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Democracy can be very expensive at footy clubs such as Richmond which discourage candidates from standing with a guilt trip claiming it’ll cost the loss-making club $60,000.

We had planned to have a tilt at the Richmond board when members gathered for the AGM on January 25 at Kerry Packer’s Crown casino.

The nomination requirements were that you needed two paid up members in 2000 to nominate you by 8pm on January 3.

Apart from being a life long Tigers supporter who is disillusioned with just one finals appearance since 1982, the rationale for standing was in part to get a feel for AFL democracy and compare it with political and corporate democracy. Crikey wants to encourage contested elections in all spheres of life spanning politics, business, local government, sporting clubs and even mutuals such as the RACV. Monopolies are bad and no-one should ever have a monopoly over a position in an election.

The Richmond board took on five new directors including President Clinton Casey 13 months ago after threats were made of a big campaign ahead of the last AGM. However, the new guard posted another big loss which when combined with another finals miss does not constitute good performance.

Believe it or not but Crikey actually played a small part in bailing Richmond’s finances out back in 1993.

Laurie Connell’s former financial go-between, Malcolm Brown, was marketing director of the Tigers at the time and had abused the acting chief executive of its major sponsor, the Transport Accident Commission, which is the monopoly compulsory third party insurance provider in Victoria. The public servant involved, one John Stanway, was called a f— wit by Brown and wanted to drop the sponsorship altogether.

Brown is a millionaire former ruckman from Perth who knows how to get what he wants. With the TAC threatening to walk from its $400,000 a year deal he called up any Richmond supporter he could find in the Kennett government.

As press secretary to the Treasurer, Alan Stockdale, I took the call and proceeded to tell Stockers that there were no votes whatsoever in sending a footy club to the wall, especially one as popular as Richmond.

The transport minister Alan Brown had rung up with a similar message after a call from Mal Brown and I was there when Stockers put the call through to John Stanway.

It went something like this:

Stockers: “Look, I don’t want to tell you how to run your business but people are telling me there is a chance you could cut Richmond off at the knees and that could cause me some grief.”

Given that Stockers was the responsible minister and still deciding whether to sell the TAC at the time, the sponsorship was reinstated in full by Stanway who was afraid of losing his job. Now that is an interesting insight into government decision making! Scary, eh. Brown subsequently sent me a letter saying if I ever needed any favours he’d be happy to help out. Thankfully, I haven’t called that one in yet.

Given their woeful onfield performance, the Tigers were forced into some rather entrepreneurial sponsorship deals to survive the past 15 years. First they took Alan Bond’s money and made him President. It saved the club but former captain Dale Weightman wasn’t too impressed when Bondy announced that Dale Wineman had won the best and fairest one year.

Then there was the $500,000 that Amcor’s Containers Packaging division chipped in which was somehow tied in with the packaging contract they had with CUB. Surprise, surprise, CUB CEO at the time was Richmond President Pat Stone. Crikey has always been confused as to whether it was Amcor or CUB which actually paid the money to Stone’s footy team but you can rest assured that shareholders did not anywhere full value from this sponsorship. Former Richmond CEO Jim Malone described this deal as “the best sponshorship deal in the world” one day when we were playing cricket together for the Richmond Club X1. This was because Containers didn’t want anything in return.

Then you’ve got the $250,000 four-year signage deal for the Punt Rd stadium roof that Mal Browne struck with Crown casino boss Lloyd Williams in 1994. It certainly helped that then Richmond director Jamie Bartels was also marketing manager of Crown at the time. Lloyd’s company Hudson Conway made a clear, risk-free $252 million profit from its pubco joint venture with Elders IXL in the 1980s and the bloke who did the deal with him was Jamie’s dad Peter Bartels, then the CEO of CUB. From that day on it is fair to say that Lloyd owed the Bartels a big debt of gratitude.

The Tigers directors should be facing some contested elections because they missed the finals yet again last year and reported a loss of $639,667. And the board needs some people with experience in government, media and the internet, something chief executive Mark Brayshaw acknowledged Crikey could bring.

However, the candidacy went nowhere fast because Brayshaw put the big guilt trip on by explaining that they were a non-profit organisation that would incur additional costs of $60,000 if I nominated.

How is this so? Well, at that point no outsiders had nominated for the board so the incumbents Tony Jewell, a Premiership coach, Peter Welsh, a Premiership player, and Terry Grigg, the longest serving director, were proposed to be given another term unopposed.

Richmond had therefore decided not to send out proxy forms and director profiles to its 20,000-odd members, but under their constitution they’d have to do it if an outsider nominated.

By the time President Clinton Casey rang after his round of golf in Queensland, I’d decided not to run. The beauty of contesting corporate and political elections is that there is no additional cost on the company or the taxpayer because they have to conduct the poll anyway.

For some odd reason, Richmond wrote to its members advising the financials and the board elections, but they did this before nominations for directors had closed. Several people expressed interest in standing but President Casey promised them all “lunch” and a chat to see what they could offer as the consolation prize for not imposing all these democracy costs on the club.

You are hardly a try Tiger fan if you impose an extra $60,000 cost on a club that suffered a crunching $639,667 loss for the year. The directors blamed the loss on falling membership, below budget sponsorshop, unprecedented injuries last year and additional coaching costs after recruiting Danny Frawley.

So what happens if the members decide to reject one of the candidates. Presumably those there on the night can vote but to appoint a proxy you have to ring the club and ask for the form. Surely it would have been easier to close nominations earlier and send out the proxy forms with the financial statements. Interestingly, as another cost saving measure members don’t get the full annual report, only a four black and white summary.

So while the board tilt went nowhere this year, we’ll probably have a crack next year by giving the board plenty of notice. If you know anyone interested in running for other club boards then please get in touch. Also, we’d love to get some feedback on the financials of other footy clubs out there if anyone wants to write in.

If you’re interested, come along to the Richmond AGM on 8pm on January 25 at the Palladium Room at Crown. We’ll probably be the only member asking financial questions as footy AGMs are usually dominated by things like drafting, player performance and the coaching staff.

Go Tiges! East ’em alive!

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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