CrowCast were very fortunate to be able to sit down with Adelaide Football Club CEO Andrew Fagan and General manager Media Operations Ian Shuttleworth to discuss various issues relating to the Crows. Here’s what Andrew was able to share with us.

Admin

Logo   

  • people hate it, any change/rebrand likely in the foreseeable future?
  • Consistently club has said this is not a priority but it’s the one major embarrassing thing that ties us to the Trigg era of failure. Set the theme for a new era like other great clubs have done (Hawks, Cats, Pies, WC).
  • On that note, I would like to ask Fages if there is any chance of a club refresh. It is the end of an era once we leave West lakes so let’s make it count.

Andrew:

I understand the logo is always a point of debate. With 700,000-plus supporters, there is no chance of pleasing everyone and a re-brand is a significant undertaking. The We Fly As One tag line is now integral to the club’s overall brand positioning and it is generating cut through when judged by use of fans and on social media channels. There are no immediate plans to change the logo but it will remain on the agenda. These things often occur when there is a significant anniversary or some other major event. I do enjoy receiving the various versions of what it could be – there are plenty of ideas!

Song

  • Why did you (Fagan) agree with the fans when they stated that they wanted the song changed back to the original lyrics, to remove the “Known as the Adelaide Crows”, and for the lyrics to go back to “we’re the mighty Adelaide Crows”, and then earlier in the year when we had the opportunity to change the lyrics with re-recording of club songs, nothing was done ?? Why ??

Andrew:

The song was re-recorded by the AFL as part of a broader initiative across the entire League in an effort to have some consistency from a technical perspective and address some licensing issues across the League. The Club had no input or say in the process.

Membership/Attendances

  • I believe the We Fly As One membership strategy is a good one, will the club try and get out ahead of the AFL audit “fake members” stories this year? (I’ve noticed official AFL/media articles that will “*includes free members” our count, but not do the same for other categories that wont be counted)
  • Also, can the club pinpoint any reasons behind the drop off in crowd numbers this year? (Adelaide Oval novelty factor wearing off? 2018 performances? Cost?)

Andrew:

The traditional membership measurements are always topical. The reality is that they are less relevant in today’s market given the many different membership models, issues and opportunities facing every club in the competition. As I have said a few times, the so-called membership ladder is not the key focus for us – even though we rank pretty well with around 65,000 members. All Clubs now implement various membership growth models that are particular to their circumstances and this impacts the numbers. For instance, AFL-audited figures largely focus on game access memberships and in our case growth is somewhat limited by the capacity issues presented at Adelaide Oval. Some Clubs also run sampling programs where tickets are included at no cost yet are included in membership numbers. This is particularly the case at venues with available capacity (which is the majority of them). We now offer additional options such as a digital We Fly As One membership program which allows us to engage with a greater number of our 700,000-plus fans. In addition to the AFL recognised members we have over 35,000 WFAO members and will continue to push this as a way of genuinely engaging with more and more of our fans through a membership-type relationship. These WFAO fans have proven to be much more likely to buy a ticketed membership than a fan without a membership relationship of any kind.

Regarding attendances, it’s important to make the comparison over the long-term, as the numbers are impacted by a range of variables over the course of a season including weather, fixturing timeslots, and the status of the visiting team. We have a data analyst at the Club who amongst other things does develop predictive models to help with our fixturing requests as well as forecasting numbers etc, which helps with the running of the match day. Obviously our own performance is also a significant variable, which has been challenged this season, particularly at home.

New Clubroom/Training Facility

  • City redevelopment will it be a “club”
  • How important do they believe the need is to have a permanent social base for their supporters? If they are unable to provide one at the new location (due to the restrictions imposed by the ACC) then is there any truth to the rumour that the club is considering the purchase of The Caledonian Hotel? If so would this then become a social base for AFC supporters and members?
  • Will the development at the parkland propose to have an MCG sized training ground?
  • My understanding is the ACC has ruled there will be no permanent licence allowed on that site. Is that negotiable or is our tenancy on that site reliant on us not having a “Shed” type venue there for supporters after a match? If that is the case, what is the clubs alternative plan, or is there not going to be such a venue ever to be made available?
  • Is there going to be club room at the new parklands facility?

Andrew:

Everything the Club has spoken about publicly is a true reflection of where the project currently sits. We are probably past the halfway mark of the master planning process and things are progressing positively. Our aim is to produce a win-win outcome for everyone – the Club and our fans, council, community and other stakeholders, including those using the existing facility.

