Richmond Football Club President Peggy O’Neal

If Sydney Swans supporter Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is serious about Australia being known as a country that respects women, he’ll presumably be barracking for Hawthorn over West Coast in next Saturday’s AFL grand final.

Why? Well, as the following comprehensive list shows, the West Coast Eagles are the only remaining AFL club that has no female directors.

There are currently 24 female directors across the 18 clubs. Richmond has the only female president in Peggy O’Neal. The Western Bulldogs’ board has the most women with three female directors, including vice-president Sue Alberti.

There are still 11 clubs that, like Tony Abbott’s first cabinet, have only managed to find room for a solitary female; the more enlightened — i.e. those with two women — include Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne, Richmond and St Kilda.

Malcolm Turnbull also pitched a very strong message of renewal when he removed long-serving ministers such as Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz and Ian Macfarlane from cabinet. If you were to apply a similar lens across the AFL, Turnbull might be suggesting it’s time for long-serving club presidents to hand over the reins to someone else.

The average tenure of the current 18 AFL presidents is just over fours years, and Eddie McGuire is easily the longest serving, having notched up 16 years of noble volunteering. The next longest stretch is his fellow former Footy Show host James Brayshaw, who took charge of North Melbourne in 2007.

Given the size of AFL football clubs and the serious coin paid to players and the senior coaching staff, it does almost seem odd that the directors are being exploited in working for nothing, save for what is presumably plenty of free tickets that might even attract fringe benefits tax.

Browsing through the list of AFL directors, there are a few interesting names that pop up.

North Melbourne may be looking for a new female director given that the incumbent, Julie Laycock, has spent the past 10 years as head of marketing at 7-Eleven in Australia; 7-Eleven deputy chairman Michael Smith stood aside as Australian Institute of Company Directors president after the scandal broke, so it will be interesting to see if North Melbourne finishes up in a similar position.

Dick Pratt’s widow, Jeanne, sits on the Carlton board and is the oldest AFL director at 79, but there are plenty who have served longer, such as Collingwood’s Jack Kennedy, who first joined the board in 1980, and Geelong president Colin Carter, who is seven years into his second stretch after previously serving from 1987 until 1993.

The website disclosures about directors and governance are of mixed quality. Melbourne Football Club provided a long list of the credentials of its president, Glen Bartlett, without mentioning when he joined the board or became president. The same applies to the newest clubs in GWS and the Gold Coast Suns.

Below is a list of the AFL presidents ranked by tenure, which also provides links to the directors and data on both board size and diversity. Thanks to Alice Mayne, 12, for assisting with the research.

Length of service of AFL Presidents

  1. Eddie McGuire, Collingwood: joined what is now a seven-person board (one female) as president in 1999.
  2. James Brayshaw, North Melbourne: joined the six-person board (one female) as chairman in November 2007.
  3. Rob Chapman, Adelaide Crows: joined the nine-person board (two females) in December 2006, became chairman in December 2008.
  4. Steve Harris, Fremantle: joined nine-person board (one female) in 2008 and became President in December 2009.
  5. Tony Shepherd, Greater Western Sydney: still leads the nine-person board (two female) and was the inaugural chairman from February 2010.
  6. Alan Cransberg, West Coast: joined the seven-man board (no females) in 2008 and has been chairman since November 2010.
  7. John Witheriff, Gold Coast Suns: joined the seven-person board (one female) when the club was admitted into the competition in 2011 but was on the three-man organisation committee from the very beginning. 
  8. Colin Carter, Geelong: Previously served from 1987-93, then rejoined the seven-person board (one female) in 2008, becoming chairman in 2011.
  9. Andrew Newbold, Hawthorn: joined the eight-person board (one female) in 2003 and became chairman in 2011.
  10. Peter Gordon, Western Bulldogs: joined the nine-person board (three females) in 2002, became chairman in December 2012.
  11. David Koch, Port Power: joined the nine-person board (one female) when he became chairman in 2012.
  12. Paul Little, Essendon: joined the nine-person board (one female) in 2011 and became chairman in July 2013.
  13. Glen Bartlett, Melbourne: no website disclosure when he joined the 10-person board (two female) but media reports suggest it was June 2013, and he then pipped Alan Stockdale for chairman in August 2013.
  14. Bob Sharpless, Brisbane Lions: joined the seven-person board (one female) as chairman in October 2013.
  15. Peggy O’Neal, Richmond: joined the seven-person board (two female) in November 2005 and became chairman in 2013.
  16. Peter Summers, St Kilda: joined the eight-person board (two female) in August 1998, became chairman in 2013.
  17. Andrew Pridham, Sydney Swans: joined the 10-person board (one female) in 2002, became chairman in December 2013.
  18. Mark Logiudice, Carlton: joined the 10-person board (one female) in February 2010, became chairman in June 2014

Peter Fray

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