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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Just ahead of the AFL's season launch events, Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick announced that Andrew Demetriou will be stepping down as League CEO at the end of the season. Demetriou, who has held the position since 2003, had actually told Fitzpatrick of his decision while the pair were in the USA to attend the NFL Superbowl. Fitzpatrick said Demetriou had been a "very significant force ... and ... had led the AFL industry through a period of extraordinary growth."

While pointing out key developments during Demetriou's tenure Fitzpatrick also praised Demetriou's off-field accomplishments. He said "for me, and I know for many others, the real strength of Andrew’s leadership has been his determination to give our game an ethical underpinning by promoting the role of women at all levels of our game, implementing plans to embrace multicultural communities, expanding opportunities for Indigenous Australians to be involved in our game as players and administrators at various levels of the game, protecting the integrity of the game, emphasizing the health, safety and welfare of players". Fitzpatrick added that Demetriou had always been an advocate of welcoming everyone, regardless of their background, to the game and could be satisfied with the growth and financial strength of the game during his time as CEO.

Fitzpatrick gave a brief outline of the key achievements of Demetriou's era, highlighting the $3 billion invested by various governments and the AFL for first class stadiums, facilities for over 800 community clubs across the country, high quality training and administrative facilities for the AFL clubs, the current broadcast rights delivering coverage of every match on TV, radio and other digital devices, establishment of the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants, home and away games played in every state capital as well as regional areas, a match played for the first time in New Zealand, the establishment of AFL Media, three collective bargaining agreements, the signing of long-term partnerships with major companies as sponsors (Toyota for 10 years, Carlton & United Brewers, National Australia Bank, Virgin Australia and Coca-Cola).

Demetriou also oversaw the establishment of a Future Fund for the League's financial security, a government relations department, a higher level of communication between the AFL and the clubs, the establishment of the integrity unit, rule changes to ensure the safety of the players not the least of which were better and stricter rules and policies regarding concussion. There was also the establishment of the Respect and Responsibility policy, the code of conduct policy, the illicit drugs policy, the multicultural programs and player education and development programs under the collective bargaining agreement.

Fitzpatrick briefly touched on the events of 2013, saying there had been "unprecedented challenges" but that Demetriou never lost sight of the "key strategic priorities". He reiterated the League's swift response to the Australian Crime Commission's report and the Essendon saga with the introduction of new rules regarding supplements and giving club doctors more authority.

Fitzpatrick concluded that "Andrew has been one of the most influential Chief Executive Officers in the history of the AFL and he has clearly delivered on our mantra that it is the responsibility of those given the role of temporary custodians of the game to leave it in a better shape than when they began their role ... Andrew has delivered on that principle.”

The League has already retained the services of an executive search team to assist in the identification of candidates.

Demetriou said it had been a privilege and honor to serve the AFL and to build on the foundations laid by his predecessors Wayne Jackson and Ross Oakley. He said “The game has played an enormous part in my life and I will be forever indebted to the AFL Commission for the opportunity ... I have been very fortunate to work with a highly skilled board ... and with a very talented executive team who are very passionate about the game." He said the AFL needed a "fresh set of eyes."

Demetriou played 103 games for North Melbourne and three for Hawthorn 1981-88. After his playing days, he became a managing director for the Ruthinium Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of acrylic teeth. He is still on the company's board. In 1998, he was appointed CEO of the Players Association. In 2000, he was appointed the AFL Football Operations General Manager. He held the position until his appointment as AFL CEO.

Source: Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release

In other administrative news, AFLPA CEO Matt Finnis will be stepping down to take up the position of St Kilda's CEO. He will remain with the AFLPA until the review and changes to the League's equalization policies have been completed. General manager Ian Prendergast will act as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is appointed.

Source: Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release,, (audio)

Article last changed on Saturday, March 08, 2014 - 8:20 PM EST

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