Given the current proposed location in the North Adelaide parklands and the guiding principles issued by council, our focus will be on working with existing licensed facilities on O’Connell Street for match day-type events and activity. During the week, we are seeking to make the Club and community precinct as accessible as possible – an open oval for people to watch training at any time and to also use themselves, a large foyer and amphitheatre that can provide opportunities for fans to come in at any time and enjoy a coffee and sandwich, view displays of memorabilia and participate in interactive zones that highlight the history of the Club, watch training and otherwise just engage with those at the Club and fellow supporters. Importantly, the current plans are to also establish a new community sports and aquatic centre which will be part of the new precinct and should ensure it is a busy and active precinct.

In terms of the oval itself, we propose to have a one large flexible oval than can cater for all ground dimensions.

Miscellaneous

  • Does P&L really matter to a footy club when you know the AFL will just throw money your way if you are in fiscal trouble? Wouldn’t you be better off just spending as much as possible on the footy dept to get a flag?
  • In terms of specific employees, who is someone that performs an important key role but that we don’t hear much about as a supporter?
  • Do you think we have too much stability and too little change in our club? Board, coaches, selection.
  • Can we confirm no major altering to the clash guernsey to put the raptor head onto it?
  • Can we confirm no major altering to the clash guernsey to put the raptor head onto it?
  • Where is the strategic vision/plan that was promised recently?
  • Do we have plans on expanding into other sports ie netball, basketball, soccer, etc?
    I personally like the idea of us becoming a super club in our code like a Real Madrid, Barcelona etc.
  • Would also be curious as to why Chapman’s reign was extended so discreetly.

Andrew:

History says successful organisations need strong and stable leadership, coupled with alignment of those filling key positions so they can lead effectively and deliver positive outcomes. That said, we had a new Board Director start earlier this year with Kym Ryder winning a position through a member vote, plus the likes of Kate Ellis and Richard Fennell who have only recently joined the Board and in the process brought fresh ideas and skillsets, and ensured our governance structure remains strong. From a football department perspective, the industry almost demands there be some type of change each and every year and we have experienced that that in recent times with a number of new faces joining the Club across coaching and high performance.

As recently as this year’s Annual Members Meeting, we spoke of entering a period of consolidation and bedding down our recent acquisitions of baseball and esports, while also building out our media production, sports consultancy and innovation-based businesses. We will always be on the lookout for new opportunities that can assist in making the club stronger but right now, there are no plans to acquire another sporting franchise.

Footy Ops

Soft Cap

  • With the soft cap on football spend, it’s reported only one club is over the cap… Would we be a club that is willing to overspend if there was an opportunity to improve our football department and pay the tax? and I guess what would it take (profit?) to be willing to pay it? Or does the club (like most others?) just think it’s not worth it?
  • Why are we afraid to break the soft cap; and is this the reason we are unable to attract quality/experienced coaching assistants to the Club?
  • With the cap on player salary and cap on the footy department spend, what are the actual benefits of being a “have” club that should result in us being a better AFL side on the field vs. a have not club? Are we investing heavily enough in these areas?
  • Does the soft cap stifle innovation. E.g putting together an analytics team.

Andrew:

The soft cap was implemented in order to ensure all clubs in the competition were able to operate in a relatively healthy state, and we believe it is at an appropriate level. For our club to be healthy, it relies on the competition as a whole being healthy.

We do spend at the full extent of the salary and football caps and remaining profitable means we can plan with certainty. I can promise you that Clubs receiving AFL financial assistance do not enjoy the restrictions that are placed on them, including often having limits placed on their spending within the football department. The consequences of spending money until the AFL bails you out are inevitably negative.

That said, if there are ‘incidental overspends’ incurred as a result of decisions that we think can drive improvement we wouldn’t be overly concerned, as long as we could actually afford it. It is worth noting that if you look across the League, just about every club operates within the soft cap.

List Management

  • NGA can we get an updated list on the web page of all eligible players Male and Female so we can follow them. 
  • NGA – can fans be given a list of eligible players? If not, why not? Are we trying to hide the fact there are barely any players in our NGA squad actually eligible to us only?
  • Do we currently have any plans to be involved heavily at the trade table this off season, or are we most likely to take our assets to the draft? (Given we have been heavily vested in the draft post the Gibbs trade)
  • Are we comfortable with the due diligence we did on Gibbs before trading?
  • When can we expect Hugh, ROB and Keathy to re-sign?
  • Is the club going to change it’s salary distribution approach and pay more for stars, as it would appear we haven’t been successful with the current strategy
  • We are very slow in the development of our youngsters relative to other clubs. It took 3 years for Doedee to debut, and we’ve got 11 players on the list with 2 AFL games or less. With 7 players aged 30+ and Walker and Sloane both turning 30 next year, are we adequately planning for transition in our list – and how can we develop some of the young players faster?
  • I’d also like to know if we are doing anything to get players (especially younger up and coming players looking for an opportunity) to actually chose us like every other club in the comp has happen. (If you want examples we have tonnes, even bloody Carlton had McGovern pick them) without having to pay through the nose like we did for Gibbs.
  • Given a number between 9-10 on a scale of 1-10 how happy were you with Justin Reid in trade week?
  • When SOS rang through to say he was offering this years first pick for your first pick and 19, did you just think you were on an episode of Punked?
  • I’d like to know if footage of the Crows bunker during the Carlton trade will ever be released.

