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CEO message to members and fans

September 20, 2017 11:09 AM

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Bulldogs CEO Gary Kent responds to media speculation over his tenure at the Club.

Over the past few weeks, questions have continued to surface in the media over my tenure as CEO at the Club. I’ve tried to address these questions with our staff, but this industry being what it is, questions and rumours still abide.

So here is some further clarification.

I was asked by the Club Board to step into the role of Club CEO at a critical point mid-way through the 2016 season following the departure of David Stevenson. Though I had retired from full-time executive roles and had taken up a number of executive consultancies, I agreed to the Board’s request out of a sense of obligation to this footy club which I have loved all my life.

Initially, I wanted my appointment as CEO to be characterised as interim. But as things progressed and the unique circumstances of 2016 unfolded, the Board and I both thought it was in the Club’s best interests that I stay on into 2017.

Our President Peter Gordon has said in recent weeks and so have I, that I never intended to take up the CEO job for the long term. And this is true. The Board and I haven’t had a set leave-by date for me to depart. We haven’t needed to. We have simply maintained a dialogue about it as the events of the year have unfolded.

In June this year, I wrote to the Board and said I would prefer a new CEO be in place by the first AFL Premiership season game of 2018. The reasons for my preference as to the timing of that departure are in that letter. Needless to say, they are a far cry from some of the recent media reporting. The letter was a statement of my intentions. It was not a letter of resignation.  Despite a recent false media report to the contrary, I have not resigned.

Since my letter, the Board has gone about its business of identifying a replacement CEO quietly and professionally, and I have been kept informed of the Board’s work.

The task of appointing a new CEO during this period comes at a time when the Club has the greatest set of on-field and off-field opportunities in its long history. The job will have greater breadth than in times past. So it is appropriate that selection process take place with caution and with professionalism. 

Some of the recent media commentary about our club, especially the false report that I have resigned, the allegation that the club is ‘imploding’ and the suggestion the whole club is run by an ‘autocrat’ President, is particularly disappointing to me especially in the light of the demonstrated results which have occurred under my leadership as CEO this year and our Board’s governance of the Club since 2013.

The Club has virtually eradicated our debt, we will pay out our long-held Westpac overdraft this year, we have had our third straight year of record membership, and our third straight year of record revenue, and last year we posted the biggest profit in our history.  We have had record attendances, record tv viewing results, and outstanding growth in social media metrics. Our investment in new and innovative community activities is at an all-time high. We broke a 62-year AFL premiership drought and have won two out of the last four VFL flags. We led the introduction of AFL Women’s football. This year, we will again post a profit in excess of a million dollars.

Despite all this, this week, a football talk show tweeted that we as a club “have more issues than ever”. The same program made the claim that the ‘problem’ lies in the fact that our President is ‘an autocrat.’ When I joined the board in 2012, the Club had a total accrued debt of over $12 million, one of the largest debts in the competition. It had a multi-million dollar liability risk hanging over its head due to the failing Edgewater development. It was struggling to break even from year to year, had membership of 30,000, had finished 15th on the AFL ladder and had not won a premiership in 59 years. It had no VFL team and no women’s team. The idea that in September 2017, we ‘have more issues than ever’ suggests we are worse off as a club now compared to then. It is a ridiculous and totally indefensible claim being made by journalists who claim expertise and experience in the AFL industry and who should know better.

Western Bulldogs members can count on us to inform them of matters when there is a genuine need to. We can’t comment on every individual player trade rumour or piece of gossip that comes up. It’s not in the Club’s interests to do so. Let us do our talking to our players, and where relevant, to their managers. Obviously our goal is to get the best outcome for the club we can.

In the meantime, we will all get on with our job of preparing for 2018 and delivering on the significant opportunities we have for future success on and off the field.