• Andrew Demetriou will stand down as AFL CEO at the end of 2014
• AFL to begin 2-3 month search for a replacement
• Deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan among leading candidates for top job
• Demetriou denies AFL could have done more to prevent Essendon supplements crisis
ANDREW Demetriou's announcement that he will stand down at the end of the 2014 season means his successor will have time to prepare for the challenges ahead, and there will be many.
Deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan is the undoubted front-runner, but an executive search will be conducted to find the right appointment - ideally within two to three months. We look at the challenges waiting when Demetriou vacates his chair at the end of his 11th season in charge.
1. Financial equalisation
Perhaps the biggest issue in the game leading into the 2014 season, the gap between the AFL's rich and poor clubs won't be bridged quickly. A working party is in place, with a cap on football department spending and a luxury tax on overall revenue two of several proposals.
2. Performance equalisation
Draft and salary cap measures are designed to equalise the competition over time, but there remains a significant gap between the best and worst-performed clubs each year. Giving fans hope their team can win any given day (or night) could be a focus for the next CEO.
3. Regulating sports science
The Essendon supplements scandal has damaged the game as well as the image of sports scientists. Andrew Demetriou acted quickly to introduce new controls on supplements, and the next CEO will need to ensure a new set of standards and ethical guidelines are upheld.
4. Securing the integrity of the game
Demetriou has held concerns that certain groups were attempting to infiltrate the AFL, putting the integrity of the game at risk. Issues of concern include information sharing, gambling, illicit drugs and performance-enhancing drugs. New integrity regulations were proposed in February.
5. Football on Good Friday
Never an option for Demetriou, football could now be played on the religious holiday under a new CEO. The issue would be which clubs to hand the prized new timeslot to as pioneers. North Melbourne, Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs have shown most interest.
6. A night Grand Final
Demetriou has also resisted a push for the Grand Final to be played at night, which would benefit broadcasters and enhance entertainment around the match. McLachlan is also opposed to a night Grand Final.
7. Growth of the expansion clubs
Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney had memberships of 12,502 and 12,681 respectively in 2013, with the growth of both on track financially. Improvement is expected on the field this season and the next CEO will be keen to see them progress into a period of sustained success thereafter.
8. The Sydney market
The NRL has a $1 billion broadcast agreement of its own, and the league has established an independent commission to govern the game, which posted a record profit in 2013. With its heartland in Sydney, the NRL anticipates rugby league being the highest participation sport in the country in five years, presenting a significant challenge for the AFL in NSW.
9. The Brisbane Lions
Membership and attendance numbers are down, the club lost $1.5 million last year and a group of key young players departed. The AFL has supported the club on its Springfield development and board composition for 2014, and financial assistance will continue. Like the recent expansion clubs, the AFL wants the Lions to succeed.
10. International exposure
In 2013, St Kilda became the first club to play for premiership points outside Australia when it took on the Sydney Swans in Wellington on Anzac Day. The agreement will stay in place for at least the next five years, but what is the next step to expose the game to an international audience?
11. The next broadcast rights deal
Streaming games directly to viewers by 2017 as part of an internet TV subscription could form part of the AFL's next broadcast rights agreements. The current agreement finishes in 2016 and there has been speculation the next rights deal could be long-term. Former News Ltd and Foxtel CEO Kim Williams joined the AFL Commission in February.
12. A presence in Tasmania
Tasmania is pushing for one club to play eight games in the state, rather than Hawthorn and North Melbourne sharing seven games between them on the Apple Isle. How the AFL embraces Tasmania - the only traditional football state without its own team - and how any decision affects supporters who lose mainland games will be an issue for the next CEO.
13. Purchasing Etihad Stadium
The AFL can buy Etihad Stadium for $1 on March 8, 2025, but an early purchase would allow deals with St Kilda, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs to be redrawn, giving them better match-day returns. Demetriou has said the League is a long way from purchasing the stadium at a fair price.
14. Grand Final draws
After the drawn Grand Final between Collingwood and St Kilda in 2010, the AFL decided not to introduce extra time for the biggest game of the year in the future. It is an issue that deserves more consideration, however, after the introduction of two new interstate teams to the national competition.
15. Developing and retaining off-field talent
Port Adelaide's struggle to replace Alan Richardson as director of coaching and St Kilda's ongoing search for a CEO have shed light on a growing problem for clubs, and for the League in general. Developing quality administrators and coaches - and retaining them in the game - is an issue that clubs will increasingly face, and one that was flagged by Demetriou in his farewell media conference.