Mar 6, 2014

Lauded as the AFL’s saviour, but Demetriou missed the mark

Andrew Demetriou will retire at the end of this season, amid accolades and praise. But was he actually good for AFL?

Adam Schwab — Business director and commentator

Adam Schwab

Business director and commentator

On announcing his retirement after 11 years, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou (pictured) was lauded by AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick as “one of the most influential chief executive officers in the history of the AFL”. The reality is a little different.

Most journalists who cover sport, and AFL in particular, have little or no knowledge of business. This is understandable given business reporting is very different to sport reporting — however, the lack of acumen has allowed the AFL to dictate the media agenda as it has morphed from informal, not-for-profit association to corporate beast. The journey for the AFL started in 1986 under Jack Hamilton and Alan Schwab (no relation to the author), before Ross Oakley and Wayne Jackson continued the corporatisation of the code. But it was under Demetriou that AFL became a bona fide financial Goliath. The only problem was, the organisation appeared to forget who its shareholders were.

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9 thoughts on “Lauded as the AFL’s saviour, but Demetriou missed the mark

  1. paddy

    Refreshing to read something on Demetriou that wasn’t just a sickening hagiography. Thank you Adam.

    P.S. Hopefully Crikey will reward you for this piece with an all expenses paid RTW junket?
    (Pigs spotted overhead.)

  2. Gavin Moodie

    Not a strong analysis. Demtriou did much more than ‘sign the contract’ for the AFL’s $1.2 billion broadcast rights agreement. AFL broadcast rights are so valuable precisely because of the ‘costly expansion to traditionally hostile environments such as western Sydney and the Gold Coast’ that the author criticises.

    Locating 2 teams in Sydney and another 2 north of Tweed may turn out to be costly mistakes, but at the moment they seem to give the AFL a rather stronger position than the NRL which has only 1 team west of Canberra.

  3. graybul

    A pertinent and timely comment. Treatment Club and Fan under AFL Corporates is a disgrace. We are told AFL is a national game . . As a South Australian fan supporting, and member of a Victorian Club we are screwed at every level. Costs v services are excrement! Selling off free to air to Fox, guarantees death by a thousand cuts. If it wasn’t for tribal connection to my Club there would be absolutely no interest . . because we have NO access. Thanks for absolutely nothing AFL.

  4. klewso

    I thought he was caught showing his true capabilities in his handling of the Goodes affair, his first reaction to Maguire’s King Kong crap.

  5. Brian Williams

    Heartily agree with much of your analysis Adam. His crocodile tears whenever the cost of food at the stadiums came up made me vomit – he pretended to be on the side of the supporters, often claiming he would talk to the food and drink vendors after each price rise, when he (and we) knew that the reason for the exorbitant prices was the fee charged by the AFL for the vendors to be there in the first place.

    His administrative incompetence in the area of TV rights became truly obvious when Channel 10, and then Channel 7 refused to show the AFL Grand Final in HD – something that every other major western sporting organisation worldwide has put into their rights contracts for almost 10 years.

  6. Dogs breakfast

    Well said Adam. To my mind, although the AFL congratulated themselves furiously about their handling of the peptides etc, I believe they were responsible as much as Essendon and James Hird.

    If Hird was asleep at the wheel while things went on at the club, then the AFL was comatose.

    They then walked away without accepting any responsibility for it. This was entirely foreseeable and they had done nothing.

    And quite frankly, their response after it all came out left a lot to be desired in my opinion. It was all handled like a corporate entity rather than a sport.

    Exactly Adam’s point, if I read him correctly.

  7. klewso

    To me it looked like this $multimillion industry wanted “better and better” each year to attract $sponsor – they didn’t seem all that interested in how that was achieved.
    Their interest seemed to verge on “Don’t ask don’t tell”.
    “Essendon was the only team pushing the envelope”? Really?

  8. michael dwyer

    Melbourne were punished for “tanking”. It is obvious that Carlton were doing the same thing, and out-tanked Melbourne by losing (thus winning) the “Kreuzer Cup”. There are other cases over the years of clubs appearing to play for draft picks when it became obvious that they would not play finals. Mr Demetriou seems to have missed these matters.

  9. Amokura

    Andrew epitomised corporate bullying in a business able to mostly work outside normal business practices. One of his main errors has been his “jobs-for-the-boys” style of management. This is the area that will bring undone thoughts of whether he has left the joint in good shape.

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