Jeff Kennett says Melbourne is need of an urgent cultural overhaul, and has questioned whether fellow presidential candidate Geoff Freeman really wants the top job.
Kennett has been pushing to replace Don McLardy, who stepped down as president on Friday after the Demons met the AFL Commission to outline a recovery plan. This plan includes a contentious bid for a priority pick that, if successful, would disappoint several clubs, according to Richmond president Gary March.
Demons chief executive Peter Jackson says there will be a review of the board composition – director Stuart Grimshaw also stood down on Friday – but believes this would ”probably not” include Kennett, the former Hawthorn president.
Peter Spargo will be president, at least until the review is complete, while Freeman, a successful insurance businessman, has been tipped to have enough support to take the role after that.
However, Freeman has been unwell and has yet to commit to running for the job. He is due to leave over the weekend for a holiday in France and is expected to then decide whether he wants to lead the Demons’ rebuild.
”He is a mate of mine. I don’t know whether he is interested,” Kennett told Fairfax Media on Saturday. ”I read in the paper today he is about to go overseas. That would infer to me that he is probably not that keen to take on the responsibility.
”This is a crucial period. This is when the action should be taking place. You can’t keep putting things off. You either have got to get on and reform or the club will continue to slide.
”Obviously, people want change. You can either have incremental creep, that will deliver nothing, or you can have cultural change and make a difference. It’s one or the other.”
Spargo says the Demons are already working on addressing their culture, but players must also accept responsibility for this.
”At the end of the day we can talk about it, but the players, in our opinion, are the ones that have to act upon it,” he said. ”Our players aren’t doing that, but our leadership group are attempting to do that as we speak.”
Kennett, who has become a Demons member, again refused to disclose who was part of his ticket, and whether he had influential supporters backing his bid to fix an ”ill” club likely to lose about $2 million this year.
”It’s not me pushing. I am just one of a group,” he said. ”You know we can deliver. Our record suggests that. I am an agent of change.”
There have been suggestions Alan Stockdale, the former Victorian treasurer during Kennett’s days as premier, and also a former Demons board member, has been involved in the push for change.
Kennett said he would deliberate over the weekend what his next move would be. This could involve his ticket asking the AFL to oust the Demons’ board.
”There will be some discussions taking place over the next few days. I guess we will determine our position then.
”We have had meetings and discussions last week. I will have more over the weekend,” Kennett said.
”Nothing has changed, in our opinion. The only thing that I stress is the issue of timing. Every week that you lose, the leadership of the Melbourne Football Club remains unresolved, you lose valuable time.
”Why do I say that? The sooner you can start rebuilding, the more likelihood you are going to go into 2014 in a better shape.
”If the rebuilding is not reconstructed and doesn’t start until the end of the year, then you have lost another six months.
”Timing, to me, is everything.”
Kennett said he had looked at Melbourne’s constitution and it was unlikely he would be able to call an extraordinary general meeting to remove the current board.
He fears there will not be major change until the scheduled annual general meeting later in the year.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said the league would ”work through the [Jackson] plan” before the next commission meeting in July.
Kennett said even this time frame was too long.
”I think that is too late” he said. ”They have known this is coming for some time, they only had the presentation from Melbourne yesterday, but the most important development now for the future success of the Melbourne Football Club is the speed at which they move into the reconstruction of the club,” he said.
”That is not to say it is the end of the process. It’s the first necessary step to start putting all the other elements in place.”
The Demons restructure involves the football department, commercial operations and the board. This plan is expected to include the departure of coach Mark Neeld before the end of the season and payouts to other staff.
The AFL will fund the overhaul, expected to be up to $3 million, but the league says this would be ”highly conditional”.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.