JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.



Closing the deal with Andrew Demetriou

Date

Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

View more articles from Greg Baum

Email Greg

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

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.

PT0M0S 620 349

The position of AFL chief executive is a singular job, as can be told from the fact that we appear to care so much about who holds it and how. We are talking, after all, about an administrator. Usually, people pay attention to CEOs only in times of crises and collapse. Ask Alan Joyce.

The AFL's condition could scarcely be more robust. In Andrew Demetriou's 11 years, it has further entrenched itself as the most prosperous and powerful sports body in the land. Prima facie, it has expanded successfully without sacrificing the confidence and viability of its heartland.

It has used its corporate standing and strength to claim moral leadership on drugs, on violence, on respect for and empowerment of women, on aspects of integrity. Most recently, and so most vividly in the public imagination, it efficiently faced down Essendon on an immensely fraught and divisive issue.

If it sometimes seems that closing the deal is more important than any philosophy underpinning it, it also means the job ...

If it sometimes seems that closing the deal is more important than any philosophy underpinning it, it also means the job gets done.

Yet Demetriou pleases barely half the people not even half the time. Partly, this is because of simplification by which one man is made to embody an organisation in all of its strength and weakness, nuance and complexity. As the curtain rose at AFL HQ on Monday's media conference, someone asked what Mike Fitzpatrick was doing there; the chairman of the commission was only dimly recognisable. Demetriou is so lavishly paid mostly to be the stopping place of the buck.

Partly, it is because the public tends to view politics and business in terms of convenient and even lazy consensus, but football as deeply and viscerally personal. It makes every issue the biggest in the history of the game, and every decision an affront to someone. It does not admit grey areas. The Essendon saga is a classic example.

Partly, it is because the AFL chief executive will never be right even when he is. To elaborate on Demetriou's own metaphor on Monday, his AFL is the police force that is damned both for revenue raising if it books too many speeding motorists, and carelessness if it misses one.

Two years ago, he voiced concern about the increasing role of sports scientists in football, specifically that they were outranking doctors, and was condemned in some quarters for being behind the times.

Demetriou sneered at the scientist "phys-edders". He can be blunt, is intolerant of fools and contemptuous of critics, who are myriad. If he has read Carnegie, it was on a street sign. It is easy to characterise him as an ex-footballer, poacher-turned-gamekeeper type who learned to keep his feet in kick-to-kick with his brothers in a concrete Woolworth's carpark, survived a Leigh Matthews shirtfront and was once reported for striking David Rhys-Jones.

Of course, there is much more to him, much more. His roots also imbued him with the conviction that football must be a game for all. He once worked for and still is a director of a false teeth retailer, whose Italian supplier impressed on him the importance of doing business in person and negotiating so that no one feels dudded (and that if you must dissemble, do it through high-class teeth?).

<p>

Demetriou is a dealmaker. In an ever-changing game of such wide compass, high emotion, passion and so many agendas, rounding up and containing the many skittish elements is his chief virtue. If it sometimes seems that closing the deal is more important than any philosophy underpinning it, it also means the job gets done. Is the draw, for instance, a conspiracy, a necessary evil or what it is? Whatever Melbourne and Essendon were punished for last year, everyone clearly knows what not to do henceforth.

Demetriou says his foremost priority as CEO has been the welfare of the players. In a sense, everyone in football is a player, intently participating even as we watch. It conjoins us to the CEO of the AFL ever more intimately than with the managing director at work, or publican, or pastor. It is why we will care about Demetriou until his last day in office, as much as we did on his first.

Demetriou's Achievements

1. More money in the game.
In 2012, the AFL generated $425 million – four times any other domestic sport in Australia. Much of the wealth comes from the record $1.25 billion TV rights deal Demetriou helped negotiate for seasons 2012-16.

2. More teams.
Demetriou has overseen the risky expansion from 16 teams to 18 with the introduction of Gold Coast in 2011 and Greater Western Sydney in 2012. The “20 to 30-year project” gives the AFL a two-team foothold in the NSW, Queensland, South Australian and West Australian markets.

3. Better stadiums.
Demetriou has driven $2 billion worth of stadium and facility development, including the transformation of Adelaide Oval into an AFL venue, an undertaking he described as his favourite achievement given the difficulty involving the state’s football and cricket bodies and its government.

4. Sporting culture.
The AFL, on Demetriou’s watch, has invested time and resources into educating the public and its players about the importance of creating a culturally inclusive environment, of taking a tough stand on racial vilification, of respect towards women and of responsibly to the community.

5. Globalisation.
Demetriou has helped push the game into the world globally. Twenty-one countries currently compete in the International Cup, and clubs are now drafting international players from all different backgrounds. The first ever game played outside Australia for premiership points – the Anzac Day match in New Zealand – occurred last year and pre-season games have been played in Los Angeles, China, South Africa, and Abu Dahbi.

Demetriou's controversies

1. Essendon supplements.
The biggest scandal ever to hit the game happened with Demetriou in charge. It became clear that the AFL was not as protected as it thought from performance enhancing drugs.

2. Melbourne tanking.
Demetriou had denied teams conspired to lose games to obtain draft picks, but the Demons were eventually fined heavily and key figures suspended.

3. Drugs in sport.
The AFL introduced its often criticised ‘‘three strikes’’ drugs policy under Demetriou. It came under serious scrutiny when clubs demanded a summit to address the issue. Brownlow medallist Ben Cousins was suspended for ‘‘bringing the game into disrepute’’ after being arrested on drug-related charges.

4. Media malfunctions.
Late last year Demetriou laughed uncontrollably on national television when told a St Kilda player was accused of setting fire to a short-statured entertainer during mad Monday celebrations, and he famously stated ‘‘go to his grave’’ knowing not be paid by Essendon

5. Eyes off the ball.
Demetriou was slammed for taking a six-week break during the 2012 season. There was a flow of minor controversies including Brock McLean’s comments about Melbourne that sparked the tanking investigation.

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all
 

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers