It has been almost four years and about half a dozen appearances on Channel Nine’s 20 to 1 program since Glenn Milne’s brain explosion at the 2006 Walkley Awards, so yesterday it was a touch nostalgic to get back up on that Crown Casino stage.

The event was “officially AFL sanctioned”, namely Essendon Football Club’s Great Grand Final Comedy Debate and it attracted about 500 women and 300 men to The Palladium given that all the women’s networks from the various clubs were invited.

The debate topic was that “Football puts business before pleasure” but with all those women present the opportunity just had to be taken to lament the fact there are still several AFL clubs such as Carlton, North Melbourne, St Kilda and Adelaide that have no females on their boards.

Here’s a list tracking the governance, board composition and commercial operations of the 16 AFL clubs, which are now turning over about $600 million a year, almost $100 million of which comes from pokies players.

This is how St Kilda and Collingwood shape up head to head:

Collingwood: the board is led by chairman Eddie McGuire and comprises six men and Victoria’s Agent-General in London Sally Capp as the sole female. There are no former players on the board with everyone having a commercial background. The 2009 annual report reveals a profit of $594,061, up from a $3.2 million loss in 2008. Net assets were at $7.7 million, football department spending hit $17 million and revenue was $62.8 million. Membership hit 46,327 in 2009.

St Kilda
: the board is led by president Greg Westaway and comprises nine men. Michael Nettlefold, Nathan Burke and Andrew Thompson are the former players on the board with everyone else having a commercial background. The 2009 annual report reveals a profit of $1.1 million, up from a $445,566 loss in 2008. Net assets were at $8.7 million, football department spending hit $15.2 million and revenue was $27.6 million. Membership hit a record 33,048 in 2009.

There are only about 20 former players on AFL club boards, compared with more than 100 blokes with a commercial background. Women currently number about 12 and will presumably soon overtake the former players. All these directors are volunteers.

Rugby league has far more former players involved in the administration of the game.

Rebecca Wilson, the partner of News Ltd CEO John Hartigan, wrote the following in the Herald Sun on June 17 this year as the Melbourne Storm scandal unfolded:

“As one very senior businessman said recently, rugby league is a game played by wharfies, watched by wharfies and run by wharfies. Conversely, the AFL transcends class, is played by every kid in the southern states of Australia (and a growing number in Queensland and NSW) and run by real businessmen with a genuine corporate culture. Andrew Demetriou, CEO of the AFL, is clever, often ruthless and extremely process-driven. He is backed by a commission that boasts a balance of Melbourne business, sporting interests and industry leaders. They are united as one in trying to make the code bigger, stronger and wealthier.”

With Demetriou and one of his newer AFL commissioners, Transurban CEO Chris Lynch, sitting on the head table at Crown yesterday, it was too good an opportunity not to reflect on their performance.

The AFL’s 2009 financials saw revenue rise by $1.4 million to $303.5 million. Operating profit was a healthy $213.5 million, with most of that distributed to the clubs.

The AFL has net assets of $106 million, $54 million of which is held in cash. Contrast that with the $500 million-plus News Ltd has blown on rugby league.

One of the AFL’s greatest skills is getting governments of all persuasions to pay for its stadium infrastructure.

Look no further than the $136 million stadium being built at Carrara for the new Gold Coast franchise. The AFL is only stumping up $10 million with the balance coming from all three tiers of government.

If Australia wins the 2022 World Cup, success for Frank Lowy would be a bonanza for the AFL given that taxpayers have committed to spend a whopping $840 million for new soccer stadia, which would all ultimately finish up being used for AFL games.

With such adroit skills at extracting taxpayer handouts and the AFL’s undoubted commercial success, it was suggested to Chris Lynch that Demetriou’s base pay of $1.8 million was a touch on the light side. Coincidentally, the Transurban annual report was released yesterday, showing Lynch pocketed an excessive $6 million in 2009-10.