Andrew Demetriou – Insights into his time as CEO of the AFL

Peter Cramer

I attended a conference recently at which Andrew Demetriou spoke – and found him and his presentation very interesting.

Let me share some of the information:

The following is a summary of the progress made from 1987 to 2014 in the VFL/AFL development:

1987 2007 2014
Revenue   $23.2m $279m $425m
Club Memberships  71,000 532,000 804,000
Player Av wage    $22k $203k $276k
Media rights value $5M $147M $1.25B
Auskick participation  11,000 161,000 172,000

That is pretty serious growth!  He said the competition was basically a basket case back then and now the AFL is debt free and very strong.  The change came about through strategic planning.

The AFL went from the Club CEO’s running the League to them ‘sacking’ themselves and bringing in an independent board of management – which he was the boss of.

There was a need for major change and the 4 pillars of the plan were:

  1. Salary cap
  2. Priority picks
  3. Equal funds distribution
  4. Ground rationalisation.

He outlined a number of philosophies of the AFL, and things learned:

  • “If it ain’t broke – well, fix it anyway!”  Always look for improvement even if it is working.
  • Engage with your stakeholders:  Listen to your customers and your participants – consult with them and improve doing business with them.
  • Stakeholder management – manage the relationship and always look to make it better.
  • Never take your community for granted.
  • People want different – must value add for the same amount or outlay.
  • Never lie – it is much easier to sell the truth.
  • The public can’t stand ‘spin’, procrastination and not making a decision.  Be decisive.
  • Never be afraid to admit mistakes.

He said his philosophy with his people was:  we will develop you as people if you work at the AFL.  You will leave a better person for being here.  In return you must commit and give your loyalty.

He then highlighted some of the technological advances the AFL are planning with Mobile phone apps:  looking at instant replays via your mobile, looking at 3 or 4 angles of the same mark or goal instantly, the ability to put together a collection of the highlights of the game you just attended and send them to your friends (or enemies!) mobiles.  “The mobile phone is the most powerful tool ever!”

He spoke of the press and how there is a saturation of football writers all clambering for ‘the story’ – (my take on this is – hence the possibility a lot of rubbish can be written or is!)

He said the biggest stuff up has been the Essendon drug issue and the knowledge that young men had been injected with known or unknown substances was terrible and a blight on the AFL

He also indicated he had no desire to go back into football and was unlikely to.  He said he never took work home with him and treasured the evening time with his family.   He was basically unavailable to the Press after 6.00pm – ie don’t call me once I leave the office!

All in all he held the interest of the audience and there were some gems to take away and consider for one’s business and personal growth.