Back

AFL Cuts 20% Of Staff

T
he AFL has announced a restructure in response to a projected $400 million loss of income this year due to COVID-19, seeing its workforce cut by around 20%.

As part of the cuts, the AFL executive team will drop from 11 to 8, with Darren Birch the head of AFL Media let go, while Ray Gunston will leave the executive team but will enter an advisory role in a consulting capacity, and Patrick Keane will stay in his role as Office of CEO, but will not be a member of the executive team.

Head of salary caps, Ken Wood, has also been let go by the AFL, along with Kevin Sheehan, who ran the AFL draft.

AFL chief executive, Gillon McLachlan, said the restructure is a result of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the AFL had a responsibility to take decisive action now to ensure the industry and the future of the sport at all levels was preserved, affordable, and accessible to all.

“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,” McLachlan said.

“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 reality is that we will lose talented, committed, passionate football people from our organisation and that is incredibly difficult, but this pandemic has forced every business, every family and every individual to take steps that no-one had planned.

“The necessity of operating differently during the pandemic, along with experiencing a reduction in revenue, has forced us to explore and understand what we can do differently and what we are capable of, and also what we need to continue to achieve to keep the industry strong.

“I am very grateful for all those who have worked tirelessly to ensure our successful return to play.

“We are also acutely aware that every household of football supporters and members has been impacted in some way, which might include their ability to pay to play or support their clubs.

“We won’t shift the cost burden to our supporters, so we have to look at how we can be more focused in what we do to build the game.

“As hard as that is, there is no alternative.

“The challenge is far from over and we will continue to be flexible in how we respond but it was important to take decisive action now to re-set our focus, our model of operating and our expectations,” he said.

The AFL, in a statement, said the restructure will focus on four key strategic objectives:

Re-build financial strength – Travis Auld to oversee this agenda including reducing our industry debt levels and building future financial security. A new general manager Finance will be appointed to bolster this focus.

Fan First – In a newly formed department led by Kylie Rogers, there will be an enhanced focus on our fans and audience – keeping the game affordable and accessible, and in particular a focus on growth in our northern markets where fans have embraced our game over the past several months.

Investment in community football – despite our financial challenges, we know the importance of continuing to grow our game at grass roots and support our community clubs who need our assistance more than ever after the devastating impact of the bushfires earlier this year and COVID.

Investment in technology – as the impact of COVID continues to be ongoing and uncertain there is a need to invest in technology for fans to enjoy our game and broader content offering in different ways beyond just our traditional game day. Technology will also drive key efficiency in how we will operate under the new structure.

In response to the AFL’s cuts, the United Services Union organiser, Troy Dunne, which represents a selection of AFL staff, said the restructure, which will be in place from November 1, was “nothing short of appalling”

“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,” Dunne said.

The AFL also said it will bring an enhanced focus on diversity and inclusion across its workforce, talent programs, participation, and audience with the restructure, with McLachlan saying the AFL would appoint a new senior National Talent Diversity manager to lead Indigenous and Multicultural talent programs.