It was hot, it was January and the Australian Open was on - not exactly the sort of time you feel like attending a football club AGMBeing dragged from the tennis at 5-5 in the first was not something we enjoyed - especially when the construction at Federation Square caused a massive traffic jam on the way to the Crown Palladium room for the 8pm start of the 2001 Richmond Football Club AGM.
New President Clinton Casey gave a brief introduction to the board explaining the various committees they were on and then threw to Garry Cameron, the former Telstra finance director who is now managing director of the Grand Hotel Group which owns the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne.
Despite racking up a $600,000-plus loss for the year, this was explained by the dreadful injuries, higher than expected venue costs at Docklands where too many home games were scheduled and a $100,000 sponsorship shortfall.
When it came to questions on the financials no-one was prepared to ask any questions, including Crikey who could not find either his membership card or the financial accounts.
The director elections were the fastest Crikey has ever seen anywhere. Clinton Casey threw to Craig Winter from PriceWaterhouseCoopers who simply said: "I declare that Tony Jewell, Peter Welsh and Terry (Someone) were re-elected unopposed."
It appears that no-one actually got to vote and the boys were simply re-elected because no-one else stood against them. What if the members wanted to vote them down. There was absolutely no opportunity to do that or for any discussion.
With that out of the way, at 8.20pm President Casey threw to an inspirational video of tenacious Tiger players tackling hapless Geelong rivals to the backing of "What's my scene".
Danny Frawley then took the stage for precisely 16 minutes. Nine senior players walked up on stage for various awards followed by a similar number of shy looking kids who have been drafted or recruited from across the country.
Danny insisted that we only clap once they were all on stage and we were reassured when he told us that he'd "never seen a group work harder" in the pre-season.
He briefly went through the highs and lows of the season, openly conceding that "where we finished on the ladder was low enough".
But things are changing at Tigerland. Five new directors swept onto the board 14 months ago, Matthew Knights has been replaced as captain by Wayne Campbell who almost left the club a couple of years back. Cambo stood up briefly from the front row when introduced but apart from that kept a very low profile for the night. Danny has only been in the job for 12 months and has completely overhauled the coaching staff, but none of the new guard had any history with the club. This makes the recent appointment of former Best and Fairest winner Trevor Poole as Football Operations manager a reassuring thing for those of us that like to see a bit of loyalty around the place.
With all these injuries last year, it was good to hear Danny explain that "we have overhauled the conditioning staff" under the leadership of Dr Noel Duggan.
To wind up Danny's speech we got to see some video footage of the new recruits and the two Aboriginal lads - one called Andrew Krakour - certainly caught our eye. Inspirationally, the background music was the Bitter Sweet Symphony - if only there'd been some more sweetness over the past 20 years.
We then moved along to the awarding of three new life membership and this is where proceedings almost got emotional.
Club statistician Ian Williams seemed to confuse the concept of life membership with his life story and managed to give the longest speech for the night thanking everyone.
I can tell you that Ian is the Human Resources manager of the Victorian Ambulance service and has been keeping the stats for the Tiges since 1979. Using the skills he picked up at Punt Rd, Ian managed to land a job as results manager for baseball and softball at the Olympics. His father also collected a life membership in 1994 and at one stage three generations of his family were keeping stats. When Ian started out, he had a couple of blokes with clip boards but now his stats team numbers 12 and they've got laptops and other technology to do the job that much better. Ian was almost moved to tears as he talked about his family and love of the Tiges - it was a touching moment.
Deposed President Leon Daphne - the long-time managing director of Nissan Australia - was awarded the next life membership in a major olive branch offering by the Clinton Casey team. Conveniently, Leon, who was president from 1993 till 1999, was in Japan on business. Who can forget the time he went to Japan in 1992 to be told that Nissan was closing its Australian manufacturing operations.
Anyway, the Tiges had a pretty barren period under Leon by the new broom praised him for lifting membership from 8000 to 29,000, average attendances from 22,000 to 39,000 and revenue from $5 million to $17 million.
Leon did help co-ordinate the Save Our Skins fundraiser and left the club debt-free. And Nissan remains a generous sponsor so it was appropriate he got the gong and his wife Kerry got up and gave a nice speech quoting hubby saying how thrilled and honoured he was.
The third life membership went to tough backman Scotty Turner who played 140 good games over 10 years. Scotty got the biggest cheer of the night and gave the blokiest speech.
"Thanks Prez," he said at the start before he went onto thank all the players by their nick names along with "me favourite grog squad behind the goals".
