George Pell’s departure from Australia is nothing on this. Australia’s biggest religion is sport, AFL is the most popular denomination, making Andrew Demetriou the cardinal of culture. This morning he announced he’s taking his footy home for a life outside of the league.
Crikey’s Power Index named Andrew Demetriou the most powerful person in Australian sport in 2011. Nobody has challenged him for the title since. And his influence far transcends the back pages.
Look at the last few years. In a federal election campaign fought on austerity he had political leaders fighting to build stadiums for games; amid an advertising downturn he convinced media organisations to collectively part with more than $1 billion to broadcast the game. And while the Essendon drugs scandal tarnishes the record, the league outmuscled heroes of the game and masters of government to effectively get the result it wanted.
It is power barely unfettered and, with the AFL’s own newsroom now outnumbering most media organisations, increasingly unfiltered. The game is in rude health, thanks in large part to Demetriou. But we should be wary of his replacement — and just how much more powerful the office could become.
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