AFL: Here are the financial results of 11 clubs that have recently released their end-of-year reports

It’s no secret that two chaotic years have taken their toll but the recently released financial reports from 11 clubs paints a stunning picture of resilience.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Gillon McLachlan, Chief Executive Officer of the AFL looks on during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Gillon McLachlan, Chief Executive Officer of the AFL looks on during the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

AFL clubs have emerged from two chaotic, Covid-hit years in reasonably healthy financial shape.

We look at the financial results of 11 clubs that have recently released their end-of-year financial results.

A number of clubs will not release their financial reports until early next year.

AFL clubs have bounced back from a tought two seasons. Picture: Getty Images
AFL clubs have bounced back from a tought two seasons. Picture: Getty Images

CARLTON

Carlton’s new era has received a timely boost with the club’s balance sheet recording an impressive $1.28 million profit.

While the Blues have changed coach and CEO in the past two months in a bid to end years of underperforming on the field, its off-field fortunes continue to grow.

The net operating profit of $1,282,346 for 2021 was a dramatic improvement on the break-even result achieved in 2020 of $34,639.

This operating result has contributed to the Blues declaring a statutory net profit position of $20,257,029 for the year ended 31 October 2021 – inclusive of government grants and philanthropic contributions towards the IKON Park Redevelopment, which has now surpassed 50 per cent completion.

In January Carlton revealed it had eliminated its remaining $4 million of historical debt – ensuring the club was debt free for the first time since 1996.

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions and disappointing on-field results throughout the season, the Blues grew their membership base, up 21 per cent to 81,302, a record-high for a sixth consecutive year.

New president Luke Sayers said he was confident the momentum gained with the sweeping changes and positive financial result would continue into next season.

“From this strong position we launch into 2022 full of confidence,“ Sayers said.

“With the wave of support from the Carlton faithful right across the country behind us, we will continue to move this football club forward in pursuit of the sustained success, on and off the field.”

Carlton are looking to bring in a new era with a new coach and CEO. Picture: Getty Images
Carlton are looking to bring in a new era with a new coach and CEO. Picture: Getty Images

COLLINGWOOD

Collingwood has posted a net loss of almost $700,000 as it deals with the on-going financial impact of Covid-19.

But the club has credited its increase in cash reserves and the investment in redevelopment of Olympic Park training base as significant positives for the Pies.

The club increased its membership base by 6000 from 2020 with more than 82,000 Pies fans making up the club support base through its AFL, AFLW and netball programs.

Collingwood chief executive Mark Anderson said the financial difficulties of this season were just as hard as last year.

“After the hardships of 2020, the blows delivered by Covid-19 in 2021 hit everyone with force,” Anderson said.

Collingwood’s annual general meeting for the 2021 season was held on December 16 resulting in the appointment of Jeff Browne as their new president.

ESSENDON

A sell out Dreamtime game in Perth has helped Essendon post a $1.2 million operating profit for 2021 and emerge from a second Covid-stricken year bank-debt free.

The Bombers released their annual report on Wednesday and revealed they had signed 81,998 members for the 2021 season as well as announcing the completion of their $50 million Hangar facility.

“This year, we experienced the largest aggregate growth in membership of any club in the AFL,” Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell said.

Essendon celebrates its 150th year in 2022 and as part of the significant milestone will see its women’s team enter the national competition at the end of the year.

Essendon played in front of a sold out Optus Stadium for their annual Dreamtime game with Richmond. Picture: Getty Images
Essendon played in front of a sold out Optus Stadium for their annual Dreamtime game with Richmond. Picture: Getty Images

Essendon listed net assets of $49m for 2021 compared to $40.8 million in 2020, received $7m in donations and grants that resulted in a statutory profit of $8.2 million and said it would now turn its attention towards redeveloping the iconic Windy Hill precinct.

Essendon’s report revealed “an increase in match day and stadium returns of $3.3m due to being able to play a full 23-round season, with most games in front of crowds, albeit limited, and the highly successful sell out Dreamtime game in Perth”.

Essendon tackled Richmond at Perth Stadium for the Sir Doug Nicholls Round after the game was moved to Darwin in 2020.

The fullhouse and the dazzling nighttime event proved to be the perfect audition for the 2021 Grand Final at the same venue.

