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Volume 10 No. 25
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Deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan Leads List Of Replacements For AFL CEO Post

Australian Football League Deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan "is the strong favourite to inherit the role of the most powerful administrator in Australian sport'' following Monday's resignation of AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, according to Greg Denham of THE AUSTRALIAN. The AFL CEO position in the post-Demetriou era "may not be as tough a gig, as Demetriou appears to have broken the back of the majority of the major issues that have confronted the code in recent years." McLachlan "still has very strong support" from the AFL Commission, despite at times "his controversial role in turbulent negotiations" with Essendon during the joint ASADA-AFL investigation into the club’s drug scandal last year. Commission Chair Mike Fitzpatrick said that an executive search firm "had been engaged to find a replacement, with a short-list of candidates expected sooner, rather than later." The league "would not be acting appropriately if it did not do its due diligence." But McLachlan "comes highly recommended" from within headquarters and from most of the code’s 18 clubs. Collingwood President Eddie McGuire said, "Gillon would be ideal as the heir apparent unless someone spectacular comes along" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/4).

THE CANDIDATES: In Melbourne, the HERALD SUN's Jon Anderson wrote a piece profiling the potential candidates to replace Demetriou. McLachlan was called the "favourite" despite "a year of hell for the AFL adminstration." Andrew Ireland "has a rare CV in that he has been CEO of two interstate clubs" in Brisbane and Sydney that have won AFL Premierships. Against him "is his age, although isn't 60 the new 50 in today's world?" Stephen Gough "combines CEO experience at club level during his years as CEO of Carlton with a broader role as secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club." Brian Cook "was loverlooked in favour of Demetriou 10 years ago." Now he is 58, but "is there anyone who doubts he could successfully run the AFL for the next five or six years?" West Coast CEO Trevor Nisbett, 56, "has the football requirements covered given 15 successful years as CEO." But he "may lack the business acumen." Channel Nine CEO Jeff Browne has a background in law before "branching into the commercial world" (HERALD SUN, 3/3). In Melbourne, Denham wrote McGuire "summed up the feelings of several key AFL and club officials by saying Andrew Demetriou’s legacy would be profound." McGuire: "Under his watch, he’s improved every area of football. He will leave the game in a better place than when he found it." The expansion to 18 clubs, with the recent inclusions of Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, "will be lasting," but leading administrators praised Demetriou "for his professional approach to a long list of achievements outside the looming competitiveness of both the Suns and Giants" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/4).

DEMETRIOU'S FINAL CHAPTER: In Melbourne, Walsh & Denham reported Demetriou's reputation was "bruised by the sordid supplements scandal." Demetriou is "determined to emerge successful in another heavyweight battle in his final months in charge of the AFL." It is "equalisation reform agenda that is occupying his attention." Demetriou: “I’m really keen to finalize the issue of equalization and revenue sharing.” It started Tuesday when the AFL Commission and exec club heavyweights and the players union were scheduled to meet in Adelaide "to sort out a new equalisation policy" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/4).

COLUMNISTS OFFER PERSPECTIVE: In Melbourne, Caroline Wilson wrote the game "will miss Demetriou's leadership, his powerful voice, deft media performances and negotiation skills but in truth he is not leaving too soon." Top chief execs "are handed an average timeframe of five to seven years and it is a tribute to him he remained at the top for so much longer." But his last 18 months "were punctuated too often with sloppiness." Essendon "was not his fault." However, neither he, "nor his executive, nor his chairman should be happy with how messily the situation was resolved." Any true assessment of the AFL's handling of the scandal "should scrutinise the game's unhealthy reliance on relationships at the top end of town and the Melbourne boys' club." Demetriou "might be a socialist, feminist, Pascoe Vale-born-and-raised son of Cypriot immigrants who ran a fish and chip shop but he was a part of that club" (THE AGE, 3/4). In Melbourne, Patrick Smith wrote Demetriou "didn’t like people suggesting he might not be telling the truth." If the idea "was put to him over the phone you could sense him leaning closer to the speaker as though he was a bear about to lunch on it." Put it to him in person and "his crushing presence would vibrate within his roomy, well-cut suit." His voice "did not drop an octave or anything as dramatic as that." Just "lose modulation." Demetriou: “I don’t tell lies.” This "was part of Demetriou’s power and ability to influence those around him." Weight of personality, "gravitas on call." Depth "and breadth of knowledge." His authority "not even poked at." He "knew the business of the AFL intimately and he could quickly tell the weaknesses and strengths of those who lined up -- for him or agin him" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/4). In Sydney, Andrew Webster reported at Monday's media conference confirming his resignation, Demetriou "was rarely asked a tough question." When asked how it felt to be desribed as a dictator, Demetriou said, "In this role, you can't please everybody. You've got to balance often the needs of so many different groups ... And the most important stakeholder, the fans. When you factor all those things in, you have to be decisive. And you have to make decisions that are sometimes unpopular. I can tell you in the main, people respect that you're decisive and make decisions" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/3).