Gillon McLachlan to stand down as league chief executive at end of season

AFL chief executive officer Gillon McLachlan has confirmed 2022 will be his last year in the job, confirming on Tuesday he’d step down from his role at season’s end.

Clubs were told of the news at a meeting at 10.30am, while an all-staff meeting at AFL house was called at 11am.

McLachlan and AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder then fronted the media, with Goyder revealing McLachlan told him of his decision on the weekend.

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McLachlan broke down twice while addressing the media.

“I’d like to reiterate what I said when I started in that it’s an honor and a privilege to be involved in this game. Best game in the world … it’s why everyone loves it, so much,” McLachlan said.

“The responsibility has never been lost on me and I feel good that the game is in better shape now than when I took over, but the scoreboard will be for others to judge.”

McLachlan also choked up when reflecting on the connections he’d made during his time at league headquarters.

“So many people I’ve worked with over such a long period of time are so talented and dedicated and I have so many close friends,” he said.

“The reality is the AFL has been a huge part of my life and it’s all about the people. I’m not going to individualise, other than to say I could never have imagined when I started that the friendships I would take from the AFL would be by far the most significant thing of my time here.

“And it’s not just at the AFL, it’s across clubs and our commercial and broadcast partners. The greatest game in the world is so because there’s a bloody lot of passionate and mercurial people in and around it — and I think footy brings out the best in them. And it includes all of you (in the media) – mostly, you know there’s exceptions.”

McLachlan said leaving at the end of the season was the ideal time to step away.

“I’m leaving now because it feels right. Right for the AFL, right for me, right for my family. It’s clearly more complicated than that, but actually in simple terms it’s not. The AFL’s in incredible shape on whatever metric you assess it

AFL Media reported McLachlan was keen to complete new women’s and men’s competition Collective Bargaining Agreements, as well as finalizing new club-funding models and a fresh broadcast deal, before he leaves. McLachlan will also oversee a call later this year on whether 19th license should be granted to Tasmania.

McLachlan is also committed to a new broadcast rights deal, despite the current deal still having two years to run at the end of the year.

McLachlan will move on after taking over from Andrew Demetriou in April 2014. Veteran AFL reporter Caroline Wilson said McLachlan had “stayed in longer than even he intended”, telling 3AW: “Gillon did the right thing not to step away during the pandemic.”

The 49-year-old will leave a significant legacy, highlighted by the introduction of the AFLW competition in 2017 — and fast-tracking it to be an 18-team competition by the end of 2022 — and navigating two Covid-interrupted seasons in 2020 and 2021. McLachlan was also in the chair when the AFL purchased Marvel Stadium in 2016, which significantly helped the AFL financially when the 2020 season was paused due to COVID-19.

As chief executive, McLachlan also oversaw the introduction of Good Friday footy and the two twilight Grand Finals played during the Covid-interrupted seasons.

Multiple reports have indicated McLachlan will have a say during the process to find his replacement.

Andrew Dillon and Travis Auld, who are currently on the AFL executive, would be in the mix to replace McLachlan, as would Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale, who’s long been seen as a strong candidate to replace McLachlan.

The league could also look to Christine Holgate, Kylie Rogers and Western Bulldogs president Kylie Watson-Wheeler to be its first female chief executive.



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