Essendon received $10.7m from the AFL’s annual distribution revenue.

“This is a strong outcome for our organisation, underpinned by our loyal member base, and is a testament to everyone associated with our football club,” Campbell said.

GEELONG

The Geelong Football Club has announced a statutory net profit of $4.7m for the year ending October 31, 2021.

The Cats attributed the strong financial result to the sale of The Brook gaming venue in November last year, resulting in a gain on sale of $2.4m.

Geelong said the ongoing support of its membership base, the team reaching the 2021 preliminary final, and its management’s response in reducing the cost base materially during the previous financial year all assisted the club in producing the exceptional financial result given the circumstances.

The Cats are now debt free “for the first time in decades” and have no direct revenues from any form of gambling and gaming.

In a statement, Geelong said it was focused on identifying new opportunities to substitute gaming revenues to ensure a sustainable operating model into the future, including expanding its investment in the health and fitness and hospitality industries.

Geelong enjoyed a return to GMHBA Stadium in 2021. Picture: Michael Klein
Geelong enjoyed a return to GMHBA Stadium in 2021. Picture: Michael Klein

With operating revenue increasing by 33.3 per cent to $47.4m, chief operating officer Simon Kelleher said the Cats were in a strong position heading into the 2022 season.

“While our result was underpinned by the sale of The Brook gaming venue, we must acknowledge and thank the ongoing contribution of our ‘Geelong Strong’ members in season 2021, in what was another disrupted and challenging year in being able to attend games of football,” Kelleher said.

“We saw all areas of the club display great flexibility and agility in making significant changes to the way we operate.

“Those changes ensured we delivered an exceptional financial result in 2021, while the club was able to continue to perform at a high level on and off the field.

“The club is now debt free for the first time in decades and positioned to bounce out of Covid-19 and management has developed a clear strategy under new CEO Steve Hocking for crowds to return in season 2022.”

Sponsorship and advertising revenues increased to $11.7m compared to the $10.1m in the prior year, with Geelong acknowledging the ongoing support of its major partner Ford and other principal partners GMHBA, Cotton On, Deakin University and Morris Finance in contributing to its strong off-field position.

HAWTHORN

The Hawks on Wednesday announced a $1.7 million net operating profit for 2021, including a $255,747 surplus for traditional football operations revenue.

Kennett credited the Hawks’ 77,000 members and commercial partners for enabling the club to maintain its financial independence during a pandemic that has created two years of challenges and uncertainty.

Kennett had been under pressure for the club’s handling of a messy succession plan that saw Sam Mitchell take the coaching role from Clarkson who still had a year to run on his contract.

But the president, who has indicated he will start a process to identify his successor, said the club was in a strong position off the field.

“We were pleased to see crowds back at both the MCG and UTAS Stadium this year and we look forward to this happening more in 2022,” he said.

MELBOURNE

Melbourne’s greatest on-field season in more than half a century has ended with an operating profit of $2.1 million to sit alongside the club’s drought-breaking 13th VFL-AFL premiership triumph.

Demons chief executive Gary Pert said the club’s ability to emerge from a second year of the global pandemic in the best financial shape in its history was testament to the loyalty of its members and the ongoing commitment of its sponsors.

This year’s financial bottom line represented a turnaround of more than $5.1 million on the 2020 figure, albeit Pert insisted the pandemic had cost the club around $8 million over the past two years.

“We are rapt,” Pert told News Corp when asked about this year’s profit.

“Our members’ loyalty and the support from our sponsors has carried us through the second year of the pandemic.

“Yes, we have won a premiership and that’s given us a $2 million injection that has allowed us to announce a profit (this year), but without the members keeping their memberships and without the sponsors staying on, we wouldn’t be in this position.”

The Demons have no debt and cash reserves of $9.6 million, while the sale of the Bentleigh Club land asset will yield $23.7 million next year, which will be put into a Future Fund to safeguard the club’s long-term financial future.

“Ironically, as we get to the end of the second year of the pandemic, the club is in the best financial position it has been in its history,” Pert said.

Melbourne have emerged from the second year of the the pandemic in the best financial shape of its history. Picture: Getty Images
Melbourne have emerged from the second year of the the pandemic in the best financial shape of its history. Picture: Getty Images

“We’ve got one of the strongest balance sheets in the competition.

