I would like to take this opportunity to wish all members, players, coaching staff and executives a happy, healthy and successful New Year. I would also like to specifically thank all members for your wonderful support during a difficult 2020.
This is an important letter for members to read. It contains a board update and also important information regarding a contested board election.
Season 2020 – Working Together
2020 was a very difficult year for all of us and the pandemic also adversely impacted the AFL industry in general and our Club in particular. It was hugely disappointing that we could not all enjoy the AFL season in the MCG stands and elsewhere, cheering the team with family and friends. But on a positive note, with significant effort and hard work, our united Club and partners (working with the AFL and all other clubs) put on a fantastic competition against all odds. The season had many highlights and was enjoyed remotely by millions of people here in Melbourne, across Australia and around the world. It provided all of us welcome relief and enjoyment through such a tough time.
Both during and after the 2020 season, the Board worked assiduously, with the Executive Team and our partners, to see us through the COVID-19 pandemic and to put us in the best position to launch a successful 2021 season.
Financial Achievements – Debt Free Goal Achieved Despite COVID-19
At the start of the pandemic, the Club was facing a forecast loss of between $8 and $10 million for the 2020 financial year. We announced just prior to Christmas that, with the help of JobKeeper funding, we had managed to protect most of our key people and to reduce this projected loss to about $2.9 million, which was an incredible effort. I would like to formally acknowledge the great work of my board members and the Executive Team.
- Using previously generated proceeds (derived from our gaming exit), we re-paid all of our long-term debt and became “debt free”. In 2014, we had set a stretch target to achieve this remarkable financial outcome by 2020 and I am delighted to report back to you and confirm that the Club has achieved that target. And let me remind you that:
- We did not need to borrow from the AFL and remained one of only six clubs to be “unassisted”, consistent with our goal of becoming a fully financially independent club; and
- We finished the year with net assets circa $21 million, which makes us one of the financially strongest clubs in the AFL.
- Some of the priorities of your Board and the Executive Team have been, and remain, keeping our Club operating in a COVID-safe way and ensuring our Club is financially secure, cash flow positive and the members well-informed.
2020-2023 Strategic Plan Progress
In 2020 at the AGM, we launched our four-year strategic plan. I set out below our goals outlined in the plan, together with an update on progress:
ON-FIELD PERFORMANCE • Play in AFL and AFLW Finals each year • Win at least one AFL and one AFLW Premiership
2020 obviously started with our women’s team making finals for the first time and winning their first final and so that was a big tick. Unfortunately, our men’s team, after putting themselves in a good position with a strong run home, fell just short finishing 9th which was a bitterly disappointing end to season 2020.
FINANCIAL • Deliver a combined $4m profit over four years • Eliminate debt • $30m+ of income producing assets
We are well placed to achieve all of these financial goals. We eliminated our long-term debt which sat at over $8m in 2013. We have done what we said we would do. We have net assets circa $21 million and, assuming the competition returns to some level of normality, are on our way to achieving net assets of $30 million by the end of 2023. Combined profits of $4m will be more of a challenge given the impact of COVID-19, however, we are not currently willing to concede that goal.
OUR PEOPLE • To have a culture that inspires excellence and attracts new talent
We still have plenty of work to do on our culture, including the achievement of “excellence” consistently in all that we do, however we have certainly attracted some talent over the 2020 summer. We are delighted Ben Brown chose to join us, and in the coaching ranks that Adem Yze and Mark “Chocco” Williams also agreed to join our Club.
OUR FANS • Grow to 75k members • MCG home game average crowds of 50k+
Obviously 2020 was a setback with the impact of COVID-19, however we still believe these goals are achievable by the end of 2023 with a return to normal fixtures and team success.
OUR FACILITIES • Finish construction of high-performance facility at Casey Fields • Start construction of new Melbourne home base facility
We have finished the construction of our high-performance facility at Casey Fields, including a recent $8 million upgrade of the AFL and AFLW facility, which has been timely given the impact of COVID-19 and training at a shared facility in AAMI Park.
- Currently our football program is based at AAMI Park, while our administration is based at several points within the MCG.
- Our vision is to bring together the entire club for the first time in recent history, based within the MCG local precinct.
- This means the football program, administration and social club are all in the one hub.
- We need to provide our men’s and women’s teams with the same elite training facilities that every other AFL club currently enjoys.
- We need to create a Members Social Club within walking distance of the MCG.
- For the first time, the State Government are funding a feasibility project involving State Government, the AFL and MFC to explore all possible options within the inner-city MCG local precinct.
Board Composition and Role
Since my appointment as Chair in August 2013, the Board has worked with great collegiality and professionalism, with proper governance and good decision-making processes. We established a number of measures, together with a Board Charter, and values the Board would operate by, including Trust, Respect, Unity and Excellence. Consistent with contemporary governance measures by boards we have reviewed and benchmarked against best practice, our Board and our Sub-Committees – the Investment Sub-Committee; Audit Risk and Integrity Sub-Committee; Facilities Sub-Committee; and the Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee.
The Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee has functioned extremely well and done an enormous amount of work under the current Chairmanship of Vice-Chair Mohan Jesudason (and previously under former Vice-Chair Geoff Freeman). One of the key roles of the Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee is the process of assessing suitable candidates for Board succession. This extensive and comprehensive process includes:
- a) Considering applications from individuals who have expressed an interest in joining the Board at some time in the future;
- b) Interviewing and conducting due diligence on potential candidates; and
- c) Making recommendations to the Board regarding the alignment of candidates’ skills/experience that would assist us in achieving our strategic priorities.
