FOLLOWING  a meeting today in Adelaide of the AFL Commission with the 18 club presidents/chairmen and chief executive officers, agreement was reached on the broad principles that should underpin measures to strengthen the competitive balance between teams.

AFL Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the driving philosophy behind competitive balance was to do everything reasonable to ensure each club has a chance to win on any given day or night. Club supporters deserve that optimism. 

The meeting agreed on the following principles as the basis for a new competitive balance model for the AFL competition:

1.      All clubs to have the capacity to pay 100% of TPP and ASA limits

2.      All clubs to have the capacity to fund a level of non-player expenditure to be competitive on field while maintaining overall profitability

3.      To deliver financial viability and on field competitiveness, an enhanced revenue sharing system including both central and local revenue is required

4.      A mechanism to control growth in non-player football spend is required

5.      There is an aspiration to move towards a pure draft and salary cap

6.      There is an aspiration to pay the players more, if affordable for the industry

7.      Supplementary funds are required in addition to increased revenue sharing to address structural inequities eg: - fixture cycle, stadia deal, supporter base size, non-football businesses

8.      Revenue sharing recipients must remain incentivised to grow and actively address causes of disadvantage

9.      AFL to provide more central support and enforce stronger penalties for non-compliance

10.    No club to be unfairly disadvantaged by the new competitive balance policy

Mr Fitzpatrick said it had been agreed there remained a lot of detail to work through and that all club boards would receive a detailed presentation prior to the model being finalised over the coming weeks. It had also been agreed that all measures would be further reviewed before the 2017 season to determine their effectiveness and practicality.

Today’s meeting also incorporated the Annual General Meeting of the AFL, at which Mr Fitzpatrick released the 2013 Australian Football League Annual Report which details the key strategic issues that were progressed last year despite the off-field integrity issues which dominated media coverage of the code.

Mr Fitzpatrick said that during a challenging year for the code, the AFL Commission had remained focused on several ‘big picture’ items that are key elements of the Commission’s 2012-2016 strategic plan and fundamental to the game’s long term future.

These items included the continuing growth of the Gold Coast Suns and the Greater Western Sydney Giants under competition expansion, development of an approach to enhancing the competitive balance between all AFL clubs, the performance of AFL Media and the renewal of the AFL Executive Team under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Andrew Demetriou.

Ongoing infrastructure developments in the shape of the $535 million redevelopment of Adelaide Oval funded by the South Australian Government and the proposed $700 million Burswood Stadium by the Western Australian Government were also a focus in 2013, as were broadcast arrangements that are delivering games to fans live and on-demand across a range of media platforms.

The AFL Commission released the game’s official financial figures, which appear in the 2013 Annual Report, to the AFL Club Presidents as part of the AFL annual general meeting held today in Adelaide.

Highlights of the AFL’s financial performance in 2013 included:

-  Total AFL revenue increased by $18 million or 4 per cent to a record $446 million

-  The operating surplus, before grants and distributions, increased by 5 per cent to a record $310 million (from $296 million)

-  The AFL provided total funding to AFL clubs of $209 million, an increase of 5 per cent

- The AFL allocated $20.2 million to the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants, in line with our competition expansion arrangements

- The total payments earned by AFL players, taking into account gross player payments, additional service agreements and employment and marketing arrangements with associates of AFL Clubs, was $197.5 million, an increase of 6.8 per cent on 2012.

As a result of these grants and distributions, the AFL’s net profit increased by $10 million to $16.6 million. This profit will be reinvested in the AFL’s Future Fund.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the resilience of the AFL competition was on show in 2013 based on strong results in the key measures of attendances, club memberships, television audiences and online traffic generated by the AFL Telstra digital media network.

“It was a challenging year on an unprecedented scale for the AFL last year, but it was pleasing to see that supporters stuck with their clubs and the game, and this loyalty and passion is something we will never take for granted,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“In response to the vulnerabilities for all sports highlighted by the Australian Crime Commission report into doping and the threat of organised crime, the AFL Commission moved quickly to introduce measures to strengthen our rules, our Anti-Doping Code and our Integrity Unit, which was first established in 2008.

“The AFL Commission will continue to place the highest priority on safeguarding the integrity of the competition.”

Mr Fitzpatrick reported that achieving greater competitive balance amongst the 18 teams had also dominated the thinking of the Commission and the clubs in 2013 and that progress was continuing in formulating a model to enable all fans to have a reasonable expectation that their team has a good chance of winning on any given day or night, regardless of the club’s financial strength.

“We were particularly pleased with the continuing progress in 2013 of our in-house digital media business AFL Media, established in 2012 to supply the AFL and each club website with content while also consolidating the operations of AFL Films, AFL Publishing and AFL Photographs,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

For the period January 1 to November 30 2013 the aggregate weekly unique visitors to, the club websites, the AFL Live application and 18 official AFL club applications totalled more than 105 million, an increase of more than 21 per cent on 2012. 

Mr Fitzpatrick said the AFL, through the work of the AFL Executive and the Commission, had achieved very good results in each of its key indicators on the health of the game for the 2013 year;

-  Record domestic participation in Australian Football in 2013 of 938,069 from the previous mark of 844,779.

-  Record membership (for the 13th consecutive year) of AFL clubs of 756,717 compared to 707,621 in 2012.

-  Total AFL attendance across the NAB Cup, NAB Challenge, Toyota AFL Premiership season and the Toyota AFL finals series of 7,193,366 in 2013, slightly lower than 2012 due to the expansion clubs and the playing of more games in smaller venues.

-  Average attendance per game during the Toyota AFL Premiership Season of 32,163, which puts the AFL competition in the top four average attendances per game in world professional sport.

-  The Toyota AFL Grand Final between Hawthorn and Fremantle was the most-watched sporting event of the year, with an average national audience of 3.63 million people on the Seven Network.

-  A crowd of 100,007 at the 2013 Toyota AFL Grand Final, making it the most attended professional team sports event in the world in 2013.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the AFL Commission was proud of the fact the AFL continued to partner with several state and local governments to provide funding for the development of community facilities which benefitted 107 clubs in 2013, with a total project value of $62.1 million.

As part of the financial figures, the Commission released the details of the executive packages for 2013.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the package for AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, including superannuation, was $1.47 million. The CEO was also paid a performance bonus, based on achieving key performance indicators, for an overall total 2013 package of $1.8 million. In addition, the CEO received a $2.0 million long term incentive bonus associated with his leadership role in achieving several key metrics including the $1.25 billion broadcast rights deal, the expansion of the competition and the completion of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The AFL Executive team (13) was paid salaries and bonuses in 2013 totalling $6.8 million, partly reflecting the transition to a new Executive team. 

“The professional sports industry is becoming increasingly competitive and complex and the AFL Commission is determined to attract and retain the very best available skills and experience,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“The sustained growth of the game and our ambitious long term strategy demands that the game continues to be served by a highly skilled and motivated leadership team. In addition, our CEO achieved a healthy and well deserved bonus for his role in securing a lucrative broadcast rights deal in 2011 that has benefitted Australian Football enormously.”

On behalf of the Commission, Mr Fitzpatrick also acknowledged and thanked every AFL staff member across Australia for their contribution in 2013 and ongoing hard work in serving the game and growing its popularity across the nation.