There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s looking to make some changes. Gillon McLachlan was announced as the new CEO of the AFL on Wednesday, taking over from Andrew Demetriou after his eleven years in the top job. McLachlan has been Demetriou’s right-hand man for the past two years, but his appointment is a breath of fresh air to a corporation that has struggled with recent controversies. The timing of Demetriou’s exit and the upcoming ASADA report is no coincidence and despite the incoming doomsday for the AFL, and Essendon in particular, McLachlan is a man who wants to improve the AFL for the long term.
Gillon referenced a number of changes and goals for his time in the new job, but one constant in his press conference was the need to be “truly national”. This is a very interesting standpoint to take, due to the lack of momentum for a Tasmania team and the disappointing crowd figures for GWS home games. McLachlan will have a lot of work to do if he wants a completely national game that breeds success in all states and territories.
Two major elements of McLachlan’s plan in the future is the equalisation of the competition and the engagement with fans of all genders, races and communities. McLachlan comes forward as a man of the people; he has an aura that doesn’t lend itself to the prototypical corporate suit. He has come through the system and seen how it operates at different levels.
As a young man he forged a relatively successful amateur football career which saw him placed on Carlton’s supplementary list for a couple of years in the 90s. As he matured and left the athletic portion of his career, McLachlan took full advantage of his commerce and law degrees, entering the fast-paced corporate world. He took up a consultant position with the AFL in 2000 and has progressed up the ladder in the last 14 years. The fact that he has witnessed the evolution of the sport over the past decade will be quite beneficial in his new role. His experience will combine with his relatively youthful exuberance for a top corporate player, and at 40 years old he can traverse the demographics with ease.
Under his regime, McLachlan has promised that inferior clubs like North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will be supported and given opportunities to thrive on the national stage. This aspect of the game is so important, as an equal competition is an entertaining and profitable one. The era of the ‘big four’ clubs is no longer viable and there needs to be significant change.
McLachlan has also made sure to let the public know that the AFL as an entity will be transparent during the difficult ASADA situation. The report is rumoured to be released in late May, just in time for the new CEO’s entry into the job. This sense of transparency is vital to McLachlan’s early success; he needs to perform much better than Demetriou did when faced with similar circumstances.
When it comes to the development and growth of the AFL, McLachlan is no slouch. He played a major role in securing SKODA Stadium for the Giants and the redevelopment of Metricon Stadium for the Suns. He also helped negotiate the latest TV rights deal, which saw the AFL make a significant profit while still keeping the major networks happy. McLachlan is definitely a big step away from the unaccountable, snide nature of Andrew Demetriou. He is an injection of smart, needs-based governing that the AFL has been desperately calling out to receive. The future of the sport may be uncertain, but it looks like we finally have the right man steering the ship.
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