This process is governed by the Board and specific Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee Charters which set the policies, standards and processes to ensure the actions above are conducted professionally, consistently and take into consideration diversity, club values and board dynamics.
As members would appreciate, many people see the Board of a football club as something to which they would like to belong. The Board has carefully considered the appropriate size of the Board to best achieve our strategic priorities. We resolved that eight board members is the optimum size, provided that all board members roll up their sleeves and work hard for the Club, which I am pleased to say they do.
Where an individual is interested in joining the Board and has skills and experience of interest, but there is not a vacancy, the Board considers those individuals for Sub-Committee or working group involvement so that the individual can contribute, build a working relationship with the Board and vice-versa, with the possibility of a board position in the future should a relevant vacancy arise. I encourage all members to consider whether they have any special skills they can bring to our great Club as a future board member and commend this progressive path to you.
Current MFC Board composition
Following the retirement of two board members this year, the Board reviewed the skills and expertise required to support the Club to deliver its strategic priorities over the next 3-4 year period. The key areas of commercial property/leasing and football were identified as areas to be augmented to strengthen our Board. This was so particularly having regard to our strategic plan and football-related goals and the critical importance of delivering our home base project.
We ran a competitive and robust interview process and the Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee, along with myself, interviewed a number of high quality candidates, having regard for skills and experience required, diversity, club values and board dynamics. In November 2020, after interviews with all board members and careful deliberation, the Board was delighted to announce the appointment of former club captain Brad Green and real estate/property lawyer David Rennick to fill those two vacancies as casual appointments to the Board pursuant to the Club’s Constitution. These appointments are both central to the immediate priorities of the Board and reflect the future direction and strategic plans of the Club.
As is the case with every appointment to a casual vacancy, each of these directors are required to offer themselves for election by the members ahead of the next Annual General Meeting and are required to be nominated by two members.
Mohan Jesudason and Steve Morris are current board directors and have made significant contributions in their time on the Board. Mohan Jesudason is an experienced director with significant commercial experience including in the telecommunications industry. He was also formerly a director of Racing Victoria and an executive with TAB Corp. Mohan, in addition to his role on the Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee and his general board duties, continues to play a significant role in our strategy to exit gaming. He also increases board diversity which is important.
Steve Morris is also an experienced director and company Chairman – specialising in capital raising. He has been a club director since 2015. Steve has assisted the football department by raising $250,000 through the supporters group “The Lunch Club”. Steve currently serves on the Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee and our Investment Committee, which both have critical roles going forward.
Endorsement of Candidates
You will have received a separate communication providing the details of the MFC Annual General Meeting on 15 February 2021 and concerning a contested board election. Our current Board is united and functions well. We have taken steps to avoid a costly contested election but every member has the right to be nominated for a board position with the support of not less than two members and we are respectful of that right.
As part of this election process, the Board is formally endorsing each of the following four candidates:
Mohan Jesudason; and
The Board is of the view that these four candidates, along with myself as Chairman, Vice-Chair Kate Roffey, David Robb, and John Trotter, will provide the best mix of the necessary skills and diversity of experience for the future. The endorsed Board, if elected, will continue as a committed and strong team focused on the best interests of the Club and all its members and stakeholders, as we hopefully emerge from the global pandemic and deliver on our Strategic Plan (please see the Club website for the complete list of board skills/experience and for the detail contained in the Strategic Plan).
Importantly, each of these board endorsed candidates bring broad experience in, and a network of relationships across local, interstate, and international jurisdictions. More information about their backgrounds has been and will continue to be available on our website for all current directors.
We cannot accommodate everyone who would like to be on the Board. The Board will not increase its size to a size which is not effective and not in the best interests of the Club. I am sure you will all agree that we must do what is in the best interests of the MFC.
Peter Lawrence has nominated to become a director of the Club. Mr Lawrence is a keen, committed and valued club supporter but, in line with the comments above, the Board does not support his election and recommends that members vote for the four board endorsed candidates.
Mr Lawrence’s nomination has been reviewed by the Remuneration and Nominations Sub-Committee in accordance with the Club's Constitution. The Chairman and Chair of the Nominations and Remuneration Sub-Committee have met with and corresponded with Mr Lawrence on a number of occasions. Mr Lawrence is also known to other directors.
The Board endorsement of Brad Green, David Rennick, Mohan Jesudason and Steve Morris has been approved by unanimous vote of all members of the Board not standing for election or re-election.
Under my leadership since 2013, the Board has been unified and collaborative and our achievements reflect that. We encourage members to vote only for the board endorsed candidates to enable this team to complete the tasks before them, which include the objectives regarding on field success.
Board Strategy Moving Forward
While undertaking the important work around strategy, in 2021 the current Board is committed to reviewing a number of aspects of our governance and engagement approach. While our constitution has served us well for many years, we need to make sure it is fit for purpose for the future. We will also undertake some important work around diversity. We are committed to building an even stronger board going forward, that is fully representative of all areas of our great Club.
Finally, we would like to reassure you that your Board is committed to ensuring the MFC emerges from 2020 as a strong, sustainable, and dynamic club, for the benefit of our members today as well as the benefit of our members, the Club, and the industry at large, well into the future.
We look forward to having an opportunity to speak to you further at our AGM on 15 February 2021 and to answering the questions you may have at that time. If you would like to send through questions in advance of the AGM, please email them to email@example.com.
Finally, we ask that you vote as follows in the coming election and return your voting slip by no later than 1 February 2021, approving only four out of the five candidates for the four positions:
* Board endorsed candidate.
Melbourne Football Club