AFL Needs Lesson In Crisis Management

Lets rewind a few months……..

There’s a packed media contingency. Picture a long table, 6 people seated with an AFL backdrop. AFL Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, CEO Andrew Demetriou, General Counsel Andrew Dillon, Essendon Chairman David Evans, CEO Ian Robson and Coach James Hird are the subjects on display awaiting the frenzied shark attack. Fitzpatrick and Evans sit together in the middle, Demetriou and Robson flank on one side with Hird and Dillon on the other. They create a perception of solidarity, oneness – this is a premeditated stance which sends a very strong message to all and sundry.

Fitzpatrick opens: “Let me make this abundantly clear; The AFL stands side by side with the Essendon Football Club in this investigation to ensure complete transparency and honesty along with delivering the most satisfactory outcome possible. Whilst details are still vague we will be working closely with David, Ian and James to assist them in any manner available to provide the necessary details to ASADA so they can conduct this investigation accordingly. Irrespective of the final outcome of the investigation we will support Essendon to ensure their rights are protected. This is something we take very seriously. We understand the massive impact this could have on our competition along with the sensitivities involved in such an investigation. World sport is going through a difficult time as it relates to performance enhancing drugs. The AFL in conjunction with the Essendon Football Club will leave no stone unturned in its attempt to establish the processes that led to this investigation and more importantly to ensure that circumstances such as the one before us does not happen again with the AFL community.”

This is my take on effective crisis management.

Its all about how can we work together for the greater good.

Its not about deflecting the spotlight. It certainly isn’t about apportioning blame. We understand the concept of brand protection. The AFL administration are ultra protective of their “precious” brand however it is not solely the executives brand it is actually the clubs brand, who also appointed the commission to govern it’s processes.

It seems to me that the AFL have fallen over themselves to apportion responsibility away from themselves and in the process have divulged sensitive information in a bid to exert as much pressure on Essendon as possible to mitigate any “AFL” damage.

For the life of me I cannot understand why the AFL have not stood strongly with Essendon and worked closely through the issues to deliver an acceptable outcome in a highly damaging claim. Furthermore the leadership from the Commission and the AFL executive has been incredibly poor and generally missing in action.

One thing is certain, this will end in tears.