“If we can grow our membership and build big blockbuster crowds at the MCG because we are playing good footy against the best teams, there is no reason why we can’t be even financially stronger.

“We will need to be if we want to have the money to invest in our footy department and in our facilities for the good of the football program. We have got to have that financial backing to be reflective of the big Melbourne clubs.”

Melbourne had 54,493 members this year, and plans to boost that to 65,000 next year with a view of having 75,000 members by 2023.

Many new members signed on after the end of the AFL cut-off period, despite knowing they couldn’t even attend matches.

“These unprecedented results were a significant driver in achieving such a fantastic financial result in 2021,” Pert said.

“We could not have achieved these kinds of results without the support of the 54,493 dedicated Demons who signed on in 2021.

“Their support ensures we can continue to re-establish Melbourne as a powerhouse of the competition.”

Pert said the Demons had sold almost four years worth of merchandise in the month leading up to and after the club’s 2021 premiership success.

The club’s revenue growth of $14.5 million - a 47 per cent rise - came off the back of a $3 million increase in match receipts, a $2.7 million increase in merchandise sales as well as $1.7 million growth in membership revenue.

NORTH MELBOURNE

North Melbourne is finally debt-free for the first time in more than a generation, which represents an extraordinary $9 million turnaround across the past decade. The once cash-strapped Kangaroos now have money in the bank and a locked-in future at their traditional Arden St home base after posting a 13th profit from the last 14 seasons, despite a second year of Covid interruptions.

The club was precariously placed when it owed as much as $9 million in the years after rejecting a massive financial carrot from the AFL in late 2007 to turn its back on Melbourne and relocate to the Gold Coast.

Some externally feared the weight of that debt – as well as the crippling interest repayments – made them one of the most vulnerable AFL clubs.

But, in keeping with the club’s famous Shinboner Spirit, the Kangaroos have spectacularly defied the doomsayers to not only get themselves out of debt, but also maintain their own identity and footprint in the suburb that gave them birth.

Club president Ben Buckley and chief executive Ben Amarfio will make the announcement at a special media conference at Arden Street on Friday morning.

Danielle Laidley helped celebrate North Melbourne’s debt-free announcement. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Danielle Laidley helped celebrate North Melbourne’s debt-free announcement. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Some astute financial management from Amarfio and past chief executives Eugene Arocca and Carl Dilena across the past 10 years, much-needed sponsorship dollars and an ongoing commitment of the club’s loyal members, especially through the pandemic, helped to turn the tide.

North Melbourne had not been debt-free since 1987, which means this is the first time the club has not carried any debt since the start of the national competition.

All the while the Kangaroos have continued to invest in football programs and facilities at their base in recent years, and will continue to do so.

Amarfio told the Herald Sun last year that the Kangaroos had made it a priority to become debt-free, after finishing 2020 only $400,000 left in arrears. They have since wiped that off.

“We are really proud of the financial position we have put ourselves in,” Amarfio said.

“We have wiped, I think, over $9 million of debt in the last decade.

“I think it is a great testament to the board, to the previous management teams and previous staff who have done a great job over that decade.”

The news caps off a great week for North Melbourne following on from the signing of experienced midfielder Hugh Greenwood after a Gold Coast list miscalculation backfired.

Greenwood will reunite with Kangaroos senior coach David Noble, with whom he worked at

North Melbourne has also been able to lock in coaching great Paul Roos for another season as a mentor and leadership consultant to the coaching group.

Roos is currently in Hawaii, but he was able to come to terms with the club this week and played a big role in helping to guide the coaching staff this year.

President Peggy O’Neal has praised Richmond’s administration during challenging times. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
President Peggy O’Neal has praised Richmond’s administration during challenging times. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

RICHMOND

Richmond Football Club has reported an operating profit of $2.5 million for the financial year, ended 31 October. The profit was generated from a revenue base of $73.8 million.

Richmond President Peggy O’Neal said the Club’s financial position was the result of a collective effort to keep the Club strong during challenging times.

“Our administration was challenged to navigate the Club through a season that was again defined by uncertainty,” Richmond President Peggy O’Neal said.

“We have an administration driven by purpose and care and it shows. As a result, we remain financially stable, strongly connected to our stakeholders, and important contributors to the broader community.

