The 49-year-old will remain at the helm throughout the 2022 campaign to deal with a host of major issues including a new broadcast rights deal, updated collective bargaining agreements for the men and women players and whether Tasmania will be awarded the 19th licence.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to serve this game – the best game in the world,” McLachlan told a media conference on Tuesday.
“The responsibility has never been lost on me and I feel good that the game is in better shape now than when I took over, but with the scoreboard that will be for others to judge.
“I’m leaving now because it feels right, right for the AFL, right for me, right for my family.
“It’s clearly more complicated than that, but actually in simple terms, it’s not.
“… the AFL is in incredible shape on whatever metric you assess it.”
McLachlan was appointed to replace Andrew Demetriou in the top job in April 2014.
There had been speculation that he would stand down during the past couple of years but he resolved to stay on as the sport negotiated the huge challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the most significant achievements during McLachlan’s time at the helm was the introduction of the AFLW competition, which will expand again to 18 teams for the seventh season beginning later this year.
He informed AFL chair Richard Goyder over the weekend of his decision to step aside.
“From my point of view and the Commission’s point of view it would be correct to say that we’re not happy with that decision but we are completely supportive of it, if you get that sense,” said Goyder.
“Gill has always said to me that he wanted to go at the top of his game, at the time of his choosing and when the AFL was in as good a shape as it can be.
“And I think that’s fair play and the Commission thinks that’s fair play and certainly fair for him and his family.
“He’s done an outstanding job.”
The South Australian joined the AFL in May 2000.
Being promoted to CEO, his roles at the sport’s governing body included general manager commercial operations, chief operating officer and deputy CEO.
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale — who has has overseen the Tigers’ recent period of dominance including premierships in 2017, 2019 and 2020 — and highly-rated AFL executive member Travis Auld are likely to be among the early favourites to replace McLachlan.
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