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Is there a succession plan taking place at the AFL?


Caroline Wilson is of the belief that AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is putting plans in place for an heir apparent to his CEO role.

McLachlan’s tenure at the AFL is unlikely to extend beyond the end of 2020 and the veteran journalist feels a succession plan of sorts is forthcoming.

Wilson previously reported on Sportsday that Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell is the person being touted for the job and has since doubled down on that assessment despite the fact Richmond chief Brendon Gale is a much more suitable candidate in her eyes.

“Even though he’s (Campbell) a lot younger, has done a very good job at Essendon, but I don’t think yet would be the rival to Brendon Gale,” Wilson said on her Don’t Shoot The Messenger podcast.

“Gillon McLachlan disagrees.

“Although they (the AFL) denied it when I asked them, it’s now been reported that Xavier Campbell will be coming to work for the AFL in the next few months.

“He’ll be the unofficial number two, he is going to be CEO of Marvel Stadium and so the rivalry begins.

“If Gillon McLachlan stands down at the end of next year, which is what we all think, it is going to be fascinating to see what happens with Xavier Campbell who people at Essendon are a bit miffed with, certainly some board members.”

However, Wilson threw her full support behind Gale who has overseen a significant reversal of fortunes at Punt Road during his time at the helm.

“Anyone you talk to across the AFL, or most people, have felt for some time that Brendon Gale (is the successor),” she added.

“Gillon McLachlan clearly doesn’t see Brendon Gale as necessarily his heir apparent. He’s never brought on a successor from within his organisation, certainly not successfully.

“I wrote a column about this in May. I’d spoken to so many people across the industry.

“He’s turned Richmond from financial and football basket case into, at the moment, the powerhouse of the AFL. He has worked really successfully with the game’s first woman president (Peggy O’Neal).

“One of his executives, Cain Liddle, has gone on to become CEO of Carlton.

“He’s got the gravitas, he’s got the law degree, he was CEO of the AFL Players Association etc etc.

“You talk to anyone at any other club and they say he is clearly (the standout).”

Gale recently said on SEN Breakfast that he has not coveted the AFL CEO role but would consider it if the opportunity arose.

Listen to Wilson on the Don’t Shoot The Messenger podcast below:

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