“Most significantly, our members and supporters were challenged and, as has always been the case, they stood firm. The Club delivered another record membership of 105,084 – a remarkable result under any scenario.

“The Club has worked incredibly hard to build a position of strength that gives our football programs the best chance to succeed. Our people – inside the Club and out – refuse to bend, let alone be broken. That collective strength is what defines the Richmond Football Club and why I think we have so much to look forward to.

“The strength of our balance sheet is particularly important right now as we move towards the redevelopment of Punt Road Oval – a project that is critical to our future.

“Our sponsors have also stood firm with us during another difficult year. Flexibility and innovation have been the cornerstone of delivering shared value. These are experiences that will only reinforce these important partnerships in the future.

“The Club has also remained fully invested in its social impact programming – it is at the heart of our purpose as a football club. The Korin Gamadji Institute and the Bachar Houli Foundation are central to much of that work – connecting with young people in these difficult times and empowering them to shape their futures.”

Next season shapes to be a big year for the Saints. Picture: Michael Klein.
Next season shapes to be a big year for the Saints. Picture: Michael Klein.

ST KILDA

St Kilda has reduced its debt by $4.3 million despite missing finals for the ninth time in 10 years in 2021.

The Saints on Friday announced the club had recorded $3.6 million profit for the year which, including facility funding revenue, interest and depreciation, totalled a $12.8 million statutory profit.

The outstanding financial result in a pandemic year has allowed the club, which now has the longest premiership drought in the game, to decrease its whopping debt to $9,562,300.

At the same time the Saints have decreased their reliance on AFL funding by $1.1 million compared to 2019.

Former coach Grant Thomas, who has been pushing for board change, has pointed to the significant debt as one of the club’s biggest issues along with its on-field performance and 55-year flag drought.

Next season shapes as a huge year for the Saints as Brett Ratten attempts to win a new contract and steer the club into finals after a 10-win season this year.

The club has embarked on a major upgrade of RSEA Park in Moorabbin which has become the club’s home again after the failed Seaford venture.

SYDNEY

Sydney has managed to scrape together a $54,598 net profit following an AFL season in which it spent large periods outside of New South Wales because of Covid-19 lockdowns.

The Swans the pandemic had a significant impact on the club’s “operating model”, including playing its final three home games of the season at Geelong, Melbourne and on the Gold Coast.

But the club has emerged from two compromised seasons debt free.

“It has been a significant achievement to turnaround a heavy financial loss incurred in 2020, to post a profit in 2021 while clearing all debts to the AFL,” Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley said.

“To all 50,144 members who have supported the club through this challenging period, we thank you.”

WESTERN BULLDOGS

A grand final appearance has helped the Western Bulldogs to another healthy profit.

The Bulldogs have announced they have completed the financial year, ending October 31, with a total statutory profit of $6.47 million.

It’s the Bulldogs’ eighth straight year of total profits, and sixth with a total profit in excess of $1 million.

The Bulldogs recorded a profit from continuing club operations, before redevelopment activities, of $1.6 million as well as a current year surplus relating to redevelopment activities of $853,674.

The club also made a profit from discontinued operations, including the gain on the sale of gaming operations, of $3.98 million.

A 2021 Grand Final berth helped the Western Bulldogs post another very healthy profit. Picture: Michael Klein
A 2021 Grand Final berth helped the Western Bulldogs post another very healthy profit. Picture: Michael Klein

The Bulldogs completed the sale of its gaming activities during this financial year, recording a one-off gain on the sale of $4 million.

Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said this and the men’s team reaching the grand final had underpinned the strong financial results.

“We collectively made some tough decisions at the end of 2020 to not only survive the enormous financial challenge we were facing, but to plan for what this year could look like, given the uncertainty we faced,” he said.

Bains said the strong cash position came at a time when the Bulldogs were about to embark on the next significant stage of the Whitten Oval precinct redevelopment.

“The hard work put in by our entire club over the last decade has put us in a position to realise the dream of reimagining the Whitten Oval precinct for our four elite teams and the community of the west,” he said.

“However, we know there is plenty of work ahead of us, so we’re determined to keep the momentum going.

“The ongoing support of all our key stakeholders remains critical as we move into the future and heighten our ambitions of what the club is capable of achieving.”