AFL chief Gillon McLachlan told to change his style

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Disenchanted football chief executives registered their disappointment with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan after his handling of last week’s two-day meeting of the 18 clubs, telling the league chief he needed to change his style.

The CEOs were unhappy that McLachlan failed to consult with their clubs before unveiling a series of major development projects at the Werribee Park conference, which included the implementation of club-run multicultural and Indigenous academies and the prospect of club alignments with the proposed women’s national league.

The AFL unveiled its ambitious and complex plans but handed the clubs no briefing notes beforehand and would not release a detailed written agenda of what looms as a major new project for the clubs. According to club chiefs the AFL’s treatment of its clubs left them unprepared and unengaged. The session covering the academy proposal saw little feedback with most clubs agreeing they should have been given the opportunity to research the proposal.

McLachlan resolved at the end of the CEOs meeting that the AFL would look at changing its handling of club talks into the future. He acknowledged the general disenchantment but said the AFL had been unwilling to detail its big picture plans in writing for fear of them being revealed to the media.

Three senior and long-serving CEOs communicated the mood of the meeting to McLachlan. One senior CEO told Fairfax Media that the club meetings had been evolving for some time into general information sessions with little feedback or ideas encouraged from the clubs. He said that the clubs were losing patience with being “treated like idiots.” Another said: “There was some serious disappointment in that room.. No one said boo.” A third said the club bosses felt disrespected after taking two days out of their weekly calendar but in turn not being trusted or encouraged to engage in general debate.

A fourth agreed the club talks had been non-consultative but defended McLachlan saying the league chief had endured a difficult week in the wake of the divisive Adam Goodes controversy, the dramatic resignation of AFL executive Dorothy Hisgrove and the Richard Colless attack upon chairman Mike Fitzpatrick.

While the national women’s league was placed on the agenda by McLachlan at the start of the year, the AFL boss told clubs to start work in earnest with a view to forming alignments with women’s teams. He said the AFL was pushing forward with its plans to establish the league by 2017 and that licences would be handed out to the new teams with AFL clubs encouraged to partner women’s teams.

The clubs generally applauded the multicultural academy proposal but remained disappointed at not being consulted on the large scale project which would see each club given a zone in which to develop talent from new markets as well as developing indigenous programs within those academies. Most chief executives were taken aback by the exciting and ambitious scale of the plan but regretted not being given the opportunity to investigate the academy move and therefore value add to the multi-million project.

The long-term plan, part of the national review into the game, would see clubs ultimately able to bid for their own academy players along similar lines to the complex new northern academies and father-son bidding system.

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