Lance Franklin during Sydney's 2022 preliminary final against Collingwood. Picture: AFL Photos

The AFL has today forwarded its 2022 financial results to the Presidents and Chairs of the 18 clubs, in the lead-up to next month’s Annual General Meeting.

The AFL reported an underlying operating profit of $20.7 million in 2022, compared with an underlying operating loss of $46.1 million in 2021, an increase of $66.8 million. This result includes the AFL’s controlled state subsidiaries, Marvel Stadium and Champion Data.

In his review of the year, AFL Commission Chair Richard Goyder said the collective industry delivered a strong result after three uncertain and challenging years.

“At the start of 2022 our agenda was to champion the community’s bounce back from the Covid- 19 pandemic and catapult football, at all levels, back to pre-covid levels,” Mr Goyder said.

“It wasn’t without its challenges, however a collective effort from our football community, from our players, coaches and officials, our committed broadcast and corporate partners and especially our football fans, delivered one of our biggest football calendar years on record.

“Two AFLW seasons in the one year, and one of the best AFL seasons in recent memory drove great momentum and, in turn, ensured footy was front and centre all year as communities regained their pre-Covid weekly rituals and rhythms. The AFL put on more than 850 matches across AFL, AFLW, VFL, VFLW, NAB League and our elite talent programs, which is an unbelievable calendar of events to deliver, and I congratulate everyone who played a part.

“During the year the AFL Commission acted to entrench 10% of all football revenue to invest back into game development and community football, acknowledging the importance the grassroots level and the thousands of volunteers have on not only the elite game but the ability to bring communities together and provide a sense of belonging. We need an oval a week every week for the next five years to support the growth in participation, particularly among women and girls, and this investment will enable us to continue to partner with Governments at all levels to provide more inclusive and gender appropriate facilities and welcoming environments for all participants.”

“I want to thank the boards and staff of the 18 clubs, our players, umpires and our own AFL Executive and team, led by Gillon McLachlan, for the work they did and the decisions they made to ensure football prospered around the country, including securing a new $4.5 billion dollar broadcast deal to help secure the future of our game and to ensure it remains accessible and affordable to all.

“Most of all, I want to thank our members and supporters for their passion and commitment to their clubs and everyone who watched the games and supported us collectively across both the NAB AFL Women’s Competition and the Toyota AFL Premiership Season.”

Total AFL Club membership reached an all-time record 1,190,671 members in 2022, surpassing the record of 1,113,441 that was set in 2021 – a jump of 6.9 per cent growth on last year.

One in every 22 Australians is currently a member of an AFL club.

AFL Chief Financial Officer Travis Auld said the organisation had prepared for another challenging year, so the financial results were a testament to the planning and discipline as the industry worked through the uncertainty of Covid’s impact in 2022.

“Our underlying profit was a budget break even result, and while our profit and cash balance were both significant on paper, they included partial receipt of the majority of the $225 million dollar Government grant for the Marvel Stadium redevelopment partnership that was announced in 2018 – a redevelopment that is now close to being completed.” Mr Auld said.

“The AFL costs increased off the back of completing two AFLW seasons in one financial year, the introduction of four new clubs into the AFLW competition, the historical 94% increase in payments to AFLW players, ongoing covid pandemic measures at AFL clubs and further investment into AFLW facilities and grounds.

“The AFLW competition and women’s football remains a priority and our investment in the last 12 months reflects this as did the commitment to a 94% pay rise for players and running two seasons in the one calendar year to avoid an 16-month break between seasons.

“Our balance sheet remains strong, and despite the significant cash cost required to deliver the AFL and two AFLW seasons, the co-ordinated effort to reduce the industry cost base and protect revenues means the AFL was able to report a cash surplus for the financial year.

“The focus remains on the rebuild and strengthening of the industry balance sheet that will enable future investment in the growth and development of our game from grassroots through to the elite platforms while still investing significant funding into player mental health and welfare initiatives which remain well above pre-Covid levels.

“We have survived the most challenging three years in the game’s history and our priority remains to keep our game as affordable and accessible as possible for all."

Key AFL financial summary:

The AFL’s operating revenue increased by $131.8 million due to a combination of improved commercial returns from Marvel Stadium, sponsorship and broadcasting. This revenue was used to fund the following investments:

• $337.5 million to AFL clubs;
• $60.8 million to Game Development;
• $45.3 million in running the AFLW competition, including Season 6 which ran from January 2022 to April 2022 and part of Season 7, which ran from August 2022 to November 2022;
• $27.1 million to the AFLPA;
• $17.4 million to infrastructure comprising of elite and community facilities and contributions for stadia redevelopments; and
• $0.7 million to corporate and social responsibility initiatives.

Operating expenditure increased by $63.0 million due to a combination of revenue-related increases and the expansion of the AFLW competition, including the introduction of four new teams and completion of two AFLW Home & Away seasons in the 2022 financial year.

Distributions to Clubs increased by $36.5 million.

The AFL’s cash balance at the end of the financial year was $178.2 million; the balance included $60.2 million payable to the AFL Players Association for a share of revenues captured over the 2017 to 2021 season which was paid in November 2022.

The total payments to AFL Executives equated to $11.8 million, compared to $10.4 million in 2019 pre-Covid.

After all revenue, operating expenditure and distributions, the AFL recorded an underlying operating profit of $20.7 million, compared with an underlying operating loss of $46.1 million in 2021.