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Crows' eSports and baseball investments under review as Fagan walks

Football

The Adelaide Football Club will review its investments in ‘non-football’ activities including eSports and baseball under its new “football first” focus in the wake of outgoing CEO Andrew Fagan’s departure.

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Fagan’s resignation was announced at the Crows’ season launch last night, with the CEO – who was appointed in late 2014 – set to “transition” out of the club and a replacement to be sought immediately.

Fagan said he had discussed his possible departure with former chair Rob Chapman “more than a year ago”, adding: “In recent times we have made a number of key decision relating to both football personnel and other areas of strategic focus, with a view to best preparing the club for a post-pandemic Australian sporting landscape.”

“The CEO who leads the club through this process must be in it for the long haul and I am not that person,” he said.

Fagan has overseen both a minor premiership and grand final appearance as well as last year’s wooden spoon.

He helped steer the club through the aftermath of the 2015 death of coach Phil Walsh and oversaw the establishment of the two-time premiership winning AFLW side, but also copped heat for the disastrous preseason camp whose fallout helped derail the club’s 2018 campaign.

He also branched out the club’s investments, with the club purchasing an eSports team, Legacy eSports, which lasy year won the Oceanic Pro League title, and the then-Adelaide Bite baseball club, since rebadged the Giants.

New chairman John Olsen told InDaily today those investments were now under review as the club moves on from the Fagan era.

“Post-COVID, the landscape has changed – and changed substantially,” he said.

He said activities such as eSports and baseball “need to be considered in the new environment in which we operate” and “we’ll do an assessment of both of those investments to check whether they’re serving the interests of the club”.

However, he appeared to indicate that both investments had a tenuous future, a suggestion that has loomed since club stalwart Nigel Smart –  who championed and oversaw the eSports program – left the organisation last year.

“The point I would make is the time you spend on looking after ‘non-core’ functions is time that you’re not committed to the core function,” Olsen said.

“And the core function, and priority of the football club, is ‘football first’… and playing in finals in both the men’s and women’s competition.”

He insisted he did not “carry criticism of a club seeking alternative revenue streams to act as an insurance policy or supplement income that you can then invest in football”.

“But I’d make the point that COVID has substantially changed the landscape [and] you need to adjust to changed circumstances that have emerged… we’ll be no different from anybody else in doing that,” he said.

“We need to review how those investments serve the interests of the club over the next five years.”

Those five years will see the club attempt to rebuild its list while also building a new Adelaide-based headquarters, with a location likely to be confirmed by midyear.

The Thebarton Oval precinct remains high “on the shortlist”, with key West Torrens council representatives present for last night’s season launch, but it’s understood the club is still seeking clarity on the State Government’s plans for upgrading South Road and its surrounds.

Olsen suggested the five-year rebuilding framework was another factor in Fagan’s departure, noting the club is “working on a strategic plan to rebuild from the impact of COVID”.

“By that plan, I mean a ‘football first’ approach, a focus on the facility, and on outreach and integration with membership and fans, and being innovative,” he said.

“It became obvious that the plan over the next five years was a fairly intensive project, which required someone who would be there for the journey… in the course of those discussions Andrew reminded me of a statement that he’d made when he arrived [putting] a five-to-seven year horizon [on his tenure].

“What we were looking at was a further five years of intense activity, and in the course of those discussions Andrew came to the decision that he did and advised the board.”

Asked if he believed Fagan was not the person to oversee the five-year plan, he said: “Well, it needed committed leadership for the journey, and intensity and 100 per cent commitment… you need that to have a successful implementation of that plan.”

“Andrew, as he said, has made that decision himself and reflected on his statement when he took the job on.”

It seems unlikely Fagan’s replacement will come from within the club, with Olsen saying the club would “be doing an executive search” nationwide and “aiming to get the best possible candidate we can”.

“There’s been a number of names suggested and a number of people have reached out,” he said.

“One would have thought given the impacts of COVID last year’ that there’s significant quality talent available.”

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