THE AFL has announced the appointment of Rob Auld as the new Executive General Manager of Game Development and a member of the AFL Executive.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said Mr Auld would oversee the League’s new recently endorsed game development strategy and investment to boost community and local football, ensuring that football clubs and NAB Auskick centres played an important role in communities recovering and re-connecting following the impact of the Covid pandemic on the game at all levels.

Mr Auld takes the role previously held by AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon, who recently took on the role of Executive General Manager of Football.

Mr McLachlan said Mr Auld had been selected from a strong field of internal and external candidates in a recruitment process overseen by AFL Commissioner and former Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold.

As the General Manager of AFL Competitions for the past two years Mr Auld has driven the AFL’s Return to Play group, the team responsible for navigating the Covid-19 outbreaks and ensuring the AFL and AFLW seasons were able to continue.  As well as overseeing the Covid-19 protocols, compliance and competition management, Mr Auld was also responsible for umpiring, game analysis, list management, the operation of the ARC and football operations projects and research.

Mr Auld has a proven track record on game development. Prior to joining the AFL Football Department, Mr Auld served for two years as the AFL Head of Game Development and before that, for two years as CEO of AFL Tasmania.  He joined the AFL in 2016 after a 15-year career with Lion Nathan in which he held a number of senior leadership roles.

Mr McLachlan said that Mr Auld had played a vital role in leading the AFL industry in navigating the Covid-19 crisis and worked with clubs, players, governments and police across the country to ensure the 2021 AFL and AFLW seasons were successfully completed, despite the many complexities and differing conditions and guidelines across the states.

In the role of Executive General Manager Game Development, Mr Auld will be responsible for participation and programs including NAB Auskick, diversity programs, the growth and sustainability of community football, ongoing support for umpires and volunteers, driving the AFL’s community football infrastructure development, including a strong focus on building more facilities to cater for girls and women and expanding overall participation across the country.

“Rob has demonstrated his ability to develop a clear strategy and to bring people along with him to work together to get the job done and to navigate our way through some really tough periods.  This year has been incredibly challenging and Rob’s ability to focus people on the task at hand and work as a team to keep the competition on track has been vital in us getting the AFL and AFLW seasons,” Mr McLachlan said.

“His leadership has been extraordinary and as someone who has been involved in local football for years, he will bring great energy to the important job of helping build community football and ensuring local football clubs are front and centre to helping communities across Australia rebuild and reconnect as we learn to live with Covid.

“Supporting community football and getting kids back to playing sport and families back to connecting with each other is a key priority for the AFL and we will back that with increased investment to help clubs and to help local volunteers attract people back to our game.

“We know there are so many junior players who have missed the opportunity to play sport during lockdowns across the country, particularly in Victoria and NSW, and the AFL’s very clear commitment to parents is that we will double down on our efforts to help those kids – and families – get engaged and active again. 

“We have a number of initiatives that we will announce soon, and Rob will lead the team in driving that support for community football across the country.”

Mr Auld said he had grown up in a football environment and had played, coached and been a club president in country Victoria where he still lived.

“Community football has been an important part of my life and I appreciate and understand the role community clubs play in local communities and the need to support the thousands of volunteers who ensure our clubs are strong and sustainable,” Mr Auld said. 

“It is an honour to be able to support the development of the game across the country and I am committed to doing what we can to ensure our game continues to grow across the country.”

Mr Auld will begin the role on Wednesday 3 November 2021.