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AFL becomes a $500m game as cash goes to clubs

AFL 2016 Media - AFL CAS Decision Press Conference
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick

THE AFL's revenue topped half a billion dollars for the first time in 2015.

Figures released by the AFL on Monday showed the League's revenue increased by $33.3 million last year to a record $506 million. 

The AFL also revealed that its chief executive Gillon McLachlan earned a salary package of $1.7 million last year.

The 18 clubs were among the major beneficiaries of the AFL's bountiful year, receiving $245.2 million in League distributions in 2015, up by 12 per cent on the $218.3 million they received in 2014.

This increase in club distributions was a factor in the AFL's net profit dropping by $10.0 million in 2015 to $2.5 million, a result the League had budgeted for.

Before grants and distributions, the AFL's operating surplus increased by six per cent in 2015 to $337.8 million, but its expenditure also increased by $12.7 million to $168 million "primarily due to revenue-related increases". 

The AFL also allocated $39.4 million in game development grants last year. 

AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said in the wake of signing the record $2.5 billion broadcast rights deal last August the League had begun building a long-term investment model.

"The AFL Commission and executive team have delivered the future broadcast rights agreement, and begun the process of building a new investment model, to ensure we make decisions for the next 20 years, not just for the next six," Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick said last year the AFL had also implemented the new competitive balance policies, including the soft cap on football department spending and revenue sharing.

Other AFL figures showed that in 2015:

• Club membership numbers grew for the 15th consecutive year, with more than 150,000 new members signing on.
• The aggregate TV audience per round on Channel Seven and Fox Footy was 4.47 million viewers.
• There were 104 million aggregate monthly unique visitors to the AFL digital platforms, ensuring AFL Media remained the No.1 digital sports property in Australia, across desktop, smartphone and tablet.
• Participant numbers across schools, social football, community football and Auskick hit 1.26 million.
• The total attendance for the premiership season was 6,875,042.

"During this very demanding year, the AFL also began to lay the foundations for the most dramatic change to our game in its 150 years – the establishment of a national women's league. We also reviewed second-tier and community football and have grounded our multicultural and indigenous growth strategy in the next generation academies," Fitzpatrick said.

"The game is in very good shape, and we go into the 2016 season with a strong financial outlook, 18 competitive clubs, passionate members and exciting new projects that will build our future."