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Caroline Wilson dissects Andrew Demetriou's AFL legacy
Although Andrew Demetriou's decision to resign from one of the most "powerful jobs in Australian sport" was not a surprise, the timing of the announcement was, says chief football writer Caroline Wilson.
Andrew Demetriou's reign as AFL supremo will end after the 2014 season.
Mike Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the AFL Commission, announced Demetriou's resignation at a press conference which began at 10am at AFL House.
Fitzpatrick said that Demetriou had been a "significant force in our competition" and had presided over "a period of extraordinary growth".
"For me, the real strength in Andrew's leadership hasn't been in stadia, he has been the conscience of the game, promoting the importance of women .. multi-cultural aspects ... he has put fans and players first.
"Andrew has been the first in Australia sport - after the racing industry - to deliver an integrity unit.
"In summary, Andrew has been one of the most influential CEOs in our history," Fitzpatrick said.
Andrew says Meatloaf would be up there as one of the decisions that perhaps could have been better.— AFL (@AFL) March 2, 2014
Demetriou said that he had told the AFL Commission of his decision at a meeting on the 17th of February. He said it had been a "privilege and an honour" to serve the game, but the league "needs renewal, needs a fresh set of eyes".
"The growth of the game has been extraordinary," Demetriou said.
"It’s been a wonderful journey full of challenges but I wouldn’t have it any other way.’’
Pointedly, when asked if the doping scandal had taken a toll upon him, he responded sharply: "I didn't inject anyone ... it had had no impact on me"
"And all I know (about) what we did was as a game (we) always put the players first to protect the integrity of the game.
"It’s had no impact on me whatsoever."
He paid credit to his mentors and compatriots at the league and quoted the words of former AFL administrator Jill Lindsay - on her deathbed - to look after Australian Rules Football because "the game meant to much to so many people".
Demetriou gave his deputy Gillon McLachlan, a frontrunner to replace him, a big wrap, saying, "I couldn't ask or someone more loyal, more committed, more supportive".
He said that he left the game with no regrets.
After a long list of thank-yous - including to the media and AFL fans, Demetriou became emotional.
"The AFL industry is like a family ... great people, great game...
"I worked out the other day that I have spent half my life in football ... 26 years out of my 52."
He said that he and his wife had agreed that they would not let the job take too much toll on their family.
"Symone and and my children have been my sunshine, my life and my hope," he said.
Asked if the Essendon supplements scandal would overshadow his legacy, Demetriou was hopeful that "people won't take a snapshot of one particular point of time ... that's for others to judge".
He said he was "pretty proud" of how the AFL handled the Essendon crisis last year, saying that the league had bolstered its integrity unit and changed rules in response and was now "well-equipped to handles issues going forward".
"We (Demetriou and Fitzpatrick) were both concerned about sport science a couple of years ago," he said.
"Whether we could’ve acted earlier ... we just weren’t in a position there. There was enough hearsay to have us worried.
"The AFL has done all it can do in this situation. I’m proud of how we acted last year.
"What happens thereafter is in (anti-doping agency) ASADA’s hands."
Fitzpatrick said that he had been discussing the transition of the CEO role since 2012. The AFL has retained a search firm to find a new CEO and Demetriou will have no role in appointing his successor.
Demetriou said he considers the introduction of the two expansion teams, and the return of football to the revamped Adelaide Oval as two of the great achievements of his decade at the top.
Commentator Anthony Hudson says the timing of the announcement, less than two weeks before the start of the season, was "extraordinary". The season launch takes place in Adelaide on Wednesday night. However, as Jon Pierik reported in late January, many in the AFL industry expected 2014 would be Demetriou's last at the AFL.
Pierik reported: "Demetriou did not deny in August that he had been head-hunted by the Association of Tennis Professionals, which at the time was searching for an executive chairman and president. He said he had no intention of leaving but admitted: 'I get lots of approaches.'"
Former Richmond star, and former Essendon and GWS coach Kevin Sheedy has hailed Demetriou's impact.
"He's made the AFL a better competition and a better game in the whole of Australia, that's his legacy," Sheedy said on Monday.
"He's been a person that's changed the game as an administrator, there's no doubt about that.
"He put the AFL ahead of all other sports and not just - by a mile.
"And he made other organisations, along with the AFL Commission, put everybody under pressure."
Demetriou has been AFL CEO since 2003, presiding over a period of prosperity for the league, as its revenue from TV deals went to unsurpassed heights. He has overseen the expansion of the competition to 18 teams, with the introduction of the Gold Coast Suns and the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
However, his handling of the Essendon supplements scandal over the past year has been heavily criticised. At the weekend, News Limited published the names of Essendon players who may be facing ASADA sanctions. Hudson said that Demetriou "would have liked this whole thing (Essendon) sorted out before he left".
Issues facing the league currently include the implementation of "equalisation" measures designed to assist financially challenged clubs, and negotiations for the league to buy Etihad Stadium.
Media turnout for Andrew Demetriou retirement media conference. pic.twitter.com/JlabpzoSoQ— Patrick Keane (@AFL_PKeane) March 2, 2014
Demetriou, 52, played 106 games for North Melbourne and Hawthorn between 1981 and 1988. He was CEO of the AFL Player's Association between 1998 and 2000 and is also an AFL Commissioner.
Demetriou rides off into the sunset having cleaned up the AFL, maybe we get him into racing and he can fix our woes, simple really#demetriou— Bryan Martin (@bmracingclub) March 2, 2014
ANDREW DEMETRIOU’S TIME IN THE AFL
Born 14 April, 1961, the son of Cypriot immigrants in Melbourne. Married to Symone and the father of four children.
1981 - Recruited by North Melbourne from Pascoe Vale, Demetriou played 103 games for the Kangaroos over seven seasons, producing his best as a wingman
1987 - A career in business begins, as managing director of Dentex, an importer of dental products
1988 - Transfers to Hawthorn adding a further three games and one goal before retiring, for a career total 106 games and 48 goals
1995 - Spending his post-football career with Dentex, Demetriou becomes managing director of the Ruthinium Group after Dentex purchases its parent company
1998 - Takes first major role in football as chief executive officer of the AFL Players Association (AFLPA). While at AFLPA he achieves 100 per cent player membership of AFLPA and handles negotiations on players’ collective agreement which results in a bumper pay rise for players
2000 - Moves to the AFL as general manager of football operations
2003 - Appointed as chief executive officer of the AFL, replacing Wayne Jackson
2005 - AFL introduces "three strikes" illicit drugs policy, and major changes to the AFL Tribunal
2005 - Achieves then record $780 million TV rights deal
2007 - Offers North Melbourne $100 million to relocate to the Gold Coast, which the club rejects
2011 - A $1.25 billion TV rights deal cements AFL as Australia’s biggest sport. An expansion side on the Gold Coast launches in the same year
2012 - Greater Western Sydney Giants join the league as Demetriou achieves goal of two AFL sides in each mainland state outside Victoria
2013 - Endures his annus horribilis as chief executive overseeing the AFL’s response to the Essendon doping controversy
2013 - AFL plays its first regular season game outside Australia, with St Kilda playing Sydney on Anzac Day in Wellington, New Zealand
2014 - Announces intention to stand down as chief executive at the end of the 2014 season
- with AAP