's 12-month suspension were outlined in conversations with his employer, the Essendon Football Club.''
It has not yet been determined whether those conversations are legally binding.
As well as his senior coaching salary, there are reports alleging that part of the $120,000 international business course that Hird enrolled in was being paid through the club.
The AFL Coaches Association confirmed it was not contributing to any cost of Hird's studies, nor is it providing any other financial assistance.