"I'm looking forward to sitting in the outer having a can watching a few of the young blokes run around," he said. Aren't we all Scotty.
Well down son. I'll never forget the time you flattened Gary O'Donnell in that famous second semi final victory over the Bombers at the G about five years back. That was our greatest day since 1982.
Before the floor was thrown open to questions, Pres Casey gave a quick update on plans to redevelop the admin facilities at Punt Rd and put in a lap pool for the boys to train in. The City of Yarra had been good enough to commit $1 million, the Jack Dyer Foundation had also raised some money but the club had been hoping for about $1.5 million from the sale of Waverley to pay for the rest.
Sadly, Pres Casey told us that a Heritage order had delayed the sale and he was hoping the government would step in to force the sale which could be done for a quick fire $35 million up front or a delayed $85 million if the AFL developed the site into housing over a number of yours. Unfortunately for cash-strapped AFL clubs, it is hard to imagine the Bracks government stepping in and overruling a Heritage order when they campaigned on a platform to save Waverley. There efforts have been pitiful in this regard, but securing a quickfire demolition and sale in such circumstances would be too Kennett-like even for Jeff Bracks.
We then got to questions from the floor and the first was from Clair, membership number 23379, who wanted to know who the vice-captain was? Danny, said it was an excellent question but failed to answer it by saying there could be several and "we have a lot of very worthy candidates".
Clair was of the right age to fit in neatly at a normal corporate AGM but the next question was from Paul Bright, membership number 11,944, who wanted to know why our website wasn't operating as well as the Collingwood, Carlton, Footscray and Hawthorn. Mr Bright, might as well have been from Eddie McGuire and Steve Vizard's outfit Sportsview.com because these clubs have all done a 10 year deal with the outfit.
Pres Casey responded by saying "we are being encouraged by the AFL not to create any form of alliance with a third party such as Sportsview".
This was a pretty direct answer and he went on to say that the Tiges would know in a couple of weeks whether Telstra would be the AFL-approved provider or whether they'd have to knock www.richmondfc.com.au into shape themselves.
A David Brighton then asked how our alliance with Coburg was going and what other interstate deals we were working on. Clinton laboured the point of how Coburg was broke and we somehow bailed them out without taking on any risk. He also said we're trying to work up some sort of deal with the Balmain Tigers but it all sounded a bit vague.
Crikey had by this time plucked up the courage to lob in a question, although we made up the membership number having thrown out the card at the end of last season and not yet raised the finance to rejoin this year. It was a simple offering asking when we were likely to see some of the Rupees thrown at the AFL for its TV rights. The Prez did say he expected the annual dividend to double but not until the 2002 season when it kicks. It would be interesting to know if Murdoch, Packer and co have committed to provide any finance for the AFL's upcoming $30 million contribution to Docklands which is due by March. That was meant to be financed by the Waverley sale which is now stuck in the heritage mud.
After a couple more questions, President Clinton finished off with a final plea for unity and stability, saying it was the hallmark of a good club.
As soon as proceedings would up the meeting took on the feel of a corporate AGM. Prominent fund manager and former Tigers director Charles Macek wondered over to say hellos, closely followed by Gary Cameron, President Clinton and Rob Turner, the managing director of IOOF.
Charles is a big campaigner for greater corporate governance and was in the front-line of the Yannon battle against Coles Myer when he headed up the old insto lobby group AIMA. Gary was Telstra's number one bean counter 10 years back and then went on to be deputy MD of debt manager Treasury Corporation of Victoria before he took up his current gig as MD of the Grand Hotel Group. He was pleased to inform us that the ugly CFMEU picket out the front of the Melbourne Hyatt - not a good look for a five star - had been resolved that arvo. It turns out Crikey went to uni with Rob Turner's son Ash but the big strapping IOOF MD still wouldn't tell us when the smallish $2.5bn fund would demutualise.
At this point we declined to join everyone at the bar and sprinted home for the end of the tennis only to see Rafter collapse in a rather pathetic cramp-induced heap in the fifth set. It was something we'd expect of the Tigers Pat, not a former world number 1 and twice US Open champion.
Now let's check out an account of previous Richmond AGMs sent in by a Crikey reader recently.
Held at the Crown Palladium in the week prior to Christmas, ensuring maximum clashes with city shopping, parties, functions etc on at the same time meaning that no parking was available at Crown and many people gave up or arrived late and angry to a packed auditorium. Meeting was largely a non-event because all the real action had taken place in the weeks leading up to it with the bloodless coup by the Clinton Casey team. The meeting was characterised by the eulogising of the outgoing Daphne/Malone management team by a seemingly endless stream of leading supporters and indeed I think the patron or No 1 member.
