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Crows' new era to begin sooner than expected

Football

Former State Premier John Olsen formally will take charge of the Adelaide Football Club on Friday, reports Michelangelo Rucci.

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A new era – with football and the fans at the core of the Adelaide Football Club’s manifesto – will begin for the Crows on Friday with John Olsen formally taking Rob Chapman’s seat as chairman in the AFL club’s board room.

This is earlier than first anticipated after Chapman declared November 18 as the end date of his record 13-year stewardship.

And Olsen has asked current deputy chair, Jim Hazel, to delay his planned early exit from the board room until the club’s annual meeting in March.

This will give Olsen a full nine-person board at the start of his tenure that is expected to be no more than four years, with a clearly defined succession plan.

It also will end speculation that former Olympic Dam boss Jacqui McGill is to immediately join the Crows board in Hazel’s seat. This would have led to an AFL first – three women in a club board room with McGill joining former Federal minister Kate Ellis and current deputy police commissioner Linda Fellows.

Olsen has secured a commitment from Hazel – the man who telephoned him in late August offering him the Crows chairmanship – to remain deputy chairman for the next four months to ensure a smooth transition in the board room.

“Jim has agreed to stay to assist in that transition phase, particularly where I will need his experience in any background information,” Olsen told InDaily.

Olsen will take charge of a nine-person board with five directors at the end of their terms in February – Hazel, who has called an end to his decade-long tenure; Ellis and Fellows, who are expected to seek new terms; lawyer and member-nominated director Kym Ryder and wine entrepreneur Warren Randall who this year filled the casual vacancy of Jim McDowell.

McDowell resigned from the Crows board in July to focus on his increased workload as chief executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet during the COVID pandemic.

Football director Mark Ricciuto, premiership team-mate Rod Jameson and finance director Richard Fennell all have terms to 2022.

Olsen will take Chapman’s term that also expires in 2022.

Olsen returns to football administration less than 12 months after stepping down as SANFL president and chairman of the SA Football Commission – and planning to dedicate his time in politics as national president of the Liberal Party.

Olsen says his immediate focus is on the Adelaide Football Club with a heavy workload at the Crows that in the next month will enter their most-critical trade and draft in the club’s 30-year history.

“This is a really important moment for our club,” said Olsen of the critical reviews and reset the Crows will make with on and off-field decisions this summer after this season ranking last of 18 in the national league.

Olsen will resign from the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority to avoid any conflict of interest – and he insists there will be a barrier between football and politics, just as there was when he served as both SA Football Commission chairman and president of the State Liberal Party.

The former State Premier will become the fifth chairman of the Adelaide Football Club and he is carrying a clear agenda – a strong focus on football to re-establish the Crows standing in the 18-team national league after Adelaide ranked last for the first time this season.

“We are a football club first – and our core function is to win football games and to win finals,” Olsen told InDaily. “That needs to be our focus. We intend to build on the standing and respect the Adelaide Football Club has in the AFL – and to strengthen our engagement with our fans. We are a football club.”

Olsen is paying tribute to Chapman’s board for starting this “rebuild” process “with tough decisions in the past 12 months”.

“The benefits of those tough calls are playing out now with the announcements in a new-look football department,” Olsen said.

Senior coach Matthew Nicks will start Season 2021 with a new-look coaching panel that gains former Collingwood captain Scott Burns (defence coach), former Crows skipper Nathan van Berlo (midfield) and James Rahilly from Geelong as forwards coach.

Olsen’s manifesto also includes answering the long-standing challenge to move the Adelaide Football Club from the now-lost SANFL headquarters that was Football Park at West Lakes to an administrative headquarters and training base located in or on the perimeter of the CBD.

The North Adelaide Aquatic Centre – and the original $60 million budget for this project – is unlikely to remain on the Crows’ reshaped planning notes.

Olsen will take charge of the Adelaide Football Club on the eve of the AFL and the 18 national league clubs closing their financial books on Saturday, October 31.

A season that ran the risk of creating a $965 million hole in AFL accounts if the COVID pandemic wiped out the premiership season will close with $100 million of new debt across the league.

Adelaide, which became debt-free last year, will take a hit but not as hard as the original estimate of $8 million. The Crows also will be independent of AFL financial support, along with West Coast, Collingwood, Hawthorn and AFL premier club Richmond.

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