Gillon McLachlan. Photo: Joe ArmaoCalling on the AFL to assert its authority, Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham says new CEO Gillon McLachlan must show the competition who is boss.
“I think the AFL should be less consultative and just make a decision,” Pridham told Fairfax Media.
“Because I think the risk is, by being too consultative, everyone is peddling their own agendas. Us included. And the noise that creates, what I think it does is it means the squeaky door gets oiled first.
“The AFL should have views on things and they should be strong. We’re relying on them to run the game and we can’t have a perception that they’re running the game for Victorian clubs, or one particular club. They’ve got to run it for the good of the entire competition.”
Pridham’s comments follow his recent slanging match with Collingwood’s Eddie McGuire.
While the stoush was triggered by McGuire’s description of John Longmire as “petty”, over his decision to decline an invitation to coach the international rules team, it got personal between the club bosses. Pridham termed his Magpie equivalent the Clive Palmer of football, indicating his belief that McGuire has an unhealthy pull at AFL HQ.
McGuire, meanwhile, portrayed Pridham – who has taken over from veteran Richard Colless at Sydney – as a blow-in. He said the Swans were experts in “cheque book recruiting” and had “no interest whatsoever in developing the game”.
McLachlan was moved to called a ceasefire between the pair last week after Pridham hit back with a fresh counterattack.
The Sydney chairman has since told Fairfax Media that things are “all good” between himself and the AFL’s new boss.
His lasting observation, however, was that the league – and particularly McLachlan – should be more assertive, even if it meant being unpopular with some clubs and other “Melbourne centric” forces.
Pridham senses, and is gravely concerned, that rich clubs such as Collingwood and Hawthorn – set to pour more money than others into AFL equalisation – will feel entitled to get their way with the league at times as a quasi pay-off.
Pridham’s advice to McLachlan, who has been in the competition’s top job for seven weeks, is that he should ignore distracting “noise”.
“Andrew Demetriou was very good at this, I think, and Gillon will have his own style and hopefully be very good at it, too. But he [McLachlan] needs to be able to put the views clearly out into the marketplace as to what the AFL’s positions are so that there’s no uncertainty.
“I think the reason a lot of this public debate goes on is because there hasn’t been a clear public statement from the AFL. And I think if they make clear statements, these sorts of feuds don’t happen, or they don’t last for very long.
“That, I think, is what Gillon needs to focus on.
“The Swans are paying into equalisation, but I don’t think we deserve any more rights to have a say or access. It shouldn’t be a user-pays model. The AFL should have an independent commission, and independent executive, that makes independent decisions in the best interests of the game and the competition.”
Pridham said McLachlan phoned him last week about his comments regarding McGuire: “I told him exactly what I’ve told you: I’ve had my say on it and that’s it. I’m not going to keep going.
“But having said that, if another situation arises where I think somebody is speaking inappropriately about the Sydney Swans, I will speak up.”
Pridham said he had no regrets regarding his comments about McGuire.
+Read Andrew Pridham’s exclusive interview with Samantha Lane in Saturday’s Age
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