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Decline in income forces AFL to restructure operations with 20% of staff to be cut

Decline in income forces AFL to restructure operations with 20% of staff to be cut
August 24, 2020

The AFL has today announced that it is to cut key members of its senior management team as part of making around 20% of its workforce redundant within a restructure prompted by an expected $400 million loss of income this year due to Coronavirus pandemic.

With the AFL having temporarily stood down 80% of its workforce in March, when the 2020 season was halted due to COVID-19, the ongoing impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is expected to see revenues generated by the AFL and its clubs fall from a forecast $1.2 billion to $800 million this year.

Commenced over recent months, the restructure has focused on four areas of AFL business - AFL House, Marvel Stadium, AFL State Entities and AFL Industry Club Shared Services. Set to come into full effect on 1st November it will include the departure of senior staff from the AFL’s executive team, which is reducing in size from 11 to eight.

Among the senior staff departing are executive team members Ray Gunston, who will be retained as a consultant, and Darren Birch, head of digital media production arm AFL Media. Also leaving are Ken Wood, who oversaw the league’s salary cap, and Kevin Sheehan, who ran the AFL draft. Patrick Keane is leaving the executive team, but staying on in the Office of the Chief Executive.

The slimmed-down executive team will be composed of Steve Hocking, Travis Auld, Andrew Dillon, Tanya Hosch, Kylie Rogers, Sarah Fair, Walter Lee and Brian Walsh.

Rogers will continue to lead the AFL’s commercial activity, including corporate partnerships, membership, premium products, ticketing and events. She will also oversee marketing, digital media including the AFL’s website, Marvel Stadium operations, and the customer and fan experience.

Auld will lead the Marvel Stadium and Docklands Precinct redevelopment, AFL major projects, finance, clubs, broadcasting and fixtures.

With the code facing ongoing revenue challenges for 2021, AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan advised that the decision to reset the AFL business model had been taken to ensure it is able to respond to a changing and uncertain environment at a time where finances had been depleted and current and future industry revenue had been impacted.

McLachlan advised that the restructure will see the AFL focus on four key strategic objectives:

1. Re-build financial strength - with Auld to oversee this agenda including reducing industry debt levels and building future financial security. A new General Manager Finance will be appointed to bolster this focus.

2. Fan First - A newly formed department led by Rogers will have an enhanced focus on the AFL’s fans and audience - keeping the game affordable and accessible, and in particular a focus on growth in northern markets where the AFL says “fans have embraced our game over the past several months”.

3. Investment in community football - continuing to grow the game at grass roots and supporting community clubs who need assistance after the devastating impact of the bushfires earlier this year and COVID.

4. Investment in technology - for fans to enjoy the game with broader content offering in different ways beyond just traditional game days. Technology will also drive key efficiency in how the AFL will operate under the new structure.

Other objectives in the restructure include “an enhanced focus on diversity and inclusion”, and the establishment of an expanded “Club Shared Services model that will lead to driving greater productivity, enhanced capability and efficiency across the industry”.

The League and clubs are to work on the latter over the next 24 months.

Explaining the changes, McLachlan advised “for our industry and game to emerge stronger from this ongoing Covid-19 challenge and the increased uncertainty we face over coming years, we need to significantly change our business model for not only the AFL but the wider football community.

“We have very clear priorities that we need to focus on, and I am confident that we have made the right decisions around the structure needed to deliver on those key priorities.

“We know that everyone in football is hurting and there are hard decisions being made, but we simply cannot shift the burden to our members, supporters or the 1.7 million people who participate in our game, because every family is facing the impact of this pandemic.”

The AFL’s action has been slammed by the United Services Union, with Sector Organiser, Troy Dunne commenting “it is shocking that Mr McLachlan thought it was appropriate to use a video call from his car to tell staff that hundreds of jobs will be gone in a matter of weeks and more than half of them will need to apply for positions in a new structure that hasn’t even been revealed yet.”

The AFL is also preparing a reduced pay deal for players through a revised collective bargaining agreement with the AFL Players Association.

The AFL’s new structure for its Executive Team, effective from 1st November, will be:

• Steve Hocking - Executive General Manager, Football
• Kylie Rogers - Executive General Manager, Commercial and Customer 
• Travis Auld - Executive General Manager, Finance, Clubs and Broadcasting
• Sarah Fair - Executive General Manager, People
• Andrew Dillon - Executive General Manager, Game Development/General Counsel 
• Tanya Hosch - Executive General Manager, Inclusion & Social Policy
• Walter Lee - Executive General Manager, Strategy 
• Brian Walsh - Executive General Manager, Corporate Affairs.

Images: AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan at the MCG (middle) and AFL action at Marvel Stadium (below).

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