Andrew:

The footage from our list management room during the trade with Carlton last year could be released at some stage in the near future. Live trading provided some significant unknowns but we felt that we were well prepared, with each person having a clear role in what was a very hectic period of time. Many calls were taken and all of them presented possible trade scenarios, which had to be analysed quickly while the clock was ticking and often with subsequent trade offers being phoned through at the same time. You could call it organised chaos! We hoped it would result in a very high first round pick, which regardless of points value etc, are just very hard to acquire unless you finish in the bottom 3-4. We thought it was a risk worth taking and it looks like it will pan out pretty well.

With regards to the NGA, we have discussed listing all eligible players on our digital platform but decided it puts too much pressure on the young players given their age, school demands and alike. They will come to prominence at the right time in the pathway when they are better prepared to handle the attention.

Footy Department

  • What is it exactly that Brett Burton is doing on a day to day basis given a combination of Reid, Saunders and Pyke seem to have supplanted him
  • Does he believe he has made good on his commitment to an industry leading Footy Ops department?
  • Is the club going to properly resource it’s coaching department next season after initially promising a league leading department?
  • What do you believe is the main reason behind our markedly improved injury list this year, as opposed to 2018
  • What are they doing to make Adelaide as a club more attractive to potential staff with no previous connection to the state?

Andrew:

The Football Department is filled with very good staff who are driven to be industry leading. They also operate within an AFL industry which is constantly changing with every Club and individual seeking competitive advantage. The aspiration to be industry leading is appropriate and this journey will be a continuous one. The moment you stop, others will go past you. As is the case at every Club, there is constant review of our football operations and for that matter the entire organisation, and this includes the regular use of external experts.

We acknowledge that we don’t always get everything right, and not everything is a perfect science. However, the focus is one ensuring that there is sufficient rigour, research, time and energy invested to ensure decisions are made appropriately and with all the information at hand. The competition for staff is also extremely challenging at times – sometimes you win this race and at other times you don’t. But I assure you that we don’t stop trying to improve.

AFLW

  • What is happening in the AFLW arena? ie playing venue
  • Expectations on an Erin Phillips return? Injury update?
  • Is the coaching group large enough?
  • Do we as Premiers have any say in our fate? ie scheduling , opponents etc
  • Also, what can the club do to make the 2017 and 2019 aflw premierships available on DVD?

Andrew:

Our AFLW program continues to be a focus of attention behind the scenes, whether it be list management and recruiting, membership or corporate partners, among many other initiatives.

We are fortunate to have a very talented group of players who are also quality people off the field. With regards to your specific question about Erin Phillips, her recovery from a knee reconstruction is tracking well as you would have seen from of her recent social media posts from the United States. She is a key part of our women’s football program and we expect her to play a meaningful role during the upcoming season.

Ultimately, the AFL makes all decisions to do with both the AFL and AFLW fixtures but Clubs have the opportunity to put forward wish lists, albeit with no guarantees their requests will come to fruition.

Like the AFL, the AFLW has a football cap to adhere to (in 2020 it actually will become combined with the AFL cap). Given the length of the season at the moment and the part time contradicting of the majority of the players, the football department is adequately resourced and well lead by Matthew Clarke as Head Coach. As the competition grows, we will naturally need to invest more into coaching and other supporting roles.

From a Club perspective, there are no plans to produce DVDs of the premiership wins as we do not have control or ownership of the broadcast vision.

AFL Stuff

  • Latest on AFL national seconds competition? Is the club active in asking the AFL to set this up? And/or will we join up and leave the SANFL once the AFL announce this? Along with this, do they expect club list sizes to increase and by how many when a seconds comp is created?
  • What’s the clubs thoughts on the SANFL free kick counts?
  • Did they fight for a better deal for the grandfinal with the MCG contract extension? Like each team to host it if they earn it or a best of 3 grandfinal series? I’d be interested to know if and why he believes a 40 year MCG GF contract is good for the AFC or the competition
  • Were the clubs (especially the non-Victorian ones) consulted prior to the AFL committing to MCG grand finals for the rest of our lifetimes in exchange for the MCG redevelopment? If so, what form did these discussions take? Why were there not more, stronger public objections from the non-Victorian clubs (including ours) during this process?
  • Why having a competition that favours a draw of attendance/profit is better than a draw of fairness/equality
  • Do the Crows feel that, as there are 10 Victorian teams compared to 8 non-Victorian teams, that the ‘balance of power’ with decision making rests in Victoria, and is this a detriment to the interests of non-Victorian teams?

