New AFL boss Gillon McLachlan admits one of his first jobs will be to calm growing fan anger about the cost of attending the game.
League chairman Mike Fitzpatrick announced to no one’s surprise on Wednesday morning that McLachlan would succeed Andrew Demetriou as chief executive.
Demetriou’s last day in charge will be on June 5.
McLachlan takes over the running of Australia’s biggest and most powerful professional sporting organisation, but also a body facing significant challenges.
The game is nervously awaiting the outcome of ASADA’s investigation into the Essendon supplements scandal, with McLachlan not expecting a verdict until late next month.
Demetriou hopes to achieve some agreement on the thorny issue of club equalisation by the time he leaves, but Fitzpatrick admits there is no guarantee that will happen.
McLachlan said he would not try to emulate Demetriou’s leadership style, but said there would be no sudden change.
“I will be a different leader to Andrew – there’s only one Andrew,” he said.
“It will mean I take a different approach.
“The shape and structure of the team will change.
“But it’s essentially consolidating and extending the work that’s happened under Andrew’s tenure.”
McLachlan and Fitzpatrick acknowledged that the AFL must address growing unrest among fans about the costs of going to a game.
The AFL has worn considerable flak so far this season about its new variable pricing structure for tickets.
There are also perennial complaints about the cost of food and drinks inside stadiums.
“We hear the fans around the total cost of going to a game,” McLachlan said.
“We will be addressing the cost of going to the football.
“Cost is more than just ticketing – it’s ticketing charges; it’s food and beverages.”
Fitzpatrick added they will continue with the variable pricing system for the time being.
“The assessment would be we haven’t done the communications particularly well on that,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Our view is, let’s run it a bit longer and make sure that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water too early.”
McLachlan was a key figure in the controversial AFL negotiations with Essendon last year over the supplements crisis.
He said the issue had “taken some skin off me”, but added that applied to a lot of people.
McLachlan said the issue had taught the AFL that it had to be more transparent when it dealt with such big issues.
“A key learning out of last year is that process and transparency are going to have to prioritised … rather than what we think is the right solution for the game in the short term,” he said.
McLachlan denied his image as a “silvertail” – he went to school at Adelaide’s elite St Peters College and loves polo – would be a hindrance.
“I am who I am … Andrew is the son of fish-and-chip (shop) owners from Cyprus. I’m the son of a farmer from Adelaide,” he said.
“All that people care about is (the AFL) understand their game, they’re going to look after it and they’re going to look after them.
“I’ve never had any issue with one person in the entire time I’ve been in football about my background – not one.”
Also at Tuesday’s announcement:
* McLachlan said he is determined to have more women in key AFL roles.
* He prefers a day grand final.
* The issue of Good Friday football is ongoing.