My choice of replacement for Andrew Demetriou

Date: March 12, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

The King is dead, long live the King.

But who will be the new monarch of Australian Football?

It appears that the incumbent’s deputy, Gillon McLachlan is the favourite to ascend to the top job.

However, is more of the same necessarily a good thing for the code?

Andrew Demetriou, who is to step down as CEO after an 11-year reign at the end of this season has spruiked his number two’s credentials and abilities for quite some time.

The two have always appeared to have a very good working relationship.

However, after having one CEO in the position for over a decade it may not necessarily be healthy to follow-up with a man who in all likelihood may be a clone of the original.

McLachlan has some powerful supporters across the AFL landscape with many club presidents firmly in his corner.

In fact, North Melbourne president James Brayshaw went as far as saying that McLachlan should be announced as Demetriou’s within 48 hours of the latter announcing his plans.

McLachlan comes from a very different background to his current boss – he is an avid polo player who courtesy of being the son of a wealthy pastoralist was educated at the prestigious Melbourne Grammar School.

He joined the AFL in 2006 when one of Demetriou’s key lieutenants, Ben Buckley was lured away to head up the FFA.

During his tenure at AFL House, McLachlan has been involved in some of the most crucial decisions of recent times – the expansion to an 18-team league, various stadia deals and two key TV broadcast deals.

But, all the time he has done in it concert with his mentor.

Personally, I think it would be healthy for the Commission to cast its net wider than just within the walls of AFL House.

Often big business – and make no mistake, that is exactly what the AFL is – can be greatly rejuvenated by sourcing a CEO from outside the normal hierarchical ascent.

I think it is time the AFL pursued that approach, or at the least, very seriously considered the idea.

When all said and done, the serious maladies that have plagued the AFL in recent times and seen them the recipients of considerable flack – Essendon drug scandal, Melbourne tanking and Adelaide salary cap and draft breaches – all involved substantial input from McLachlan.

The move to simply install him in the top job may not be the best option for the league.

With that in mind, I believe there is a man who would make an ideal new AFL CEO.

His name is Brian Cook, the current CEO of the Geelong Football Club.

He is a man with vast experience in football administration and to date everything he has touched has turned to gold.

Cook, born in Scotland, moved to Australia as a young boy.

He played nearly 50 games with the Hawthorn reserves before transferring to Melbourne where he played four senior games.

As was the case with many Victorian-based players in the 1970s and ‘80s, he made the move to Perth as a result of academic pursuits.

While studying in the West he played WAFL senior football for both East Perth and Subiaco.

Not long after he finished his studies he entered the world of sports administration where he has been ever since.

In 1990, he was appointed CEO at the West Coast Eagles.

When he arrived at Subiaco Oval the Eagles were in a parlous financial state.

During his nine-year tenure he helped turn the club into one of the most powerful in the competition – both on and off the field.

Revenues rose exponentially, memberships skyrocketed, sponsors flocked to get involved and the club won two flags – 1992 and 1994 – to spirit the premiership cup outside Victoria for the first time in history.

In 2000, he moved back east where he took up the CEO role at Geelong, ironically the club that the Eagles beat to win their first two premierships.

Once again, Cook worked his magic.

It was a case of déjà vu given he arrived at Kardinia Park at a time when the Cats were facing massive financial problems.

Cook, in unison with president Frank Costa, set about turning the club around.

The measures he took were at times controversial but in the end his methods proved to be extremely prescient as Geelong was able to enjoy the most successful period in its history.

Premierships in 2007, 2009 and 2011 ran in parallel with a remarkable financial turnaround and the redevelopment of the club’s home from a glorified suburban ground to a state of the art 21st century football stadium.

There is absolutely no doubting that Cook has the runs on the board.

He is a passionate, insightful and highly intelligent businessman who has a particularly strong football background.

And importantly, in this era of a national competition, Cook has experienced the world of football administration on both sides of the country.

In the main, there has always been a strong Victorian flavour to the sport’s administration with many non-Victorian clubs feeling aggrieved that the powers that be do not always understand the issues that confront non-Melbourne clubs.

Cook is fully aware of those challenges and boasts a CV that indicates he is certainly a man who could succeed in the job.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 11 March 2014