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Brisbane Lions' CEO Malcolm Holmes faces axe

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Lions in crisis: AFL set to step in to clean up Brisbane mess

Lions in crisis: AFL set to step in to clean up Brisbane mess Photo: Pat Scala

Brisbane Lions players are keeping their heads down and thumbs up as the AFL starts exerting more influence at the embattled club.

Chief executive Malcolm Holmes is set to be sacked on Thursday afternoon, while new chairman Bob Sharpless's position is also under threat as the Lions' fortunes have plummeted on and off the field.

Debts of about $10 million, following $12 million of losses since the Lions' last profit in 2007, have prompted the AFL to step in and play a role in rebuilding the once-mighty club.

The 2001-2003 premiers' latest drama comes just over half a year since a boardroom split brought the departure of former chairman Angus Johnson in October.

But the struggling Lions team say they can't afford to let it distract them ahead of Saturday's round eight clash with Essendon at the Gabba.

"To be perfectly honest we control what happens out on the field and what happens upstairs happens upstairs," said livewire Dayne Zorko.

"All we can focus on is putting a good performance out on the field and building ourselves up."

But Zorko, a leadership group member, hinted front-office issues had affected results, and vice-versa, and hoped for a more stable club environment.

"Absolutely," he said. "That might even have something to do with us on the field.

"But to be honest we just have to go on with business as footballers.

"We need to go out and put down a really good performance on the weekend and take the distraction away from what's happening upstairs.

"We need to give our supporters something to cheer about."

The Lions currently sit last with a 1-6 record and new coach Justin Leppitsch is struggling to rebuild the club following last year's departure of five of their top draft picks.

Holmes, a former Wellington Hurricanes rugby union and Queensland Turf Club boss, has been at the Lions since 2011 and oversaw the club review, with Johnson, that led to Michael Voss's axing as coach last year.

There's speculation Carlton chief executive Greg Swann is a possible replacement, along with former St Kilda CEO Michael Nettlefold, and past and present AFLQ bosses Richard Griffiths and Michael Conlan.

Triple premiership-winning Lions coach Leigh Matthews, now on the Brisbane board, has confirmed the AFL is exerting more influence at the club, just as it has done with celler-dwellers Melbourne.

Matthews told The Courier-Mail that Brisbane would benefit from having high-profile football people in senior roles.

"I think at any AFL club, having a high-profile person as chairman or CEO, and/or coach is better, but all three of them would be good," he said.

The deputy chairman of Springfield Land Corporation, Sharpless is also under pressure as the AFL reportedly looks set to withdraw its support of the club's controversial relocation to Springfield.

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