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AFL to ramp up effort to close rich-poor divide

No deadline on Essendon saga The AFL says it won't be rushed into handing out penalties, and defends Andrew Demetriou's extended trip to the United States.
AFL Deputy CEO McLachlan addresses the media during an AFL media conference at AFL House in Melbourne on August 5, 2013. (Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Media)
Gillon McLachlan says the AFL is keen to bring in new revenue-sharing measures
With the (growing) divide between our wealthy clubs and those less fortunate, a more assertive position is what we've come out with
Gillon McLachlan
THE AFL will move speedily towards introducing new revenue-sharing measures following last week's trip to the United States that involved a series of meetings between AFL and club figures and some of the heavyweights of American sport.

The League's deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan hailed the success of the trip at a media conference on Monday and said the participants returned with a clear idea of the direction the game needs to take.

"We need to ramp it up and be more aggressive," he said. "These (US) clubs have actually ramped up their revenue-sharing measures in the last three to five years.

"With the (growing) divide between our wealthy clubs and those less fortunate, a more assertive position is what we've come out with."

McLachlan defended the timing of the week-long visit, which clashed with the release of the initial ASADA report into the Essendon supplements scandal.

"I'm bemused by it," McLachlan said of criticism of the timing. "I think it's media criticism (only). I don’t think anyone in the public really cares, nor do the clubs. 

"We were on the phone and on email." 

McLachlan explained the trip - which had been months in the planning and involved meetings with the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball among others - could not be moved because League CEO Andrew Demetriou was the headline speaker at a sports wagering conference in the US at the weekend.

McLachlan said the visit was "incredibly productive and collaborative" and that representatives of the six clubs who took part – Collingwood, Hawthorn, West Coast, the Western Bulldogs, Richmond and Port Adelaide – were fully engaged in the sessions.

He singled out Magpie president Eddie McGuire and his Hawthorn counterpart Andrew Newbold for their contributions, despite the fact that those two clubs have been, and still remain, outspoken with their concerns over aspects of the League's renewed focus on revenue sharing. 

Chief executives of all 18 clubs will be briefed on the key points of the trip later this week with McLachlan saying the AFL was keen to get to work on changing its revenue-sharing processes as quickly as possible. 

Among those to meet with the AFL group last week was longtime NBA commissioner David Stern and the owner of the NFL's New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, whose team has won three Super Bowl titles in the past 11 years.

"I guess it's the will of these very wealthy private owners, who put their own money on the line with the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats," McLachlan added

"Very capitalist endeavors support these socialist policies."

While not dismissing the importance of the ASADA investigations, McLachlan repeated his claims that revenue-sharing was the greatest challenge facing the AFL and that processes need to be implemented that could serve the game for the next 20 years. 

"We have some strong views on what the right levers are for our game. That was part of the discussion and a key part of it was finding out what are their key levers for revenue sharing," he said. 

"In baseball they call it 'hope and faith' and in the NFL it’s clearly the 'Any Given Sunday' theory and if we don’t have a structure in our competition where all clubs, and therefore the supporters, feel that in any given year that they have a chance to compete, then that goes to the heart of our product."

Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. You can follow him on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne.