AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder speak to media at McLachlan's resignation as CEO on April 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder has today announced that Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan had advised the AFL Commission of his resignation, which will become effective at the conclusion of 2022.

Mr Goyder said that following the successful conclusion of the NAB AFLW season at the weekend Mr McLachlan had informed the Commission of his intention to leave the role but has also agreed he would stay through the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season to ensure a number of key strategic projects were completed.

By the time he finishes at the AFL, Mr McLachlan will have served nine seasons as CEO, having been appointed in 2014. He previously held the positions of Deputy Chief Executive officer, Chief Operating Officer, General Manager of Commercial and Strategic Planner, during a career that began with the League in 2000.

Mr Goyder said Mr McLachlan had overseen extraordinary growth in the game across all measures from industry revenue to community participation, membership and broadcast ratings, as well as spearheading the introduction of the AFLW competition that had driven a doubling of the number of girls and women participating in the game.

“Throughout his time as CEO, Gillon has focused on the supporters, ensuring the game remained affordable and accessible,” Mr Goyder said.

“Under his leadership the AFL has introduced initiatives such as the soft cap to ensure greater competitive balance and that any team could win on any given day – a key guiding principle that he outlined to the Commission when he applied for the role in 2014.

“His commercial acumen has resulted in extraordinary growth in our broadcast rights and our AFL industry revenue, but his commitment to local community football has ensured that financial growth has been shared across our game and been channelled into greater investment in local infrastructure and an exponential growth in the facilities and programs that provide an inclusive environment for girls and women.”

Mr Goyder said Mr McLachlan’s leadership, strategic ability and strong relationships across football, Government, and community had come to the fore in successfully steering the code through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As an industry, we owe Gillon a debt for his ability to lead his team at the AFL and the wider industry and ensure that every part of the football community worked together to get through Covid. Again, Gill was driven by bringing all 18 AFL clubs and 14 AFLW teams through the pandemic in strong shape, but also ensuring we continued to support community football to get back up and going again.

“He knows how important football is to the community – and I think that commitment to local football and access for all will be one of the legacies when he does finish later in the year, along with his commitment to changing the culture of the industry and championing greater gender equity across the AFL and clubs. He should be truly proud of the way he and his team have shaped the AFL, its competitions, its culture and its community.”

Mr Goyder said that Mr McLachlan would finish at the end of 2022 and had committed to completing a number of key strategic projects including:

• A new broadcast deal for the AFL and AFLW competitions beyond the current agreement that ends in 2024.
• Agreeing a collective bargaining agreement with the AFLPA for AFL and AFLW players.
• Finalising the club funding arrangements for the competition, including any changes to the
soft cap.
• Completing the review into a Tasmanian team and putting a final position to the 18 AFL
clubs for their decision.
• Ensuring the completion of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership season and the successful
start of Season Seven of AFLW, when all 18 clubs will be represented for the first time.
• Overseeing the increased investment into community football to support schools,
volunteers and community clubs in successfully helping to re-connect players, particularly youth, who have been become disengaged with the wider community through Covid.

“I want to thank Gill for the work he has done to drive the growth of our game and its relevance to more people in more places across Australia and especially extend that thanks to Laura and the whole family – Edie, Cleo, Sidney and Luna - for their support through Gill’s time as CEO,” Mr Goyder said.

“Gill has given advance notice of the timing of his departure but is committed to working with his team to finalise a big strategic agenda in 2022 with a number of key strategic initiatives that – once resolved – will ensure we have the balance to set up all levels of football for growth over the next 10 years.”

Mr Goyder said the AFL Commission would retain an executive search firm to assist in potential candidates to succeed Mr McLachlan as Chief Executive Officer and he expected that process would begin within the next week and take several months.

“Gill has built a strong executive team internally, but this is an important decision and we will undertake a rigorous process to ensure we have the best person to take over the role,” Mr Goyder said.

Mr Goyder said what the AFL had achieved under Mr McLachlan’s reign was vast:

• Introduction of the AFLW competition in 2017 – with accelerated expansion to 10 teams (2019), 14 teams (2020) and now growing to all 18 teams in 2022 which will see 540 women playing at the elite level – the largest number of any elite sport in the country.
• Kept the game affordable and accessible to ensure families could attend games and participate in the game.
• Driven the acquisition of Marvel Stadium – a decision that ensured the AFL had the asset base to access $600m line of credit to keep the football industry operational at the start of the pandemic.
• Secured a $225 million upgrade of Marvel Stadium to transform the fan experience and ensure it is a year-round destination for major sports and entertainment.
• Introduction of the Indigenous Advisory Council, currently co-chaired by AFL Commissioner Helen Milroy and Jack Titus Award winner Uncle Paul Briggs, to provide advice and guidance to the Commission and Executive on issues concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Led to the appointment of first indigenous Commissioner (Dr Milroy) and first indigenous Executive team member (Tanya Hosch) and the Review of the Peek Rule.
• Introduced the first Gender Action Plan introduced which has led to a significant increase in women holding senior leadership roles across the AFL Executive and General Manager levels and greater focus on leadership training and providing opportunities for senior women across the industry.
• Appointed Dr Kate Hall as the AFL’s head of Mental Health and Wellbeing and Ranjit Menon as the AFL’s Chief Psychiatrist – a move that has led to an overhaul of the industry’s approach to mental health and significant improvements in the coordination of wellbeing services across football and expanded investment in mental health at AFL clubs.
• Championed the AFL’s support for the Yes vote during the Marriage Equality vote.
• Secured the country’s largest ever sport TV broadcast deal for the AFL competition and
ensured an AFLW broadcast agreement which has resulted in the most expansive free to
air coverage of a women’s sport.
• Overseen strong growth in all the key performance indicators of the sport including
revenue ($502m in 2013 to $793m in 2019 pre-Covid), attendances (6.9m to 7.5m)
memberships (756,717 to 1.14m in 2021), participation (938,068 to 1.7m).
• As CEO, Deputy CEO and COO, Mr McLachlan has been involved in the investment of
more than $3 billion into infrastructure, which has seen the development or
redevelopment of stadiums in every state and territory across Australia.
• As Deputy CEO and COO intimately involved in the creation of two new expansion clubs
in the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants.
• Introduced the Indigenous/Muticultural Next Generation Academies (NGAs), to accelerate
the talent pathways for talent from diverse communities.
• Introduced new competitive balance measures to ensure all Clubs had the capacity to pay
up to 100 per cent of TPP and fund a competitive level of football expenditure and to
control football spending through a new soft cap system.
• Overhauled the AFL Tribunal and Match Review process and the ARC while continuing to
introduce tighter rules at AFL and community level to protect the health and safety of players across all levels of the game while introducing tighter concussion protocols.

Mr McLachlan said it had been a privilege to be the CEO of the AFL and that, after steering the industry through Covid, seeing the AFLW competition to completion at the weekend and crowds returning in numbers to AFL games it was the right time to give notice of his resignation.

"I came into this role because I am passionate about football and the way it connects people in local communities right across the country and I will leave with that love even stronger than it was. Football is an intrinsic part of life and I have seen that first-hand at community club level and in working for the AFL over the past 20 years," Mr McLachlan said.

"I told Richard when he took over from Mike Fitzpatrick that there is a time frame on the role of CEO and I would depart when the time is right. Nine seasons is a long time but I feel that with AFLW going to 18 teams, people returning to AFL games, the balance sheet is in good shape, we are investing more in community football, there is a good plan for 2022 and the time is right.

"Success for the code is always about trying to balance between the community and the commerciality – ensuring we were able to drive revenue but then ensuring we use that revenue to engage more people in more places, particularly women and girls and people from diverse backgrounds.

"Our team at the AFL has been extraordinary - particularly over the past two years when – like everyone in the community – we have had to do less with more as we navigated the pandemic. It is also where the collective goodwill of the industry – players, clubs, umpires, staff and our supporters and members – came together to ensure we all put the game first in every decision.

"I want to thank the club CEOs and presidents in particular and also Richard and the Commission for their support. We have a very full agenda in 2022 and I have undertaken to resolve a number of key priorities including the broadcast deal, CBAs, club funding and put a position on Tasmania to the clubs by August and if I can do that, I will leave the game happy.

"We have emerged from Covid in good shape and that has taken discipline and hard work. We need to make the right decisions over the coming months to ensure all levels of the game are set up for sustained growth over the next decade and I am keen to get that right before I go."