Australian Football League Names Gillon McLachlan CEO; New Boss Outlines His Vision
New Australian Football League CEO Gillon McLachlan said that he has a "clear vision" for the league's future, declaring that "improving the financial health of battling clubs, engaging with supporters and dealing with the escalating price of tickets were his priority," according to Jon Pierik of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. McLachlan's appointment was "officially confirmed on Wednesday," with AFL Commission Chair Mike Fitzpatrick revealing there had been "100 initial applicants, with this list slashed to 20 and then to a final three." AFL Geelong CEO Brian Cook and Richmond counterpart Brendon Gale were interviewed by the AFL Commission on Monday, with McLachlan "offered the job that evening." McLachlan insisted that he will have a "different style" to former AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou's "sometimes confrontational manner and suggesting there will be executive and staff changes" (SMH, 4/30). In Melbourne, Jon Ralph reported McLachlan "could not have wished for a better climate for the revenue growth, which comes in the form of the AFL's next broadcast deal." The AFL will "soon start negotiations, hoping to clinch a deal by the end of next season" for the '17 season onward. Everything "points to another massive jump in the value of the current rights -- potentially a windfall" as big as A$1.5B ($1.4B) over five years. Broadcast "sporting rights are as healthy as ever for codes like the AFL because fans watch them live, watch them often, do not time-shift them, and rarely illegally download them" (HERALD SUN, 4/30).
FAMILIAR CONFLICT: In Sydney, Greg Denham reported McLachlan will "continue the tradition of sitting on the AFL Commission despite an acknowledgement that the dual role hampered the Essendon drug investigation last year." Fitzpatrick confirmed that McLachlan would be "one of eight commissioners." A senior AFL official on Wednesday said that the commission was "debating whether the CEO should be able to stand down from the governing body to be allowed to head up future probes." Demetriou's role as a commissioner compromised the joint Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority/AFL investigation by "having to withdraw from the long-running probe last year." Demetriou admitted that he "could have played a more meaningful role in the negotiations" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 5/1).
BOOST FOR GIANTS: In Sydney, David Sygall reported McLachlan's appointment and the "almost certain contract extension" at Greater Western Sydney for club CEO David Matthews "is a dream outcome for the competition's youngest entity." Matthews' decision "not to challenge" for Demetriou's vacated post and McLachlan's appointment "ensures for the foreseeable future a high-powered and deeply-rooted partnership strongly committed to the AFL's drive into Sydney's west." Matthews was an "early contender to take over from Demetriou, but he decided not to apply" (SMH, 4/30).
DECISION APPLAUDED: In Sydney, Patrick Smith wrote McLachlan was the "star of the show" on Wednesday. For his "first public appearance as chief executive of the AFL, McLachlan gave away no free kicks." His "well-prepared opening address touched on all of the issues that are bubbling in the AFL." If "it helps, in AFL-speak, he made all the right noises, ticked all the boxes, hit the right notes, kicked a goal and didn't miss a beat." McLachlan made certain that, at least in his "debut as CEO of the nation's biggest sport, he was seen to identify keenly with the supporters, the community, the clubs and the players." Barely "touched on the 'industry' of AFL football." He kept any "grand financial dreams to a minimum." McLachlan, "he wanted you to know, was there for his people" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 5/1).
DEMETRIOU PROUD: In Melbourne, Mark Robinson wrote Demetriou "stood at the back of the room, hands cupped in front, looking very much like the proud dad at graduation." Demetriou: "I'm really proud of Gill, genuinely proud." McLachlan is "reputed to love deals and the parry and thrust of negotiations, which has won and lost him respect." Demetriou: "He probably grew up playing Monopoly for all I know. He loves the deal, he smells a deal, he likes the engagement of the battle" (HERALD SUN, 4/30). In Melbourne, Pierik wrote in a separate piece McLachlan will "attempt to repair the AFL's fractured relationship with James Hird when the suspended Essendon coach returns home." The frustration, "even anger, the Hird camp had towards the AFL over the supplements scandal was still obvious last month when Tania Hird again took aim" at Demetriou. McLachlan said that it was "important the relationship with Hird, who is set to return as coach later this year, was mended" (THE AGE, 4/30). Pierik also wrote in a separate piece on a day Basketball Australia said its CEO "was leaving, and the AFL confirmed the date" of Demetriou's departure, Melbourne Tigers coach Chris Anstey had this hope for his sport. Anstey tweeted, "Hey Andrew Demitriou [sic], any coincidence that AFL announces Gillan [sic] the day BA CEO opens up? We'll teach you the sport, you teach us to run it." Former New South Wales Premier and BA CEO Kristina Keneally "quit as boss of BA" (THE AGE, 4/30).