The first of the meetings to be held outside home territory (ie Richmond and/or the MCG) at Crown. Highlight of this meeting was the presentation of the Best and Fairest to Wayne Campbell who only weeks before had attempted to leave the club. A muted round of applause greeted Campbell but an inspired passionate speech by the Tigers number 9 saw him exit the podium to a sustained ovation.
This was the year that Mal Brown tried to grab a seat on the board, instigating the first actual election in some time. I have memories of Leon Daphne threatening to stand aside if Brown was elected and the RFC constitution coming under some scrutiny as it emerged that unlike other clubs where only registered adult members could vote or only certain categories (eg Social Club members at Collingwood) all RFC members were eligible to vote, no matter what their age (or species). I don't recall that this article was subsequently changed.
The actual meeting was held at the usual venue, the Richmond Town Hall, which for a number of years had shown itself capable of holding 500 or so people at best. For a club which had upwards of 25,000 members one day this was going to cause a problem. This day arrived at the '97 AGM. With all the agitation emanating from the Brown camp, the meeting was an eagerly anticipated event and as such a big crowd turned up, many of whom were left stranded on the Bridge Rd footpath. Things were getting ugly outside as Jim Malone (CEO) initially tried to placate the crowd by apologising and promising a review of the venue. When this obviously did nothing for the crowd's demeanour, a subsequent effort by Malone to appeal to the crowd's sensibilities by offering them free drinks down the road at the club's gaming venue the Royal Oak with the promise that someone would come down after the meeting and report on what happened succeeded in thinning the crowd to the extent that those who continued to hang around the Town Hall were eventually allowed in. Can't say what transpired inside as I just went home.
Meeting held in the Long Room at the MCG. Allan Jeans introduced to the members as the new coach. He proceeded to knock the socks off the crowd with an oration at a volume which completely rendered the microphone and speaker redundant. If only the players of season 1992 had been as inspired as the members were that night..........
1986 or 1987
Back in the days when the AGM was able to be held upstairs in the Punt Rd Social Club. This was the night that started with so much promise - TV cameras and lights everywhere, reporters at all vantage points, all awaiting the arrival of the club's new saviour 'Bondy'. Alas, that night we should have all seen the writing on the wall that Tiny Rowland would see and expose only a couple of years later - the man was not all he was cracked up to be. Initially engaging the crowd with an anecdote about how he'd been a lifelong supporter of the red and black (sic), his one and only tangible (ie memorable) contribution to the RFC was soon to be made. He proudly presented the B&F to "the club captain, Dale Wineman". Whoever that was must have been absent, as Dale Weightman had to accept the award on his behalf.
Okay, now this is the piece we carried earlier about footy club democracy. We'll be turning up at the AGM on the 25th to get a first hand taste of it.
AFL democracy very different from corporates and politics
Footy club democracy is very different from corporate democracy if our experience with Richmond Football Club in early January is anything to go by.
We had planned to have a tilt at the Richmond board when members gathered for the AGM on January 25 at Kerry Packer's Crown casino.
The nomination requirements were that you needed two paid up members in 2000 to nominate you by 8pm on January 3.
Apart from being a life long Tigers supporter who is disillusioned with just one finals appearance since 1982, the rationale for standing was in part to get a feel for AFL democracy and compare it with political and corporate democracy. Crikey wants to encourage contested elections in all spheres of life spanning politics, business, local government, sporting clubs and even mutuals such as the RACV. Monopolies are bad and no-one should ever have a monopoly over a position in an election.
The Richmond board took on five new directors including President Clinton Casey 13 months ago after threats were made of a big campaign ahead of the last AGM. However, the new guard posted another big loss which when combined with another finals miss does not constitute good performance.
Believe it or not but Crikey actually played a small part in bailing Richmond's finances out back in 1993.
Laurie Connell's former financial go-between, Malcolm Brown, was marketing director of the Tigers at the time and had abused the acting chief executive of its major sponsor, the Transport Accident Commission, which is the monopoly compulsory third party insurance provider in Victoria. The public servant involved, one John Stanway, was called a f— wit by Brown and wanted to drop the sponsorship altogether.
Brown is a millionaire former ruckman from Perth who knows how to get what he wants. With the TAC threatening to walk from its $400,000 a year deal he called up any Richmond supporter he could find in the Kennett government.
