As the AFL world is continuing to see over the course of the 2017 season, the role of a CEO at a professional football club is anything but a walk in a park.
Collingwood, Hawthorn, Carlton and the Western Bulldogs are on the look out for new Chief Executive Officers for 2018 and beyond after the resignations of their CEO’s from the 2017 season. It has been the Blues departure of Steven Trigg in the last few days however that have taken many by surprise, especially by the Carlton staff (as reported by AFL.com.au on Thursday).
But with the headline availability of former AFL football operations manager Simon Lethlean making his way around the many clubs of interest, if Carlton are doing what we think they are doing, then they are set for some long term issues.
Carlton’s recent history of CEO’s hasn’t been anything to boast about with 6 CEO’s averaging 4 year terms since 1994. Greg Swann left the Blues as the CEO on ‘sour’ terms along with President Stephen Kernahan at the end of 2014. While Swann’s predecessor Michael Malouf left after just 4 years along with then coach Dennis Pagan in 2007 after one of Carlton’s worst periods in their history.
But from the outside looking in, it didn’t seem like Trigg was doing much wrong with the Blues.
Since his instalment as CEO at the end of the 2014 season, the Blues have grown financially (recording a $2.0 million improvement in the 2016 season from the 2015 season) and have also created a growing but stronger looking football program as the club aims to develop their list through the draft.
On top of all this, the Blues reached 50’000 members for only the third time in their history, with two of those occasions being under Trigg.
The disappointing part about this departure is, as Caroline Wilson reported on Thursday on Crocmedia’s Sportsday, “up until yesterday, Trigg had no idea” about his possible departure from the Blues.
This is despite the fact that Carlton Chairman Mark LoGiudice had refused to answer or even listen to any enquires about the future of Trigg for the last month and had even went on to strongly deny Trigg leaving at the end of this season according to Wilson’s article in the Age on October 5.
The excuse of a new start can’t be valid with the Blues’ flurry of changes after a bottom placed 2015 providing the foundation of a Carlton rebuild. The club’s statement labelled Trigg’s departure as one that has come to a “mutual and conciliatory agreement” yet was also “earlier than expected”.
This has consequently raised eyebrows within the football world.
While we all know about his scandal at AFL House earlier this year, Wilson went on to remind us that Simon Lethlan’s appointment as the football manager of the AFL was a position “he won without a proper process” as (Gillon) Mclachlan “put him in the job”.
This is a man who has been trusted by the high powers without any official processes who went on to resign after just six months after a messy scandal.
While Lethlean’s skills may be exceptional it is difficult to understand the thinking by a club who are well into a rebuilding stage, in deciding to axe their CEO after three years because somebody that has worked at an AFL level is available.
There must be something going on that we don’t know, but it’s difficult not to connect the dots at this stage.
This whole situation runs parallel with the removal of Brett Ratten as coach just 4 years earlier with the board at the time seeing Malthouse as a ‘short term fix’ to a ‘long term problem’ despite the little problems that existed at the time of Ratten’s sacking and ultimately, because Malthouse was available.
Ratten was sacked after Carlton’s around 22 loss to the Good Coast Suns after “failing to meet club expectations”, yet when then President Stephen Kernahan was asked about the availability of Malthouse as a coach and its impact on the sacking, Kernahan gave a long pause followed by a mumbled “it’s a close call”.
As expected Malthouse got the role and before completing his initial three year contract, the record holder for most games coached was brutally sacked in a mess that sent Carlton back rather than forward.
It’s hard to believe that a club like Carlton, who are in such an important stage in their history, wouldn’t learn from the Rattan sacking. Especially considering the dire ramifications that followed the controversial departure.
There is no doubt that if Lethlean was given the job, he would have the credentials to run a football club.However it is the Blues’ disappointing and unessential departure of Trigg that leaves the Carlton Football Club with the potential to repeat history and consequently send the club into another dark period.