The protracted search for the next chief executive of Australian rules football’s AFL has ended with the league choosing to keep the role in-house via the appointment of Andrew Dillon.
Dillon, an AFL administration veteran, will take over the role at the end of the current men’s season on October 2 following a period of transition that will allow outgoing chief Gillon McLachlan to help resolve several issues the league is facing before leaving his post.
Dillion said: “It is a really humbling moment for me to be appointed as the next chief executive of the AFL. Football has been a defining part of my life. As it has for so many of our supporters, it is a privilege and honor to be given the opportunity to lead the AFL.”
He enters the post having worked with the AFL since arriving as an in-house lawyer in 2000. Since then, he has held multiple administrative roles, including general counsel for the past 12 years.
His most recent role has been as McLachlan’s second-in-command as the AFL’s executive general manager of football operations, legal, integrity, and general counsel.
Club bosses were notified of Dillon’s appointment in a meeting yesterday (May 1) before an official unveiling at a press conference.
Responding to questions over whether his appointment suggested a lack of diversity within the league and its inability to recruit outside talent, he said: “You only have to look at the caliber of our executive team and the caliber of my football integrity and legal team to say there’s no boys’ club here.
“We’ve got a talented, diverse workforce and everyone’s opinions are listened to and acted on. The more diverse the talent, the better decisions.
“I don’t buy that [claim of a boys’ club] one bit.”
AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder added: “I think it’s a real positive in terms of what’s been built here and the fact that Andrew’s the right person to take us forward.
“The commission did the right thing looking externally and judging candidates against what we think is best-in-class criteria. I think it’s a hallmark of Gil’s time and good management that within AFL House there’s very strong successors.”
The appointment has prompted a reshuffle in senior management, with Laura Kane now acting general manager of football and Stephen Meade becoming the league’s general counsel.
Dillon’s appointment comes almost a year after long-standing chief McLachlan announced his resignation, initially stating his intention to leave at the end of the 2022 season. However, he was urged to stay on while the search for a successor was undertaken.
His departure was further delayed in November so he could steer the league through a tremulous period which included an inquiry into alleged racism at Hawthorn, the league’s collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and the proposed 19th license in Tasmania.
Addressing the protracted recruitment process Goyder said he did not think any momentum had been lost due to the delay, adding: “We wanted to deal with the Hawthorn issue and as we’ve announced over the weekend [with the government’s stadium funding], hopefully, we can move things forward over the next couple of days.”
Earlier today (May 2), it was announced the AFL club presidents had voted unanimously to grant Tasmania the game's 19th license after the federal government pledged $240 million in funding towards a 23,000-seat stadium at Hobart’s Macquarie Point.
Speaking to ABC about Dillon’s appointment, McLachlan said: “I think Andrew’s a person with huge intellect, incredible integrity, and values.
“He knows community football backwards and has had an incredible apprenticeship at the AFL working on all the big deals, he knows the structures, the people and he’s able to take the game forward with that background.
“I think one of the things I know about Andrew is he’s incredibly resilient and he’s incredibly humble and I think those two things are going to see him in really good shape to take on that public-facing role.”