AFL CEO Andrew Dillon speaks to reporters in 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It has been a big couple of weeks in football and I just wanted to touch base with all the people who make football the great game it is at community level.

The NAB AFLW Finals are in full swing after what has been an incredible season where the competitiveness of teams and the unbelievable growth in skill saw an exciting race for the final eight spots.

Last week, we also released the fixture for the 2024 Toyota AFL Premiership season.

We are set for another huge year in the men’s game after a record-breaking 2023 campaign when more than eight million people attended games.

Certainly, the early indications are that we will see an increase in the 1.26 million people - or one in every 22 Australians - who are already passionate and paid-up members of AFL clubs around the country.

We understand that the health of our elite AFL and AFLW competitions is directly related to the health of community football and the number of people who are regularly engaged at grassroots level. 

It is why we are so grateful for the more than 200,000 volunteers across suburban and regional Australia who help to bring our game to life each week and for the 550,000-plus girls, boys, women and men who play our game and all those who umpire, coach and administer from NAB AFL Auskick through to junior and senior club football, as well as the more than 1.2 million children who participate in schools programs.

Our game is a big part of the lives of so many Australians. It not only provides community connection and cohesion but tens of thousands of jobs for Australians both directly and indirectly.

While it is an honour and privilege to be in the role of CEO, I also understand the responsibility of ensuring we support our volunteers across the country so community football is strong and healthy and safe for all.

The AFL Commission is acutely aware of that responsibility.

After the AFL secured the $4.5 billion TV rights deal last year, the Commission resolved to enshrine no less than 10 per cent of all assessable revenue to plough back into the grassroots game.

That decision was taken because while we have more than eight million people going to AFL and AFLW games and millions more watching the broadcasts, we know it is vital for our communities to make sure young girls and boys actually play our game.  We want them to experience the benefits of team sport and physical activity and experience the sense of connection and belonging football creates in local communities.

In essence we want footy in every home. We want our game to be welcome to all regardless of background or location. That means ensuring we build or upgrade an oval a week, every week for the next five years to cater for all those who want to play.

Attending the Toyota AFL National Inclusion Carnival in Ipswich in Queensland last month, followed by the Toyota AFL National Wheelchair Championships in Melbourne, only reinforced to me the importance of ongoing investment in ensuring people can participate in our game.

The AFL’s commitment to investing in growing that game has been brought to life in many ways, including:

  • Since 2017, investing more than $117 million so we can partner with local, state and federal governments in generating more than 2,900 venue network improvements, ensuring our grassroots facilities are more welcoming, inclusive and gender-friendly.
  • In that time we have added more than 420 new playing fields to allow for the growth in girls and boys playing our game.
  • Ensuring the percentage of female-friendly player change rooms have jumped from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of all clubs with a target of reaching 100 per cent in coming years.
  • Investing more than $345 million in establishing AFLW and expanding to all 18 teams so that 540 elite athletes now play, earning an average salary of $60,000 which will rise to $82,000 by 2027.
  • Investing $5 million into phase one of the Women and Girls Action Plan to contribute to our stated objective of striving for equal participation and representation in our game by the end of this decade.
  • As well as getting rid of affiliation fees for community clubs in Victoria, we continue to partner with the Victorian Government on the annual ‘Country Football and Netball’ funding program
  • In recent years we have partnered with State Governments in SA (South Australian Football Facilities Fund), WA and Queensland to create legacy community facility funds.
  • We have also announced that we will invest more than $90m in game development and $33m in developing young talent in Tasmania as part of the $360 million to support a new team in Tasmania.

We have also joined forces with corporate partners to direct funding to help at grassroots level, including via the following programs:

  • The Telstra Footy Country Fund, which will provide community footy clubs with $8m over the next four years - $2m per year.
  • Toyota’s ‘Good for Footy’ program continues to support local community clubs with more than $11m raised for grassroots clubs since its inception in 2008, including more than $1m raised this year.

We know there are always areas who are doing it tougher than others and we are committed to directing support to where it’s needed most. It is why it is critical we continue to drive a strong AFL TV broadcast outcome in the future because that revenue is critical in underpinning the ongoing level of investment in community football.

The broadcast revenue also directly ensures our game remains affordable and accessible at all levels.

My ongoing commitment is to ensure we continue to invest in community football so that the volunteers who power our 2,600 community clubs and 2,500 NAB AFL Auskick centres across the country are able to continue to bring people together.

Thank you again to the entire football community and I wish you all the best for an even bigger and better 2024!

I am always grateful to hear from those at community level.

You can contact me at