Questions for Nigel (eSports related)

  • Are Legacy and Adelaide Bite delivering additional revenue to support the Crows main venture, the AFL team, or are they cost neutral/losing money?
  • Why did Legacy let all of its good Lol players go, including import Mimic who then won the premiership with Bombers?
  • I would like to know what the strategy is for the LoL team, if you can email beforehand to Nigel. They had one of the top teams for years, then let good players go and replaced them (mostly) with youngsters from the lower league. Is this a deliberate strategy, with targeted new players who will be among the best, or a “best we could do” situation. E.g. captain Claire was shaping up as one of the best players in the region after rift rivals last year, but didn’t get a new contract.

Andrew:

Having the Adelaide Bite and Legacy Esports as part of the Club brings wide ranging benefits. Some of this is financial return, some is also about increasing the value of those assets which  if we choose can be sold in part or full. There is also indirect value that comes through differentiating ourselves from others in the market place when dealing with corporate partners. Some of the commercial benefit also comes away from the direct operations of the teams – for instance we deliver business and financial management services for Baseball Australia, whilst we have had an opportunity to live stream and do production of baseball broadcasts that also include potential content sharing relationships through Asia-based media outlets. There are a series of other related activities which make both esports and baseball commercially positive investments. It is important to note that we have no football staff, nor other staff who contribute to football performance in any way associated with the delivery of esports or baseball operations. They are resourced separately and any suggestion that it could in any way distract anyone from football is just without foundation. In fact, they contribute to football in that they ensure we are more financially sustainable as a result of these activities working positively for the Club.

General Andrew Questions

  • What does Andrew see as his biggest achievement since he’s been at the AFC? What does he think his next biggest one will be?
  • How has the transition from “outsider” to AFL gone for him? How (and who) have the footy people at the club helped him? Does he delegate less on footy matters than he used to?
  • What’s your view on senior players discussing being dropped in the media and sharing the nature of their discussions with the coach
  • What would he say to give substantive reassurance to a supporter base hungry for the ultimate success. Is there anything meaningful he can say to show that the clubs ambitions match those of the most demanding of the membership. For those who doubt our ambition, what would he say to them

Andrew:

I think reflecting on achievements in a role is best done after you have finished in the seat. But to date it has been what I expected – a journey filled with some great successes and also some tough and challenging times. There is plenty of unfinished business yet both on and off the field.

Honestly, if anyone spent any time with people who are involved in the day-to-day operations of the Club they would have little doubt as to the passion and commitment of staff to achieve the ultimate success. The staff sacrifice significant parts of their lives to do the job and are required to perform in the face of often unrelenting public scrutiny, external commentary and enormous pressure all with the express purpose of trying to win. They feel disappointment when we fall short more than most could imagine. But that is the industry we chose to operate in and we accept it, embrace it and just try and improve every day to get to where we want to.  

Suggestions/Requests

  • The interview with that analytics guy was great. Could there be more from that type of person around the club – either on our website or through media partners if they are interested. Eg recruiters, scouts, Steve Saunders, Emma Bahr (if appropriate), IT/game analysts
  • It would be good during the games to have info and stats flashed up on the big screens during play. Especially injury updates. Sometimes at games it feels like you miss stuff that you wouldn’t at home. Some things you pick up obviously but sometimes it’s a quarter later and you think hang on, I haven’t seen Player X in ages. What’s happened?

    Eg “Murphy took a head knock and is off for a concussion test”

    “Collingwood have had 8 of the first 10 clearances”

    “Kelly getting his calf worked on that quarter”

    “Player X is already up to 10 possessions for the quarter”

Andrew:

I am not sure everyone knows this, but we fulfil more interview requests than almost any other Club with a view to giving as much insight into the inner workings of the Club as possible – even though some are less concerned with insights and prefer other story angles.

Most areas of the club, and for that matter staff, are highlighted in the media at some stage whether that be our game analysts appearing on the Crows Show or in host broadcaster content through to recruiting staff engaging in podcast discussions with the AFL Media platform, among many others.

Providing ‘real time’ content, other than match vision and replays, on the Adelaide Oval big screen has been a discussion point as we are always looking at ways to enhance the fan experience. The big screens are operated by a third party and additional inputs would require overcoming technical logistics and require additional cost, while some of the desired details you have put forward are available via the club and AFL digital channels.

We really appreciate the time Andrew and Ian Shuttleworth were able to spend with us and we thank the club for their ongoing support of the CrowCast.