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Fan initiatives could have fresh face in Travis Auld

Gold Coast chief executive Travis Auld is looming as one fresh face in Gillon McLachlan's new look executive team as the new AFL boss sets in place a long-term plan to bring more fans to the football.

Not only is McLachlan devising a more traditional football fixture for 2015 but he is driving with the strong support of the AFL Commission a push to make AFL games a more enjoyable experience for the public from the time of ticket purchase through to the journey home from stadiums.

The Age understands Auld has been sounded out by McLachlan with a view to bringing on board his expertise in building a fan base from scratch and overseeing the construction and running of an award-winning stadium which remains totally controlled by the club.

The early purchase of Etihad Stadium remains a priority target of the AFL as it becomes increasingly frustrated with the costs incurred by fans at both Etihad and the MCG. Auld's experience would prove invaluable should the purchase become a reality.

As part of a series of fan-friendly initiatives, McLachlan is also expected to scrap the unpopular and overly complex variable ticket pricing with a view to simplifying and rebranding the controversial 2014 league policy of pricing games and seating in line with demand and popularity.

Sunday night football will be removed from the 2015 fixture and the AFL will also minimise or remove completely Monday night games from next year's calendar with no more than a small handful of Thursday night games and as few as two next season.

The AFL has conceded that it deliberately experimented with the fixture this year in a move which appeased its broadcasters and disenchanted fans. And the future directive from McLachlan and the Commission is to prioritise attendances firmly in front of TV ratings next season.

The issue came to a head publicly with the disastrously low Sunday night attendance at the Collingwood-Carlton clash recntly at the MCG, prompting Collingwood chief Eddie McGuire to demand six-figure compensation from the AFL and an immediate concession from McLachlan the following day.

While the AFL continually points out that attendances across Australia remain strong, fans in the game's heartland are staying away from football in disturbingly high numbers.

After 16 rounds, average attendances at Victorian games – the MCG, Etihad and Simonds Stadium – are down more than 5000 per match from this time last year.

The AFL will also study the cost of booking tickets, transport and parking – something Auld has dealt with at Metricon Stadium with positive results – along with the vexed question of food and beverage costs at AFL grounds and restrictive attempts by stadiums like Etihad which prevents fans from bringing their own food into the football.

Auld has refused to discuss his professional future with the The Age but the view of his club is that he will remain with the Suns until the end of the season whether or not he chooses to join the AFL's executive team. He contemplates his future at a time the Suns have just registered another record attendance in a thrilling round-16 victory over Collingwood at Metricon.

Should Auld depart that would leave three chief executive vacancies at AFL clubs, with Carlton and the Brisbane Lions still searching for new chief executives.

Adelaide boss Steven Trigg remains favourite for the Carlton position and is believed to have the backing of the industry to remain in the AFL system should he depart the Crows this season. The Blues and Trigg are believed to have spoken last week.

Greg Swann in turn remains the frontrunner for the Brisbane position but has also been linked with a job as chief executive of the Victoria Racing Club, which could lead to a delayed decision-making process at the Lions.

McLachlan is expected to roll out a number of key initiatives including staff changes before the end of July. While determined to remain publicly aloof regarding the increasingly messy legal battle between Essendon and ASADA, he faces ongoing heat from frustrated rival clubs as a second AFL season is disrupted by the Bombers' drug scandal.

McLachlan will also chair the forthcoming and highly sensitive negotiations over the Adelaide Oval contract review involving the Adelaide and Port Adelaide Football Clubs, the SANFL and the stadium management.

5 comments so far

  • I have a novel idea. Let's have a game at the MCG each weekend, particularly at 2.10 on a Saturday!

    Commenter
    Amy
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 3:11PM
    • And please eliminate late Sunday afternoon fixtures in Melbourne too??

      Commenter
      Pete
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 3:14PM
      • And Adelaide

        Commenter
        Rod
        Location
        Whyalla
        Date and time
        July 09, 2014, 3:31PM
    • Wouldn't have thought Trigg was a good fit for Carlton, Rubbish at third party deals

      Commenter
      Rod
      Location
      Whyalla
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 3:34PM
      • It would be refreshing if all the media experts and bean-counters could be put out to pasture and then allow the fans to have a say. It's mind-boggling that with the zillions that the AFL gets in for TV rights, that all we've got are overpaid "star" players (and we can blame individual clubs for this) and corporate guestssqueezing out footy fans during the final series. It's about time some sanity prevailed.

        Commenter
        B Clarke
        Date and time
        July 09, 2014, 3:50PM

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