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AFL Reveals $22.8 Million Operating Loss In 2020

T
he AFL has released its 2020 financial results, revealing an underlying operating loss of $22.8 million for the year, after recording a underlying operating surplus of $27.9 million in 2019.

The AFL, in the release of financial figures for 2020, revealed it used $60 million in capital reserves to complete the 2020 season, and showed revenue dropped by $119.1 million in 2020, with distributions to clubs and the AFL Players Association dropping by $110.9 million.

AFL Commission chairman, Richard Goyder, said, while revealing the results to the presidents and chairs of the 18 AFL clubs in the lead-up to next month’s Annual General Meeting, 2020 tested the entire sports industry.

“Working through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 really tested both the resilience of the AFL and its 18 clubs,” Goyder said.

“The collective unity of football enabled the game to weather arguably the biggest challenge in our history and reinforced the incredible connection football has with our members and supporters, our participants, and our broadcast and corporate partners.

“The year was tough financially, but I want to thank the boards and staff of the 18 clubs, our players, umpires, and our own AFL executive and team, led by Gillon McLachlan, for the work they did and the difficult decisions they took to ensure football continued around the country.

“Everyone across our football community, from our players, coaches and staff members and our long-serving and committed broadcast and corporate partners all made the relevant sacrifices to put the health of the community first and then ensure we still had a game for the fans.

“Most of all, I want to thank our members and supporters for their passion and commitment to their clubs and everyone who watched the games and supported us collectively, in finding a way to complete the 2020 Toyota Premiership season.

“To the Federal and respective state and territory governments, along with the chief health officers, your leadership and guidance played the most significant part in us being able to complete our season and, on behalf of the football community, we are grateful for that support,” he said.

AFL chief financial officer, Travis Auld, said the AFL recovered from the early threat of COVID-19 at the beginning of 2020, and ended with a pleasing result thanks to cost-cutting measures across each department, including standing down 85% of its workforce in March while the 2020 season was suspended.

“On the eve of the men’s season, we needed to make some very difficult decisions in order to reduce cost and help safeguard the business,” Auld said.

“As the year played out, our operating expenditure increased due to the costs of implementing the High-Performance Centres established to accommodate our clubs throughout the season, and the precautions taken on match day to safeguard the players, clubs and the community.

“These costs were off-set by the cost reductions across the industry in operating expenditure, salaries and wages and the loss of many passionate and committed employees that was a direct result of the impact of COVID-19.

“The previous decisions by past and current Commissions, commencing under former chair Mike Fitzpatrick and continued now, were critical in allowing the AFL to confront this crisis.

“The work over a number of years to prioritise building a balance sheet to protect the industry in difficult times, including the early purchase of Marvel Stadium, allowed the game to trade through 2020 without incurring significant debt.

“Everyone played their part in ensuring we delivered on our promise of 18 clubs in and 18 clubs out, a discipline we need to continue to live by as we continue to navigate through the on-going pandemic.

“Regardless of the challenges we face in the next 12 months, our priority remains to keep our game as affordable and accessible as possible for all fans,” he said.

In the 2020 financial report, the AFL listed how its revenue of $674.8 million in 2020 was distributed:

  • $230.8 million to AFL clubs
  • $66.8 million on administration of the 2020 season
  • $32 million on game development
  • $18.9 million to the AFL Players Association
  • $13.8 million to running the AFLW
  • $11.9 million to elite and community infrastructure
  • $2.8 million to corporate and social responsibility initiatives, including $1.35 million to the AFL industry’s Bushfire Relief fund