As press secretary to the Treasurer, Alan Stockdale, I took the call and proceeded to tell Stockers that there were no votes whatsoever in sending a footy club to the wall, especially one as popular as Richmond.
The transport minister Alan Brown had rung up with a similar message after a call from Mal Brown and I was there when Stockers put the call through to John Stanway.
It went something like this:
Stockers: "Look, I don't want to tell you how to run your business but people are telling me there is a chance you could cut Richmond off at the knees and that could cause me some grief."
Given that Stockers was the responsible minister and still deciding whether to sell the TAC at the time, the sponsorship was reinstated in full by Stanway who was afraid of losing his job. Now that is an interesting insight into government decision making! Scary, eh. Brown subsequently sent me a letter saying if I ever needed any favours he'd be happy to help out. Thankfully, I haven't called that one in yet.
Given their woeful onfield performance, the Tigers were forced into some rather entrepreneurial sponsorship deals to survive the past 15 years. First they took Alan Bond's money and made him President. It saved the club but former captain Dale Weightman wasn't too impressed when Bondy announced that Dale Wineman had won the best and fairest one year.
Then there was the $500,000 that Amcor's Containers Packaging division chipped in which was somehow tied in with the packaging contract they had with CUB. Surprise, surprise, CUB CEO at the time was Richmond President Pat Stone. Crikey has always been confused as to whether it was Amcor or CUB which actually paid the money to Stone's footy team but you can rest assured that shareholders did not anywhere full value from this sponsorship. Former Richmond CEO Jim Malone described this deal as "the best sponshorship deal in the world" one day when we were playing cricket together for the Richmond Club X1. This was because Containers didn't want anything in return.
Then you've got the $250,000 four-year signage deal for the Punt Rd stadium roof that Mal Browne struck with Crown casino boss Lloyd Williams in 1994. It certainly helped that then Richmond director Jamie Bartels was also marketing manager of Crown at the time. Lloyd's company Hudson Conway made a clear, risk-free $252 million profit from its pubco joint venture with Elders IXL in the 1980s and the bloke who did the deal with him was Jamie's dad Peter Bartels, then the CEO of CUB. From that day on it is fair to say that Lloyd owed the Bartels a big debt of gratitude.
The Tigers directors should be facing some contested elections because they missed the finals yet again last year and reported a loss of $639,667. And the board needs some people with experience in government, media and the internet, something chief executive Mark Brayshaw acknowledged Crikey could bring.
However, the candidacy went nowhere fast because Brayshaw put the big guilt trip on by explaining that they were a non-profit organisation that would incur additional costs of $60,000 if I nominated.
How is this so? Well, at that point no outsiders had nominated for the board so the incumbents Tony Jewell, a Premiership coach, Peter Welsh, a Premiership player, and Terry Grigg, the longest serving director, were proposed to be given another term unopposed.
Richmond had therefore decided not to send out proxy forms and director profiles to its 20,000-odd members, but under their constitution they'd have to do it if an outsider nominated.
By the time President Clinton Casey rang after his round of golf in Queensland, I'd decided not to run. The beauty of contesting corporate and political elections is that there is no additional cost on the company or the taxpayer because they have to conduct the poll anyway.
For some odd reason, Richmond wrote to its members advising the financials and the board elections, but they did this before nominations for directors had closed. Several people expressed interest in standing but President Casey promised them all "lunch" and a chat to see what they could offer as the consolation prize for not imposing all these democracy costs on the club.
You are hardly a try Tiger fan if you impose an extra $60,000 cost on a club that suffered a crunching $639,667 loss for the year. The directors blamed the loss on falling membership, below budget sponsorshop, unprecedented injuries last year and additional coaching costs after recruiting Danny Frawley.
So what happens if the members decide to reject one of the candidates. Presumably those there on the night can vote but to appoint a proxy you have to ring the club and ask for the form. Surely it would have been easier to close nominations earlier and send out the proxy forms with the financial statements. Interestingly, as another cost saving measure members don't get the full annual report, only a four black and white summary.
So while the board tilt went nowhere this year, we'll probably have a crack next year by giving the board plenty of notice. If you know anyone interested in running for other club boards then please get in touch. Also, we'd love to get some feedback on the financials of other footy clubs out there if anyone wants to write in.
If you're interested, come along to the Richmond AGM on 8pm on January 25 at the Palladium Room at Crown. We'll probably be the only member asking financial questions as footy AGMs are usually dominated by things like drafting, player performance and the coaching staff.
Go Tiges! East 'em alive!
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