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McLachlan named as new AFL CEO

McLachlan handed reins Incoming AFL CEO explains his vision for the job and game
Gillon McLachlan is the AFL's new chief
I understand the honour, I understand the responsibility, I understand the privilege of leading this code and this game
Gillon McLachlan

NEW AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says supporting the competition's weaker clubs and engaging with footy fans are his most immediate challenges.

"The most pressing couple (of challenges) I can think of are the continued support and structural improvement in our group of clubs, having a strong competition," McLachlan said.

"I think also engaging with our fans and understanding their challenges and, in my words, taking away any encumbrance – whether they be financial, scheduling or logistical – from them being able to pursue their passion to go to the football.

"We need to work incredibly hard on dealing with the issues they have and the challenges they have with going to our game."

A big man for a big job

McLachlan's widely expected ascension to the AFL's top job was confirmed on Wednesday morning by AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick at a media conference at AFL House.

Fizpatrick said outgoing CEO Andrew Demetriou would no longer remain with the AFL until the end of the season, with June 5 his new finishing date.

Fitzpatrick said McLachlan had effectively taken over as League boss from Wednesday and would, like Demetriou, be a member of the Commission. 

McLachlan, 40, told the media conference he did not envisage appointing a deputy CEO, and spoke of his pride in his new position: "I understand the honour, I understand the responsibility, I understand the privilege of leading this code and this game.

"I want to congratulate Andrew Demetriou on his success and thank him for his support. He leaves incredibly big shoes to fill.  He leaves a massive legacy which I hope to build on.

"We have an amazing game, played by the most extraordinary athletes, with the most tribal of clubs and the most passionate of fans. We have our challenges but we are in an amazingly strong position and I am incredibly excited about our future."

The new CEO said his AFL regime would strive to be transparent in its decision-making after the lessons learned from last year's Essendon supplements saga.

McLachlan he was "incredibly proud" to replace his mentor Demetriou, but would be a different leader and would make changes to the "shape and structure" of his executive team.

However, McLachlan signalled those changes would not be dramatic.

"I think Andrew's legacy is an extraordinary level of growth in the industry and investment in stadiums and national expansion, in digital media, in development, in leadership on social issues," he said.

"My job ultimately is to consolidate that investment and focus on leveraging that investment."


Gillon McLachlan, centre, with Andrew Demetriou and Mike Fitzpatrick on Wednesday. Picture: AFL Media

The new League boss also spoke out on a range of hot topics:

A night Grand Final: "A lot of people have a lot of views on that, but I like a day Grand Final."

Further national expansion: "I believe we have the right amount of teams for the foreseeable future, whether that's five or 10 years." 

Tasmania: McLachlan reiterated his stance that one AFL team should ultimately represent Tasmania, but said Hawthorn and North Melbourne would be left to decide whether they continued playing in Launceston and Hobart respectively beyond their existing contracts.

ASADA investigation of Essendon: "My best understanding is that the Downes report will be finalised at the end of April and that decisions around show cause letters will be in the back half of May." 

The centre bounce: "I'm not making guarantees about anything, but I like the centre bounce."

The state of the game: "The game evolves and there have always been good games and there have always been bad games. The bad games now are just dissected in a way that's never been done before." 

Good Friday football: "I think there's strong momentum for it, but I don't think it's a certainty."

More games overseas: McLachlan said that New Zealand was the AFL's priority and he did not see games being played at other overseas venues in the foreseeable future. 

Fitzpatrick said McLachlan had the experience and knowledge to lead the AFL, having joined the League as a strategic planner in 2000 and later served as commercial operations manager, chief operating officer and deputy CEO.

"He also put to the AFL Commission a compelling and detailed view of the challenges and issues for the future of our game, and his plan for these challenges," Fitzpatrick said.

McLachlan had been the frontrunner to take up the CEO's position since Demetriou announced in early March he would be standing down.

Fitzpatrick said the executive search identified up to 100 candidates, which was narrowed to 20 and finally to three, who were interviewed on Monday.