Tredders: Essendon bombs leadership test
The Bombers' CEO circus takes the club from bad to worse
The Bombers are in disarray.
There was the football club review fallout that saw board members resign, the CEO Xavier Campbell depart and the ugly sacking of coach Ben Rutten with a year to run on his contract.
Just days ago, influential board member and club legend Kevin Sheedy went rogue against his board’s wishes, publicly revealing that he didn't vote for new coach Brad Scott and instead preferred James Hird.
The club once known for its strength and success was already becoming recognised for its lack of unity and leadership, particularly around its approach to senior appointments.
And if that wasn't enough, its new CEO, former NAB boss Andrew Thorburn, departed in a whirlwind of controversy after only 30 hours in the chair.
How can this happen?
While new chairman David Barham and his board had good intentions, the Bombers are right now living their football existence from controversy to controversy.
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But their recent decision of appointing Thorburn never sat right.
This is the same Thorburn who like many others in the financial services industry was forced to resign after a Royal Commission found widespread misconduct in the Australian banking and financial services sector.
Who could forget the disturbing findings of “fees for no service” where multiple banks including NAB were caught charging customers, including those long deceased, automatically debited fees.
This alone should have been a major reason for concern.
But muddying the waters even more was his role as chairman of City on a Hill church.
Everyone deserves the right to have their own opinions and beliefs, but clearly his church’s stance of being anti-homosexual and anti-abortion was going to be a problem.
Former Essendon chairman Paul Little revealed that none of this information about his senior religious role was new, telling ABC Radio, “I really feel that information (which) was out there, was easily accessible and so for it to have been missed, part of their due diligence, I find that unusual. He wasn’t new to the club, he was well known, he had a number of roles there. I don't think it should have come as a surprise.”
Further to this, Thorburn was initially on the panel which was formed to find and appoint the new CEO, but stepped away as he emerged a chance to win the role.
There is no way he would have gone for the job without the backing from key personnel, at least privately, and thinking he was a serious contender to win it.
As Little said, “that appears outwardly to be a conflict”.
And he’s right.
There were far too many red flags for this appointment to stick and where was the due diligence?
The question is: Why didn't the Bombers’ board see them?
So before they go back to the drawing board on their search for Thorburn’s replacement, the Essendon board and leadership needs to ask itself some hard questions:
Are we to blame for the dire situation our club is in? And are we the right people for the job?
Only after a lot of self-reflection, and subsequent response, should they push on to find a new CEO.
From there, the pressure on Essendon’s leadership will only increase, with the club faced with the challenge of unearthing a CEO with the right ‘values’, uniting its team and fan base, repairing its tarnished brand and then, hopefully winning some games of footy.
It’s a long road ahead.
What are your thoughts? Let us know.
Warren Tredrea is an AFL hall of famer, Port Adelaide premiership captain and media commentator.
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